So the property is finally closed (on the weekdays anyway) but there is still no rest for the wicked! We have our Winter Clean to finish!
Every year each National Trust property gets a deep clean from top to tail. Everything is dusted, polished, washed, waxed or buffed and then covered over. Stately Homes have always been put to bed during the season when the family are not in residence and I think its nice we continue this tradition. The Winter Clean gives us the opportunity to do those conservation jobs that only happen once a year, and clean items we don’t usually clean, because of access or intricacy. We also take stock of what condition the items of the collection are in, and make sure that everything is where it should be, or that any movements have been recorded correctly.
We started the Winter Clean in October in the Duke’s Room while the upstairs rooms were still open, but after the upstairs rooms had closed we were able to work through the rooms quite quickly. We use scaffolding and ladders to clean right to the top of the rooms. All the furniture gets moved so we can completely clean each item, inside and out, and the walls behind it. Furniture is then covered in their own tailored made dust-cover. Windows are dusted and washed and the ornate mouldings we have round the top edges of several rooms are dusted as well.
Wood is dusted, usually with a hog’s hair paintbrush, or shaving brush, and then buffed with a white duster. If it needs polishing we do this with furniture polish and buff it off with a white duster. Marble, like that in several of the fireplaces, is washed and then renaissance wax is applied with a hog’s hair brush. It is buffed with a long shoe brush and then a blue duster. Gilt wood is duster with a pony hair brush as if it is only a very thin layer of gold on top of gesso, and dusting with cloth would rub it off. Painted wood is also dusted with a pony hair for the same reason.
Textiles are treated very delicately as it is one of the most fragile materials we clean. Textiles on furniture are dusted with a pony hair into a back-pack hoover on a very low suction. The rug in the Duke’s room was vaccumed with a textile head through an ironing cloth, again on a very low suction, and then we went back over it with a pair of tweezers to pick up any of the bigger pits not taken through the ironing cloth.
Last week we were finishing our clean in the Blue Drawing Room, after this we only had the Landing to do and then we can start on the Ballroom and Clive, then onto the downstairs rooms! Part of my To-Do-List here was to work on the scaffold so I’m really pleased I have been able to do that during the winter clean. In the Blue and the Ballroom Emma worked on the top-level of the scaffold and I worked on the middle level, but on the landing I did both top and middle.
I didn’t mind doing the scaffold work on the landing didn’t mind once I got my head around the height, however I was very careful not to move around too much as the scaffold does tend to sway slightly! The most nerve-wracking bit was when the scaffold was at the top of the Grand Staircase, I was a little worried about it rolling down! I am really glad I swallowed my nerves and went up and worked on the top, as now I know it’s not so bad! I can say I can work at heights with confidence and am confident in building and moving the scaffold too. Goodness knows I’ve had enough practice anyway!
Cleaning chandeliers in the Blue forced us to think outside the box a bit. In previous years all three chandeliers were taken down together and place in the plastic flowerpots. The flowerpots were exactly the right diameter and depth to hold the chandelier perfectly, making sure it is not resting unevenly on the arm or the ball that hangs underneath. However when we came to use them, the pots had gone missing! After searching high and low it was decided we needed to find an alternative, so we tried all the pots we could get our hands on. Too big, too small, too shallow said Goldilocks, until finally Emma spotted a jug on the side in the kitchen and luckily it was the perfect size to fit our chandeliers in.
We took each chandelier down one at a time as we moved the scaffold into each window alcove. I dusted each one with a pony hair brush and buffed them with a blue duster. Cleaning objects like the chandeliers is really rewarding as they get so dusty over the year and giving them a dust and polish really brings the shine back! Hanging them back up was a trick, climbing the ladder and the catching the dangling chain, the chandelier hooks back on and then the snap plug gets reconnected and its good to go!
I’ve realised I’ve written waaaay too much about the Winter Clean for just one post so more next time!