Dressing up . . . for grown ups!

I have been a Medieval Re-enactor for half my life and it has been an amazing experience, teaching me so many things, some that I often find useful in my job. I have never needed encouragement to dress up, and I get to wear some gorgeous clothes, so it is nice to know I am not the only one! Re-enactment season has started again, with a St George’s Day themed show at Bolsover Castle last weekend and one at Rufford Abbey this weekend, but I was feeling impatient for the show this weekend.

My group; The Swords of Mercia

The Swords of Mercia Society

The Dragon Knight threatens Lady Alice

The Dragon Knight threatens Lady Alice

 

Luckily Thursday was costume day at Hardwick, when all our ‘Living the History’ volunteers don their fantastic Tudor garb and bring the Hall to life, talking to the public about Tudor life and dress. I was in my element, admiring all the clothes hand-made by our very talented volunteers. It was amazing walking down the Long Gallery and seeing everyone dressed up, it helped the imagination picture the Hall as it may have been in its heyday, when Bess was entertaining.

Our Fab Living the History Vols

Our Fab Living the History Vols

It's not just the ladies

It’s not just the ladies

I know I am more than biased but I feel that events like the costume day, and the presence of costumed interpreters really enhance properties. I love asking them questions, like about their costumes and they are so passionate and knowledgeable. I also love being on the other side, answering the public’s questions, and I love wandering around these fantastic sites in costume and imagining I have stepped back in time! It’s a really brilliant way of engaging people, especially children in history, bringing it to life, and having someone in costume to talk to makes it all seem that bit more real and relate-able, it makes the distant past more accessible. This is something I will always try to support (and take part in too!)

Spinning in the Long Gallery

Spinning in the Long Gallery

This week at Hardwick, when not oogling pretty costume, we have been carrying on the Deep Clean, we’re now in the Dining Room. I was mostly dusting the windows that are on the front of the Hall, I did get some odd looks from people outside! The weather was lovely and bright so I had a lovely time looking out while doing my cleaning. However this is going to have to go on hiatus for a little while over the next couple of weeks as we have a huge project coming up, we are re-hanging the returned Gideon Tapestries. Next week we are starting the preparation for the big event, which will be in a couple of weeks time. Firstly we shall be taking down the paintings that are hanging in the gaps where the returned tapestries will hang. There are twelve paintings to move in total, and we shall be building the scaffold in order to do so, it is a big job but I am looking forward to it. I shall tell you more about the project, along with how we got on taking the paintings down!

The Dining Room Curtains

The Dining Room Curtains

Can't complain about the view

Can’t complain about the view

The glass casting colours on the window sill

The glass casting colours on the window sill

I also seemed to spend a lot of time changing light bulbs this week. Changing light bulbs? What a boring thing to talk about, well not when your changing bulbs in a historic property, it is not as straight forward as we would like it to be. The other day it took us 45 minutes to change 2 bulbs! We had to change one in the Entrance Hall lantern, using the big ladder. The ladders live on the top floor, and the big ladder is so big we have to carry it across the top floor to the main stairs, which are wide enough to carry it down, and the across the ground floor to the bulb. The ladder is then positioned over the table in the Entrance Hall, and I can get up to change the bulb. The second bulb was on the main stairs, but needed the medium ladder, so we had to take the big one back up and across the top floor, and bring the other down! Phew! However I do love looking around when at the top of the ladders!

The ladder in the Entrance Hall

The ladder in the Entrance Hall

Much better

Much better

This week I took my first tour round Hardwick! I love talking to the public and really enjoyed taking the tours round Powis. I do miss having the depth of knowledge I did about Powis but I am working on learning as much as I can about Hardwick, and taking the tour Thursday made me realise I have already learnt quite a bit! The tours are called ‘Last One Out’ tours, where we take members of the public round with us as we close up so they get a glimpse into a part of our daily routine.

Bess' Coat of Arms in the Entrance Hall

Bess’ Coat of Arms in the Entrance Hall

It is so nice to be able to share this element of our day with the public, and they get to see Hardwick in a different light. We let them have a go at closing curtains and turning of lights, and we walk around the Hall by torch light. The tour was a lovely first tour as there were just a couple of people on it, a gentle start for me. Luckily these ‘Last One Out’ tours focus on our work and how we look after the property, the challenges we face and the steps we take to care for the collection. This element I am well versed in, and Claire and Sadie were on the tour with me so they answered the questions about the history I didn’t know. We make a fab team! I am looking forward to taking more of these tours, and will continue to build my general knowledge about the history so I can take other tours too. The House team is also going on tour training soon too!

 

 

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A big weekend!

Hello all, this is just a very quick post to let you know I am finally re-connected to the world wide web! (sigh of relief). Unfortunatly however I won’t have time to post this weekend as it is the first weekend of re-enactment season (hurrah!!).

Beautiful Ladies

Beautiful Ladies

 

For many years now I have been a Medieval Re-enactor, originally with a group called The Order of Fighting Knights, we are now know as Swords of Mercis, based at Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire. This weekend we a re doing our first show of the season and I am so excited. I didn’t get to go to many shows last season so I am really looking forward to catching up with all my friends!

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Ever since I decided at a very young age I want to work in this sort of field (originally I was going to be an Archaeologist on Time Team) my mum has been very supporting and our early family holidays consisted of lots of visiting heritage properties. We were members of both the National Trust and English Heritage. One trip to Bolsover Castle we found a re-enactment going on, and at the end of the show the group said they were looking for new members, and me and my brother jumped at the chance. I was eleven when we did our first show, now over ten years later this hobby has given me access to some of the most amazing places in the country, as well as a fantastic insight into the heritage industry that many on the outside do not get to see. But more about my hobby in another post.

National Trust Images/John Millar

Now from a big weekend for me to a big weekend for the Trust, the Free Weekend! Found yourself at a loose end this weekend, well hundreds of Trust properties across the country are offering free entry for this weekend only! All you have to do is follow this link > > > http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/get-involved/competitions-and-offers/offers/free-weekend/

Find out where your nearest property taking part is, print off a voucher and join in! The Greyfriars House and Gardens (Worcester) Powis Castle and Gardens (Wales) and Hardwick Hall (Derbyshire) are all taking part, so gte out there and discover your local Trust! I love the idea of this weekend, letting people discover the wonderful places we care for for free! Hopefully this will give people a taste for what we do and encourage more supporters and more people to become members. I love knowing that I can just go and visit any Trust property with my card, and many of our family holidays and day trips are still planned around visiting properties, there is still so much to see!

Well whatever your doing this weekend I hope you have a good one!

What haven’t I been doing!

I couldn’t decide what to call this post so my mum said; ‘well what have you been doing?’ and I replied ‘what haven’t I been doing!’ so there you go! Apologies again for the gap between posts, I am still without internet in my new place (very frustrating!) so I’m at mum’s again stealing her internet.

I have been very busy at work, learning the ropes and settling in my new place ad have already done so many amazing things at Hardwick! There are so many differences between Powis and Hardwick, but also a lot of similarities. Monday and Tuesdays are closed days, something that didn’t happen at Powis until we got to 2013. Mondays are spent doing the weekly clean, we each take a floor and vacuum and dust it, and the we are responsible for this floor for the rest of the week. Tuesdays are spent doing the Winter Clean, which I love doing! We will also be doing projects on closed days over the coming months, which I am so excited about.

The sun shining on Hardwick Hall

The sun shining on Hardwick Hall

So far me and Claire have already got to clean both the bed in the Blue Bedroom and the bed in the Mary Queen of Scotts room. I can’t believe I have already got up close and personal with these amazing textiles! To clean textiles we use a museum vac and place an ironing cloth over the textile. we then use a very low suction, and this combined with the ironing cloth ensures that we remove the dust from the surface, but that we are not pulling any of the fibers out. To do the beds we used two different attachments, one flat hoover head for the large areas and one small nozzle to go over the embroidery. It was a very satisfying job seeing the difference after taking the dust off, it was especially bad on the flat areas and on the creases and folds in the back velvet of the Mary Queen of Scotts bed. Here are some photos of the lovely embroidery taken by my colleague Claire.

The embroidery on the Blue Room Bed

The embroidery on the Blue Room Bed

One of the flowers on the Mary Queen of Scotts Bed

One of the flowers on the Mary Queen of Scotts Bed

Cleaning in the Blue Bedroom

Cleaning in the Blue Bedroom

There are some afternoons when I will be able to work on my own projects, and get some of the backlog of work that has built up while the team have been short-staffed, such as cleaning a large amount of linen found in a mouldy cupboard a few months ago. This seemed like a huge task but with more team members and a few quiet afternoons we blitzed the work! It feels really nice to be able to help out getting tasks like this ticked off the list, as the one thing I have realised is that there is always work to be done! Brilliant for me as I get to try my hand at loads of new things. Such as spending the other afternoon cataloguing books that had been moved to the attics, with some very interesting and intriguing titles. Some of these were first edition novels, and books of psalms and hymns, as well journals about agriculture and horticulture. Talking with a colleague while doing this made me again take a step back and realise just how lucky I am, to work where I do, and have done!

The linen to be cleaned

The linen to be cleaned

My work station - The Mould Vac

My work station – The Mould Vac

Such a glam job!

Such a glam job!

We continued our Winter Clean in the Chapel, Paved Room and the Cut Velvet Dressing Room. The Paved Room has some fantastic plaster work around the walls, so I spent the day up the ladder dusting the plaster. It is detailed with gold paint and so I cleaned it by dusting it with a pony hair brush into one of our backpack hoovers. Here are some photos of the detail on the walls.

Beautiful sun in the Paved Room

Beautiful sun in the Paved Room

That's some interesting headwear

That’s some interesting headwear

I love discovering new things so I got very excited when I was cleaning in the Cut Velvet Dressing Room and discovered a secret about the side table, it is really a drinks cabinet! Unfortunately no longer stocked with alcohol it instead had two cigarette tins in and a book. I am looking forward to learning many more secrets about Hardwick’s amazing collection.

The table, which has a lamp on it

The table, which has a lamp on it

The inside of the cabinet

The inside of the cabinet

Opening just last week was a new exhibition called ‘Virtue and Vice’, inspired by the Virtue and Vice tapestries hanging in the Entrance Hall and on the Chapel Landing. The theme of the exhibition looks at how religion not only shaped people’s lives but also shaped the way the dressed their homes. There is an exhibition in Bess’ Bedroom and there are display boards placed around the Hall where the theme has been used in the furnishings and decoration. I am looking forward to studying the information over the next couple of weeks, while the exhibition is on display. Find out more about the exhibition on the National Trust Website.

The exhibition in Bess' Bedroom

The exhibition in Bess’ Bedroom

Well I hope to have my internet up and running soon so I can keep you informed with what I’m up to at Hardwick, but untill then follow our new Twitter account; @NTChaps. Members of the Hardwick Hall House team will be taking it in turn to tweet about what we are doing, and I promise pretty photos too!