After a series of very busy weeks we have had a couple of almost normal weeks at Hardwick. While Gideons week, and all the prep, was really interesting work and good fun it did disrupt our normal routines!
A normal weeks at Hardwick Hall means we are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and we use this time to do a deep weekly clean. Since there are four of us in the team two people take the top floor, and one each on the middle and ground floors. These are our responsibility for the rest of the week then. We vacuum the whole floor, except for any rugs, and then we give it a deep dust.
A deep weekly dust consist of dusting pretty much all objects in the house, unless they are gilded or covered in textiles. Flat surfaces are dusted with a blue duster and carved areas, chair and table legs are dusted with a banister brush and so are textured surfaces like many of the large traveling chests we have.
At Powis Castle since we were open every day, but the Castle is smaller than Hardwick the routine was different in several ways. Monday was deep vacuum day, when every where is vacuumed, not just the visitor route like other days. Windows and fireplaces are also vacuumed, as these areas let in a lot of dirt from outside. Mondays is also when the door mats are taken outside and beaten.
Tuesday is deep dust day, as Powis has a lot of different materials out in the house, and as the show rooms are smaller than at Hardwick there is usually more time to do a somewhat deeper clean. At Powis we used two different dusters (one especially for polished wood and one for everything else), a banister brush and a set of pony hairs. There was a different pony hair for each different type of material; copper/brass, ceramics, wood and gilding.
At Hardwick once the weekly clean is finished (usually by the end of Monday) we continue with our annual deep clean. This is the winter clean, but since at Hardwick it continues all year round it seems more fitting to call it the annual clean. I really enjoyed the winter clean at Powis, which we did during the winter even though we were not fully closed, once we had cleaned the rooms all the items got covered up and they got a rest. However at Hardwick since we are open the rooms do not get the same rest, but we do get to talk to the public while we are working, and share with them what we are doing.
Different types of collections require different care but the basic techniques are the same, through and careful work to give all the objects a deep clean, and checking them for any deterioration or damage. Working through the winter clean is a nice way to get to know the collection, and expand my skills base and experience.
Mornings before opening at Hardwick involve vacuuming the Entrance Hall and both sets of stairs, if time allows. Then we dust the flat surfaces around the house, but we do not usually have time to do any more. Schools are often in at half ten, or tours at half eleven so we have to be quick! Even more so on weekends when it is just one person in!
At Powis mornings involved vacuuming the visitor route on each floor, and doing a quick dust of the rooms, changing how much we did depending on how much time we had. It is important that whatever routines are in place they are flexible, every day is different so we try to do what we can, but it is no use us bending over backwards to attempt the impossible when we simple don’t have enough time to do everything!
Afternoons at both Powis and Hardwick are spent continuing with project work. At Hardwick when we are all in we spend the afternoons continuing the deep annual clean, in front of the public. If not, I have been working on a project to make character biographies for our Living the History volunteers. These will be displayed when the vols are in, so the public will have a bit of background info about who they might meet in the Hall.
The main difference I have found between Hardwick and Powis are all the tours and talks that are always taking place at Hardwick. Every day is different depending on which volunteers have singed up to come and do which talks ect. And the House Team offer our ‘Last One Out’ Tour most days, which I really enjoy giving.
This week I also took my mum, my gran and a good friend round Hardwick. My mum has visited many times before, Bess is one of her role models and my mum is one of the main reasons I have the interests and passions I do. It was brilliant for me to be able to take my mum round the Hall, and show her it from an insiders point of view (with even a few behind the scenes bits throw in!). It was a lovely sunny day and I had a really nice day off, even though I spent it where I work! It did make me laugh that when my friend was looking at the Tobit Table Carpet in its display case, I was spotting the fingerprints. When I mentioned it however, she said ‘what fingerprints?’. It just goes to show the different thing you see when your looking at something from a different mindset!
I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of moving to a new property and learning so many new things, I am still working on learning the history but feel confident enough that I can take people on tours or answer peoples questions when I am walking around the Hall. So for the next few weeks it seems like everything is back to the usual, but I’m sure that we will find plenty to keep us on our toes!