This Saturday Hardwick Hall will open to the public for 2014, and the pressure is on for us Chaps to put everything back in place and make sure it’s all picture perfect again! Along with a new season we have a new theme as well! We will be focusing on Robert Smythson, the architect who designed Hardwick New Hall, to commemorate the anniversary of his death in October 1614. We have plans for a different focus every year for the next couple of years, telling different aspects of Hardwick’s story, and with a property as old as this there is always so much more to learn!
Over the last couple of weeks we have been working really hard to get as much of the deep clean finished as possible. I am so pleased with how much we have achieved over the closed season and that will take the pressure off us a bit in the open season, to devote more time to our many other projects! We finished in the Entrance Hall and moved to the Below Stairs areas. This meant I finally got my hands on the Copper that I had been so jealous of during my interview.
I have a soft spot for the Kitchens after my project to bring the Old Kitchens at Powis Castle back to life. Luckily for me all the copper in the Hardwick kitchens is lacquered so it only needed a good dust and it was gleaming again! Very satisfying. I also got to see all the different marking that are on the copper. Some pieces had the Devonshire’s stamp on them, and all the pans and lids had their sizes on them, which with that many different pans probably saved an awful lot of time for someone!
I also cleaned the selection of antlers and horns that decorate the Serving Rooms walls. These horns are similar to those of the breed of cows we still have on the Estate, and let me tell you I hope I never get any closer to horns like this than I did to take this picture!
Something that took us a stupid amount of time over the last two weeks was doing the most challenging thing we seem to do as a team, or at least the tasks that causes us the most difficulty; changing our curtains! Hardwick is lucky enough to have a voluntary sewing group that create many different things for us, including lovely new black-out curtains. We have been putting these nice new curtains up on the half-landing of the main stairs, however it took us a long while to actually get up to the curtain poles here! To change a total of four curtains it took us nearly two days, one set of scaffolding, two tall ladders, one very specialist stick and many hands!
We had to build a set of scaffolding to reach the one window that was on that stairs as there was nowhere to stand a ladder. The other window was slightly quicker as we only had to put up two ladders to reach the curtain poles, with the aid of our stick! This was a brilliant find by one of the Chaps, and was actually a key used to turn of out-side water valves. We are nothing if not ingenious and this stick was perfect for the job, nice and strong with a notch to rest the curtain pole in. The old curtains that had been hanging in those windows for decades had really seen better days, suffering from light damage and water staining. It was wonderful to get them down (amidst clouds of dust) and finally get rid of them for our nice new curtains.
We have also been battling the elements, after finding out one particularly rainy Friday afternoon that it was also raining inside the Hall! Unfortunately our 16th Century windows are somewhat less than waterproof in places so we then proceeded to spend the next hour rushing round the building placing absorbent pads on windowsills and moving items out of danger! Luckily nothing was damaged and the rain hasn’t been quite as severe since.
Since we open next week, this last week we have been holding the annual volunteer briefings. At this event we invite all the volunteers from across the Hardwick Portfolio (Hardwick Hall, Stainsby Mill and Eyam Hall) and staff members from across the Estate and the wider Trust give them a brief introduction to sum up the last year and to talk about plans and events for the coming year. It was lovely to have all of our volunteers back in and we were all getting excited about what this year holds for us!
The last time I was at a pre-season briefing was at Powis, when I got a special mention as I was about to move on to Hardwick, so it was really nice to sit in on the Hardwick briefing knowing I have just signed an extension to my contract for another 12 months! I am so happy to be staying on at Hardwick, with all the amazing things happening this season, such a fantastic collection, beautiful property and wonderful colleagues. Once again I am feeling very lucky to be where I am in the world!