After a slight hiatus over the last couple of weeks to send Gideon on his way we have jumped right back in to our Deep Cleaning. We are getting along with it so well I couldn’t be more pleased, and that is in large part thanks to our wonderful volunteers!
Just before we opened again in February we Deep Cleaned most of Below Stairs and then last week we finished it off by cleaning the Still Room. We got this room done in less than a day and it is a brilliant example of just how much you can achieve when you work as a team! The most time-consuming thing was cleaning all the pewter plates which hang on the walls, so we set up a system. One Chap stood on the ladder and passed the plates down to a second Chap we noted the Inventory Number (to check against our records) who then passed it to a third Chap to clean. Meanwhile the first Chaps was cleaning the wall behind the plate and waiting to pass down the next plate and hang the previous one back up. We flew through the room!
Deep Cleaning the Still Room got a little trickier when it came to getting to the back of the bread ovens. Someone had throw some litter into the oven and it was too far for us to reach by hand or with poles, so we had to resort to something a bit different. Luckily one of my colleagues is quite ‘oven-sized’ and very brave so she went in to get the rubbish!
Then we moved our Deep Clean into one of our Store Rooms, Miss Webb’s Room. As our stores are not open to the public (usually anyway) they do not get exposed to as much dust and debris. This means cleaning them on an annual basis would be doing more harm than good, not to mention we would never have time to get through all the Show Rooms AND the Store Rooms! Ideally Stores should be cleaned about once every five years, but monitored regularly.
Miss Webb’s Room is just off the visitor route, next to the Drawing Room, and is named so because it was the bedroom of Duchess Evelyn’s companion Miss Webb. It is ideally suited as it is next to Bess’s Bedroom which Evelyn used as her bedroom. It must have been used as a rather important bedroom in Bess’ time as well, if the colourful Overmantle bearing the Talbot Coat of Arms is anything to go by. Today it is a store-room to some of the finest pieces we have in our collection, including the grand State Bed that belongs with the canopy now in the High Great Chamber.
The bed is the biggest bed I have ever seen with a cover made of velvet with lovely colourful silk embroidery pieces on top. Like the canopy it is very delicate so we did not clean it, but checked its condition throughly. The bed is always covered in acid-free tissue paper, which keeps any dust off and reduces the need for cleaning. The wonderful thing about this bed is because it ahs been in store, unlike its matching canopy, the colours of the embroidery threads are much more vibrant. The blues and pinks are as good as new and really bring the hunting scenes to life! It features plants and flowers, rabbits, dogs, men riding horses, stags being hunted and even a man sitting in a tree with a cross-bow!
Also in Miss Webb’s Room are several lovely oriental screens that have unfortunately seen better days. Objects like this fascinate me because you can tell that they have been used, unlike a lot of the objects we have on display which were saved for best. One of the two screens stands by the window, and had gathered quite a layer of dust that had been blowing in. This made it really satisfying to clean, all I had to do was gently go over it with a Pony Hair Brush and the dust came off and the detail was revealed again! After cleaning the screens we made sure to cover them in acid-free tissue to prevent any dust getting on them again.
The overmantle we also cleaned with a soft brush, bringing the dust off but not any off the paint. Again it was so satisfying the take off the dust and discover the colour underneath, like the red of the Deer’s nails, and the deep black of their eyes. On top of cleaning and covering the objects another thing we did for their protection was replace the old curtains with new Black-out curtains as we have been doing elsewhere in the property. This will help keep the humidity down, which is often a problem in seldom accessed rooms, and cut out more UV light to keep that beautiful bed colourful.
The final exciting thing of our week involved a day out training! Most of our training sessions take place at other Trust properties or heritage sites but we were going to a Rugby Club this time, for Mobile Scaffold Tower Training! Although I have built plenty of scaffold towers we have to do so with someone who has been on the training. The morning was a theory session, followed by a test and then a practical session in the afternoon. Now we are all certified it just makes things a little easier for us, plus it’s another thing I can add to my CV. I really enjoy learning new things so love that I can do different training courses with the Trust and improve/add to my skills!