Let there be light!

As we are getting towards the end of our Winter Clean we had to undertake one of the biggest tasks of the Clean, lowering the chandelier on the Grand Staircase! It was one of those moments where everyone was holding their breath! And it was not even the first time this week we were lowing a large, priceless item from the ceiling to the ground at the castle!

From National Trust Images

The Ballroom Tapestry

Monday morning we had to bring down the large tapestry that hangs above the bookcases in the Ballroom. It is believed the tapestry was commissioned to celebrate the French trading treaty with the East in 1545. We have received some funding for the tapestry to be conserved, so this week we had the conservators come to take a look at the tapestry and do a preliminary condition report. This allows them to see what state the tapestry is in and asses how much work is needed, and therefore how long it will take and how much it may cost to do.

Detail of the Ballroom Tapestry

Detail of the Ballroom Tapestry

Taking other tapestries in the property down is fairly simple, but this tapestry is on winches and above a bookcase. This means we can’t just lower it straight down, so when it came down last the team came up with a very innovative idea of turning ladders into slide to get the tapestry over the bookcase. It works really well and the tapestry came down fairly speedily!

Ready to be taken down

Ready to be taken down

The gardeners came to help us, they worked the winches while we guided the tapestry, folding it as it reached the bottom, then lifting it and laying it out flat on dust sheets on the Ballroom floor. It was much bigger than I expected, and looking at it up close you can really see it is in need of some TLC. The craftsmanship of the piece is amazing, there is so much going on in the scene. I am very envious of the team that get to work on such a fab object!

On its way down

On its way down

The tapestry laid out on the Ballroom floor

The tapestry laid out on the Ballroom floor

Days later we were lowering the chandelier from the ceiling of the Entrance Hall down two floors to the marble floor below. We have lowered the chandelier half that before, to change the light bulbs  but I have never seen it come this far down. It is lowered all the way once a year and there is a wooden from to hang it off while we clean it.

The chandelier coming down

The chandelier coming down

On its frame

On its frame

This year was a bit different however as we were also changing all the light bulbs for brand new LED light bulbs. Hopefully these bulbs will last for two years, so we wont have the problem off having bulbs constantly being out. The news bulbs are also much better for the environment, and therefore our electric bills too! Good news all round.

Me dusting the chandelier

Me dusting the chandelier

The new bulbs

The new bulbs

Ben putting in the new bulbs

Ben putting in the new bulbs

When the light was coming down I was on the ground ready to help get it in position. Them me and Ben dusted it and replaced all the bulbs and it was time to winch it back up. This time, I got to do the winching!! Will took me up onto the roof, which I had been on before, but this time we walked all the way across the rooftop to the other side! Then I lowered myself down into a little hatch in the roof and was in the roof-space. It was only slightly disconcerting, as when I was about to go in Will said, just make sure you step right, not left, if you step left you’ll fall through the ceiling!

Powis Castle Roof

Powis Castle Roof

The Hatch

The Hatch

This is where the winch for the chandelier is, so we winched it back up, plugged it and turned it on! It was a good work out, and seemed to take an awfully long time, and I felt very relieved when the chandelier was back in place and secured! The new bulbs look brilliant, really bright, and hopefully we wont have any off them going out any time soon! LED bulbs are something that is being tried out at a few different Trust properties, and with all the advantages over regular bulbs I think it is a great idea to replace regular bulbs with LEDs where possible! Hopefully it is something that will be put in place around the rest of the property over the next few years.

The hole for the chandelier cable

The hole for the chandelier cable

The winch

The winch

We are drawing very close to the end of our Winter Clean now, and the property is in full swing getting ready for opening again on the 1st March! I have really enjoyed doing the Winter Clean, and am looking forward to the ting we’ve got going on over the next couple of weeks, including uncovering all the cleaned furniture and putting the rooms back to rights. Change is very much in the air at the moment, but I’ll say more about that in another post!

Looking shiny!

Looking shiny!

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The Clean continues

I absolutely love this job, but find it difficult to sum up what exactly I do on a day to day basis – its so varied, especially during the Winter Clean!

Cleaning the alcoves in the Blue was interesting, as I got to have a good luck at a clock I had not really paid much attention to before. Getting to spend time cleaning such intricate and beautiful items is the best part of the winter clean! This clock is absolutely gorgeous,and it was really satisfying to clean as it only gets done once a year so you can really see the difference your making! The same can be said for areas behind other furniture or the ornate woodwork over the doorways on the landing. Cleaning these areas makes you realise how much dust does get into the property over a way, and what good we are doing by cleaning regularly.

The clock in the Blue Drawing Room

The clock in the Blue Drawing Room

Another thing I really noticed was the damage done to the curtains in the Blue by sunlight  over the years. After we had finished cleaning the alcoves we pulled the curtains too, to give them a rest from being tied back constantly. Seeing the two sides of the curtains hanging there really shows the damage light does to textiles, the difference is amazing! In the middle you can see the areas exposed to the sunlight, and to the side the more protected part of the fabric. Even them Emma said this is not a patch on what the curtains used to look like, there is a scrap of the fabric in the textile store and she says the difference is really significant!

The curtains in the Blue Drawing Room

The curtains in the Blue Drawing Room

Working on the winter clean is a brilliant opportunity to really get to grips with the different methods used for cleaning different types of items, and the scale of the operation means you get plenty of practice! I had a good basic knowledge from working at Greyfriars’ but the vastness of Powis’ collection has been incredibly beneficial! I have cleaned every type of objects in the collection now!

Me on the scaffold tower in the Ballroom

Me on the scaffold tower in the Ballroom

I feel confident enough in my knowledge now that yesterday I was happy being in charge when we moved the winter clean over to the ballroom, directing one of the lads who comes in to help us out, and the two of us managed to clean over half the bookcases in the Ballroom in a day! Then me and Emma did all the scaffolding work in two days. I got to dust the Tiger, checking taxidermy off my to do list. I really enjoyed looking at the fabulous paintings in the Ballroom up close  and seeing the details you can’t see from the ground. What was not so nice however was removing all the dead insects from the Imari vases on top of the bookcases.

Dusting the Tiger

Dusting the Tiger

Moving the palanquin out of the case

Moving the palanquin out of the case

Then we moved into the Clive Museum, and we got to go inside all the cases! We took most of the objects out of each case to give both the items and the interiors of the cases a through clean. I absolutely loved this, getting to handle theme amazing, priceless objects, having a close look learning more about them. I really do love this job! I had to laugh when Megan was inside the case where we keep the cloth of gold clothes, she was cleaning the inside of the glass pane and tried to talk to Emma, but we couldn’t hear her through the glass. It made me think of the second Pirates of the Caribbean; part of the team, part of the museum!! I got my chance to go inside a display case when we took the palanquin out and I cleaned inside it’s case. We were practically finished in the museum in two days, as there were more of us working on the clean at once than I think I’ve seen so far!

Part of the Museum

Part of the Museum

At this rate we should be finished in no time! Which will be a brilliant sense of achievement but I will miss the detailed cleaning and spending time on one objects or one area really getting it looking its best! It is such a good way to get to grips not only with new skills, but also with the individual objects that make up this amazing collection! It has been really nice getting to know the collection, especially as the other members of the House Team are so knowledgeable and I’ve learnt a lot about the history behind the individual objects.