More cleaning!

For the last few weeks we have been settling back into the open season, it’s surprising how much you forget when routines change! Now we are open and back in the swing of things we are cracking on with the Deep Clean.

Whilst Hardwick was closed we managed to get most of the Top Floor deep cleaned. It is really important that we do rooms like the Long Gallery and High Great Chamber while we are closed as we need to use scaffold to reach all areas, and we can’t use this sort of equipment when visitors are in. We also got most of the Ground Floor cleaned as we needed to before we could install the interpretation for this years exhibition prior to opening.

The scaffold tower in the High Great Chamber

The scaffold tower in the High Great Chamber

The only rooms we did not clean on the Top Floor while we were closed were Mary Queen of Scotts Room and the Blue Bedroom. We deliberately left these as they are smaller rooms we can clean while we are open. I really enjoy working when we are open, so we can talk to the public about how we care for Hardwick’s collection. My job would hold so much less appeal if I couldn’t share my work the way we do.

In The Blue Bedroom

In The Blue Bedroom

People are always so interested and amazed as the amount of work that actually goes into looking after historic properties, and I think it’s really important we do tell people! It gives visitors an opportunity to see what their membership fees do, where the money for that trip to the gift shop goes, or what buying that cheeky slice of cake means to us ( as if people really need another excuse to buy cake!). That is why for the next two months we will be focusing on cleaning the Middle Floor in front of our visitors!

I always seem to notice something new when deep cleaning a room, even though now this is my third time cleaning these rooms! Like these feet peeking out from underneath the Blue Bed!

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It was the turn of the Top Floor over-mantles for a Deep Clean this time round, so I cleaned the alabaster over-mantle in the Blue Bedroom by dusting it with a hogs hair paint brush. It depicts the wedding of Tobias and Sarah from the biblical story of Tobit, as story Bess must have been fond of because we also have a table carpet telling the tale.

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Whilst I was cleaning it I noticed this masons mark hiding right at the top. I love spotting these marks and it made me think about the person who created this amazing piece of art so many years ago. I wonder what they would think if they could see us still taking care of it today.

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I also got to have a close look at this lovely leather studded chest in the Blue Bedroom. I have a soft spot for pretty boxes and would love to have this in my house (if there were room!). The crowns once had blue silk in the spaces, such wonderful attention to detail.

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Something most visitors do not get to see is the amazing painted detail on the black wicker chairs in the Mary Queen of Scotts Room. They are covered in painted flowers and gilded decoration. This means they are very delicate and we have to take great care not to damage the detail any more than time already has done. We gently brush the dust off with our softest brushes, with bristles made from pony hair.

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Now we’ve finished the Top Floor we are racing through the Middle Floor so if you are visiting in the next few weeks you might get a chance to see us in action!

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On the Middle Floor

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!