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.

The Winter Clean

So the property is finally closed (on the weekdays anyway) but there is still no rest for the wicked! We have our Winter Clean to finish!

Every year each National Trust property gets a deep clean from top to tail. Everything is dusted, polished, washed, waxed or buffed and then covered over. Stately Homes have always been put to bed during the season when the family are not in residence and I think its nice we continue this tradition. The Winter Clean gives us the opportunity to do those conservation jobs that only happen once a year, and clean items we don’t usually clean, because of access or intricacy. We also take stock of what condition the items of the collection are in, and make sure that everything is where it should be, or that any movements have been recorded correctly.

From National Trust Images

The Duke’s Room

We started the Winter Clean in October in the Duke’s Room while the upstairs rooms were still open, but after the upstairs rooms had closed we were able to work through the rooms quite quickly. We use scaffolding and ladders to clean right to the top of the rooms. All the furniture gets moved so we can completely clean each item, inside and out, and the walls behind it. Furniture is then covered in their own tailored made dust-cover. Windows are dusted and washed and the ornate mouldings we have  round the top edges of several rooms are dusted as well.

Wood is dusted, usually with a hog’s hair paintbrush, or shaving brush, and then buffed with a white duster. If it needs polishing we do this with furniture polish and buff it off with a white duster. Marble, like that in several of the fireplaces, is washed and then renaissance wax is applied with a hog’s hair brush. It is buffed with a long shoe brush and then a blue duster. Gilt wood is duster with a pony hair brush as if it is only a very thin layer of gold on top of gesso, and dusting with cloth would rub it off. Painted wood is also dusted with a pony hair for the same reason.

What a difference!!

What a difference!!

Textiles are treated very delicately as it is one of the most fragile materials we clean. Textiles on furniture are dusted with a pony hair into a back-pack hoover on a very low suction. The rug in the Duke’s room was vaccumed with a textile head through an ironing cloth, again on a very low suction, and then we went back over it with a pair of tweezers to pick up any of the bigger pits not taken through the ironing cloth.

Last week we were finishing our clean in the Blue Drawing Room, after this we only had the Landing to do and then we can start on the Ballroom and Clive, then onto the downstairs rooms! Part of my To-Do-List here was to work on the scaffold so I’m really pleased I have been able to do that during the winter clean. In the Blue and the Ballroom Emma worked on the top-level of the scaffold and I worked on the middle level, but on the landing I did both top and middle.

The Scaffold in the Blue

The Scaffold in the Blue

I didn’t mind doing the scaffold work on the landing didn’t mind once I got my head around the height, however I was very careful not to move around too much as the scaffold does tend to sway slightly! The most nerve-wracking bit was when the scaffold was at the top of the Grand Staircase, I was a little worried about it rolling down! I am really glad I swallowed my nerves and went up and worked on the top, as now I know it’s not so bad! I can say I can work at heights with confidence and am confident in building and moving the scaffold too. Goodness knows I’ve had enough practice anyway!

Cleaning the Chandelier

Cleaning the Chandelier

Cleaning chandeliers in the Blue forced us to think outside the box a bit. In previous years all three chandeliers were taken down together and place in the plastic flowerpots. The flowerpots were exactly the right diameter and depth to hold the chandelier perfectly, making sure it is not resting unevenly on the arm or the ball that hangs underneath. However when we came to use them, the pots had gone missing! After searching high and low it was decided we needed to find an alternative, so we tried all the pots we could get our hands on. Too big, too small, too shallow said Goldilocks, until finally Emma spotted a jug on the side in the kitchen and luckily it was the perfect size to fit our chandeliers in.

Hanging back in place

Hanging back in place

We took each chandelier down one at a time as we moved the scaffold into each window alcove. I dusted each one with a pony hair brush and buffed them with a blue duster. Cleaning objects like the chandeliers is really rewarding as they get so dusty over the year and giving them a dust and polish really brings the shine back! Hanging them back up was a trick, climbing the ladder and the catching the dangling chain, the chandelier hooks back on and then the snap plug gets reconnected and its good to go!

I’ve realised I’ve written waaaay too much about the Winter Clean for just one post so more next time!