Middle Floor done and dusted!

Throughout spring the House Team have been busy Deep Cleaning the Middle Floor, and many of our visitors have been able to see just exactly what it takes to care for a collection like ours!

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The Deep Clean begins in November and is carried out over most of the year, with a few other projects and distractions in between, but this year we have got through it in record time!

A ‘Deep Clean’ as opposed to a daily or weekly clean, means almost every item in the rooms will get some TLC, starting at the top and working our way down to the floor. This is a really good opportunity for staff and volunteers to check the condition of all of our objects, making sure nothing has deteriorated over the year.

View from my ladder

View from my ladder

We also get the opportunity to clean items that can only be cleaned once a year, like fragile textiles or gilded furniture. These are the items on which we can really see the year’s dust build up!

On the top floor our Deep Clean requires a scaffold tower, but on the Middle Floor as it’s not so tall we can get away with just using our tall ladder.

Tall Ladder, Small Room

Tall Ladder, Small Room

It was a little tricky in some of the smaller rooms to fit us and our equipment in and move the furniture around us, but we managed. One of the smallest rooms we have to clean is the Cut Velvet Dressing Room. Going up the ladder in here means we get up close with the painting that hang at the top of the room, which are seldom spotted from the visitor route. We also see the little details, like the ‘ES’ monogram on the carving over the window.

The Cut Velvet Dressing Room

The Cut Velvet Dressing Room

Not Bess' period, but still her house

Not Bess’ period, but still her house

The ceramics in the Cut Velvet Bedroom were particularly dirty this year, so we decided to wash them as well as dust them. However this requires a little more delicacy that I would use to wash the dishes at home.

Ready for pot washing

Ready for pot washing

In need of a good clean

In need of a good clean

When we wash ceramics we use only a very tiny amount of water, with one small drop of sensitive washing up liquid in. We apply the water with a cotton bud, working in tiny circles to remove the grime. It is a very effective method and the results afterwards were sparkling!

Much better

Much better

Carefully does it

Carefully does it

It’s always great to get a closer look at the objects in the collections, not just to give them a through condition check but also because we often notice things we have never seen before. This year when I uncovered one of the chairs in the Drawing Room to clean underneath it we noticed that the chair itself actually reclines!

Evelynn's favorite chair

Evelyn’s favorite chair

We have been told by one of our Oral History interviewees that this was Duchess Evelyn’s favourite chair to sit and sew in, and maybe that was why.

The mechanism

The mechanism

Another thing I had never noticed before in the Drawing Room was the Cavendish serpents on the lead windows. I’ve not spotted these in any other rooms yet, but I could just be looking straight through them to the lovely view outside!

The Cavendish Serpent

The Cavendish Serpent

The frame of Duchess Evelyn’s portrait was also particularly dusty, with a lovely arrangement of cobwebs on. Because the frame is gilded we can only clean it once a year, any more and we would risk wearing away the fine top layer of gold. Because of this, when we do get to clean it, it is always a very satisfying job!

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I also got the opportunity this year to dust all the objects stored inside our beautiful Dutch Marquetry Cabinet. Most of the ceramics in this cabinet are Chinese including even a Ming dynasty piece, so I was very, very carefully when moving them.

The cabinet of ceramics

The cabinet of ceramics

In order to have both hands to work with while cleaning the ceramics I fashioned a ‘hoover holder’ out of a plastic box. It was not quite as neat as I hoped but it did the job and meant I had one hand to hold the brush, and the other to support the ceramic. Then I dusted the pieces with a pony hair paint brush, flicking the dust into the nozzle of the hoover.

My work space

My work space

It was an absolute pleasure to get to see the objects so up close because they are all so beautiful. They were made with such attention to detail by what must have been some very talented craftspeople.

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So now the Middle Floor is finished!! And we only have one more room to Deep Clean and we will be finished until November. However, no rest for the wicked, we still have plenty of other jobs to be getting on with, Deep Cleaning store rooms, cleaning tapestries and getting through our Summer Works program as well, not to mention helping the house survive the summer holidays!

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!