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!

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A walk in the Park

Lyme Park to be precise.

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A few weeks ago, when we were having a spell of lovely weather, I took a drive through the peaks and up to Lyme Park to enjoy the sunshine! Now I have to be honest, I’m usually all about the houses when I go Trust visiting but I am so glad I took the time to wonder around the amazing gardens.

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There is a lovely Orangery in the gardens where I sat for a while listening to the fountain, so calming. It has a lovely tiled floor and when I was there it smelled divine thanks to whichever plants they had flowering in there.

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Outside the Orangery the tulips were out in bloom and they looked brilliant! Tulips are my favorite flowers, they are simple yet come in such a variety of lovely bold colours. We have had a lot at Hardwick at the moment and they’re such cheerful flowers.

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I used to visit Lyme occasionally when I was younger and my brother and I used to run through rhododendrons, it was one of our favorite adventures, exploring and finding dens in the trees and bushes. It was nice to tread these paths again, around every corner there was something else to discover.

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The whole park is so scenic, and the house looks great from every angle.

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The house and gardens were built in an Italianate style, and the house has a strange design where there is a courtyard in the middle and the four sides tower above you. To top of the theme there are several Roman gods perched on the roof of the South Front.

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The Italian gardens are beautiful, ever so neat and symmetrical, which really appeals to me. I don’t think I have even been so impressed by gardens as I was by Lyme’s (the beaming sunshine helped a huge amount I’m sure). They were blooming lovely! (I’m so sorry, I couldn’t resist).

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Of course I did also venture in the house. Unfortunately due to a lot of their collection being loaned items you cannot take photos inside the house, which is a shame because there are some really lovely rooms and pieces I wanted to share with you.

The front door stands above a grand double staircase that leads into the Entrance Hall, where when we visited a volunteer was playing the piano. This added a layer of atmosphere to the room, but it was somehow stifled by walking almost straight from the front door into a rope sectioning off most of the room.

©National Trust Images/Stephen Robson

©National Trust Images/Stephen Robson

I think the Drawing Room was my favorite room, ornate but cosy looking furniture, a lovely ceiling and the most amazing stained glass window that would not have looked out-of-place in a cathedral. The library was nice as they had made replica furniture that people could sit on, and read a book if they wanted. These were made only a few years ago and yet already one of the armchair seats has worn through, a good example of why we can’t let everyone touch our collections! The images below shows the Drawing Room not quite how I saw it, but you can see the lovely features it has.

The Drawing Room

©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

However Lyme’s story did not really come across on my visit, which was a shame because from the snippets I saw it should have been a really emotive and interesting story of how the wars affected the Legh family and their estate. The tag line is ‘Lyme – the end of a golden era’ but there is very little information about this era on the tour of the house, and I didn’t get a sense of the people at all.

Edwardian me

The absolute highlight of the house had to be the Edwardian costume that visitors get the opportunity to dress up in. You can borrow and Edwardian outfit and wander around the house and gardens in it, which was of course right up my street! I really enjoyed my stroll as an Edwardian lady, I felt ever so glamorous. This is a fantastic feature for visitor engagement and well done to the team at Lyme for having such an ambitious idea and seeing it though!

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I think a lot of work must have been done at Lyme in the last few years because the house I saw is very different to the one in the guide-book, which was last revised in 2012. The guide-book only touches on the fall of the estate and again does not tell the story that Lyme are aiming to share. The house was really lovely, I was just frustrated by seeing hints of a story I didn’t then get to find out any more about. I hope this projects is just at the beginning, and that over time this story will be more obvious in the house.

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At the end of the day it was the stunning beauty of the house and park land that made an impression on me, and there is so much beauty to be found at Lyme Park.

It’s Christmas!! Hardwick Style

I love Christmas, the atmosphere, the food, the music, the sparkles! So I have been really looking forward to decorating Hardwick for our Christmas opening. I loved transforming Powis Castle for the Fairy Tale Takeover last year, it was a lot of work but such a fun process and well worth the effort! This year has been quite different, it has felt like a much bigger project and with someone else planning it; it has been nice to discover what is happening.

Baubles ready to go!

Baubles ready to go!

Candles in the Entrance Hall

Candles in the Entrance Hall

The National Trust Christmas theme this year is a traditional Christmas. This is a little tricky at Hardwick as Chatsworth was where the family spent the festive season, using Hardwick Hall as their hunting lodge. Duchess Evelyn spent some time with her family at the Hall, and her children would put on plays for the rest of the family. This is one of the stories we will be telling while we are open this December.

Presents for Evelyn's children

Presents for Evelyn’s children

The Drawing Room

The team at Hardwick were determined that this Christmas was going to be bigger and better than ever! This meant bigger trees, and they are HUGE! I spent all week spelling of pine, clothes full of needles and hands covered in sap. The trees were difficult to shift and lift but looks so impressive now they are in place and decorated!

Going up!

Going up!

One of the two 15ft trees

Decorating them was a mammoth effort. The trees in the Entrance Hall are so tall even we struggled to reach them off our tallest ladder. We had to hang the lights and the decorations at the top using a hook on a pole, everyone kept saying it was like watching Krypton Factor seeing us do it!