Coughton Court, a patchwork property

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Wonderful Wightwick

Recently me and mum visited Wightwick Manor near Wolverhampton. Wightwick (pronounced Whittick) is so beautiful, I was stopped in my tracks, and that was just the exterior of the building! A mixture of black and white walls with red tiles, colourful windows and beautiful carved detail around every corner. Every where you looked there was something else to notice, some other decorated element adding to the stunning vision of the building.

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Luckily for me the inside more than lives up to the bar set by the amazing exterior. Wightwick boasts two amazing collections that set the tone of the house; Pre-Raphaelite paintings and William Morris, well, everything.

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The tour of the interior starts in the Drawing Room, which felt very cosy. In fact most of the house felt very homely. The Drawing Room boasts a lovely plaster ceiling and there is a nice window seat area where you can sit. Seats for the public to use are denoted by having cat cushions on them, as the owners used to allows the cats to sit on all the furniture, more even than the guests were allowed to. I think the cat cushions are a really nice idea.

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In the Entrance Hall there are a series of gorgeous stained glass windows, showing the seasons as women. There is also a very sweet little nook around the fire place that looks so inviting. The perfect place to snuggle up and read a book.

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In the Upper Hall there are some very interesting objects, including a copy of Emperor Napoleon’s death mask which once belonged to Dante Gabriel Rossetti of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Further along the hall is a small painting that belongs to a very large scandal. The painting shows Effie Ruskin and was painted by John Millais, another member of the Brotherhood.

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At the time of the painting Effie was married to John Ruskin who was a strong supporter of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Millais and Effie fell in love and Effie went through a very public split which left the couple shunned from high society. The story of the Brotherhood is a very interesting one, one I admit I only know from the BBC drama Desperate Romantics a few years ago (worth a watch if you have not seen it, and not just because Aidan Turner plays Rossetti!).

The final thing in the Upper Hall that excited me probably doesn’t mean a huge amount to anyone not familiar with the National Trust collection database. I finally found the painting that has been sitting on the home page for years. It’s a lovely painting of a lady called Jane Hughes tending to her flowers. Now when I log on to CMS I shall be able to picture it hanging instead of wondering where it might live.

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The Morning Room had some very unusual cupboards in, that had once been Flemish Window Shutters, then later installed in the Library at Wightwick and finally moved into the Morning Room.

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The Great Parlour really lives up to its name, a room built to wow and as a space to entertain. There is William Morris furniture and wallpaper, beautiful Medieval inspired stained glass windows and a collection of ceramic tiles displayed around the room. The frieze that runs around the top of the Parlour is a forest scene which animals hiding among the trees. Is is said the frieze was inspired by the one here at Hardwick Hall.

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I could really picture life in the Great Parlour, not only is there another lovely fireplace but a little fire pit too, for portable fire needs. Another essential is the mobile book case. I can imagine relaxing on the William Morris settee, fire keeping me toasty, books on standby. Although there is a good chance I would get distracted by all the pretty things in the room around me.

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Through the Parlour is the Billiard Room, with another cost fire place, snuggly window seats and a William Morris sofa showcasing a selection of Morris print pillows.

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In the Gentlemen’s Cloakroom and the corridor outside were a fascinating selection of hats and accessories used by the family during their history, including elements of genuine uniform from the World Wars. All of these different ensembles were displayed hung around the room and it made for a fantastic visual insight to the houses history and the families service.

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Also in the Gentlemen’s Cloakroom was this rather unusual stool, decorated like a cobra. It is quite odd, and doesn’t look like the most comfortable thing in the world but I like it because it is so different.

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Upstairs in the Honeysuckle Room I found a William Morris print I really like, called ‘Honeysuckle’. The bedrooms on the top floor are all visitor’s bedroom as the family rooms are still used by the family and therefore not open to the public.

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In the Indian Bird Room there hang some lovely hand embroidered curtains. The design ‘Mary Isobel’ was sold as a kit by Morris & Co and is named after the woman who originally stitched the pattern Mary Isobel Barr Smith who lived in Australia. What a lovely legacy to leave to the world!

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The Acanthus Room boasts a fine bed, and I love how this room and the Indian Bird Room, that are back to back, fit with one another. The wall between the two rooms is not straight and the creates a recess for both beds, one either side of the wall. A very clever use of space to make the rooms even cosier.

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From the Gallery visitors get another angle of the gorgeous Great Parlour and a better look at the frieze, which is certainly very reminiscent of Hardwick’s, except Wightwick’s has more kangaroos! There is a lovely settle on the Gallery overlooking the Parlour. Highly decorated with four oil paintings depicting the four seasons.

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The Oak Room was very pretty and I particularly like the bed, which folds itself away into a cupboard and even has a built in bedside table. Unfortunately we couldn’t take photos in the Oak Room but I found the bed on the NT Collections webpage. I love how highly decorated the inside is, even though it was designed to be folded away.

The day nursery is a lovely space crammed full of fun looking toys. There are also modern toys out for visitors to play with. This really added to the relaxed and cheerful atmosphere of the room.

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The night nurseries however didn’t feel quite so cheerful to me. Maybe it’s just the overdone horror trope of children’s toys of a particular era being creepy but the room just didn’t make me feel anywhere near as comfortable as the rest of the house. Even the cute puppies on the walls and Snow White bedding couldn’t tempt me into spending a night in there.

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Back downstairs and we found another huge selling point of the house, a built in Turkish Bath! After seeing that me and mum decided we could very much live there, and when should we deliver our things? The Mander family certainly had good taste!

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All around the house are these little saying, painted on walls and fireplaces. What an interesting way to show guests your character and beliefs about the world, and to decorate spaces too.

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After my visit, while I was writing this blog post I read through the National Trust guidebook for the property, and there is one part that hints at a hidden part of Wightwick’s history I would have never guessed existed.

The Introduction to the Guidebook is written by Anthea Mander Lahr Coles, a member of the family to whom the house belonged. Her introduction talks of painful memories and a difficult family life, which present day Wightwick shows no sign of. It feels very strange to read Anthea’s introduction after imagining such a happy life in that beautiful home full of amazing things. Anthea talks of her pleasure in the fact that the house ‘is now the focus of affection and enjoyment’ and it just goes to show that no matter the treasures in a place, it’s not a guarantee for happiness. I am glad too that Wightwick is now a happy place that so many people can, and will, enjoy. It is such a beautiful place it deserves to be enjoyed and remembered fondly.

Interesting, intriguing and inspirational Snowshill Manor.

After one of our re-enactment shows last month me and the mother decided to stay over an extra night and break up our journey back home with another National Trust property, as we love to do. I really wanted to visit Snowshill Manor and gardens, this was the property we had decided not to visit in favor of Dyrham to try to get on the roof so I was really pleased to go and see it now, and it was fab!

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The house is opened by timed tickets which is good in the narrow walkways. We did have to wait a little bit to peek into one of the rooms downstairs, but when we got upstairs it didn’t feel too crowded for the most part.

There has been something on the site of Snowshill Manor since at least 821 AD and the earliest parts of the current structure are medieval, it was even given to Catherine Parr by Henry VIII as part of her dowry. However when the building was purchased by Charles Wade in 1919 its new purpose was set; to house Charles’ treasures from around the globe.

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Charles Wade started collecting items that interested him when he was a child and after restoring the manor it provided a place for him to display and enjoy his collection. Each room has a general theme and they all have different names, many mythical creatures. Charles himself, and much later his wife Mary, lived in a small cottage just next to the main house, which is also full to the rafters of interesting objects.

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Charles Wade’s Bedroom

The house itself looks quite small from the side visitors enter, but going down into the gardens you can see that it spreads back quite a way. It is a maze of small rooms with so many things in every room! The motto that accompanies Charles Wade’s Coat of Arms is Nequid Pereat which translates as ‘Let nothing perish’ very fitting not only for Mr Wade but also for the National Trust as a whole.

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There were many, many curious objects throughout the house, but one of the first that caught my attention was this rather strange bust. Looking it up on the National Trust Collections website I have found out it is a 16th Century Spanish Reliquary. I don’t know what was displayed in the hole in his chest but the gristly part of me thinks it should have been a heart! (Unlikely but wouldn’t that have been a sight!)

IMAG1429I loved these little bone figures which were displayed either side of a doorway. They were carved out of bone from prisoner’s rations during the Napoleonic Wars, and a re so incredibly detailed for such small scale pieces.

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My favorite room is the Green Room full of Japanese Samurai armour. The armour has been set out to look as if they are soldiers camped out, ready for battle or adventure. Some sit around a camp fire while others stand, keeping guard. Most have masks but a few have wooden faces and you feel like at any moment one could turn its head towards you and bark at you for intruding into their camp.From National Trust Images

Add to that the low light levels and whistling wind sound effects this room is a very atmospheric one. I couldn’t get a very good picture of the room so the one above is from National Trust Images. Even though it was quite eerie I really liked that room.

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On the very top floor is a room called ‘A Hundred Wheels’ for very obvious reasons. The room is so full of bikes and trikes and carts and carriages they are hanging from the rafters! Some are real vehicles, some toys or models and other mini versions made for children.

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There are so many objects in this wonderful collection that even just flicking through the guidebook I have seen thing I didn’t spot on my visit. I will have to go back and spend a long time looking round. By the end of my visit however I was starting to get a bit of object fatigue!

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There was not a lot of interpretation in each room, which suited me fine. I like to just be in the rooms and only tend to want information about specific things. For such instances Showshill has very knowledgeable room guides and folders in the rooms with further information about the objects. I then go away and read the guide book, and look up anything I want to know more about online.

Here are a few pictures of some of the objects that did catch my eye during our visit. So many pretty and fascinating things!

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I have been inspired by the next picture, all these different keys were presented in a frame. I love old keys and have always kind of wanted to collect them but not for the to just sit around in a draw. So now I am going to gladly start collection them and do something similar for myself!

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I love the idea of collecting items that interest you from all your travels, the mundane and the far flung. Wouldn’t it be fab to have your own collection like this to display your passion, and your life’s story! What a legacy to leave behind, although I think mine would definitely involve a bit more glitter! On the side of the little cottage where Charles actually lived there is a lovely little clock mechanism where every time it strikes St George here strikes the bell. I don’t now if he still work but I think it’s a really cute feature.

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I hope I’ll get a chance to go back, maybe next time I’m in the area, and spend even longer looking around. I also need to visit Berrington Hall as well, as they now have Charles Wade’s collection of textiles and costume! I think they’re only on display occasionally so that may even have to be a special trip! Snowshill is a must visit for anyone with an interest in amazing objects and fascinating collections, and as of September they are open seven days a week. ‘Yay’ for visitors but send a prayer to their conservation team, dusting all that with no closed days! Oh, and the restaurant does a lush crumble and custard!

Chaotic collections at Calke

On the finally day of our Trusty holiday we were getting closer to home, for me at least, visiting some local properties that I had not been to visit before. So the next property on our trip was Calke Abbey.IMAG0880

I had been to Calke before for a meeting but not got the chance to have a look around the house, and it is a very unusual Trust property. Calke’s tagline is ‘The un-stately home’ and for a very good reason, the House is a collectors dream, and an obsessive organiser’s nightmare!

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In my line of work it usually helps to be very organised, liking things in their proper place, set out straight, clean and tidy, and I do tend to be rather fond of clean and tidy. However I feel like if I went to work at Calke it might just drive me mad.

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To start with we were allowed in to the ground floor before free-flow opening. I’m still not sure whether this was a tour or sneak peek. We were allowed to wander about the Entrance Hall, then we were chaperoned from there to the second room, lectured at and the moved on into the last room downstairs where we were again allowed to look at our leisure.

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This final room was brilliant, full of items that had been moved down from the collections store so visitors can see them. There was the front skirt of an amazing ball gown, decorated with iridescent beetle wings, which you could get a closer look at with a magnifying glass. There was also this beautifully detailed jacket, really fine embroidery.

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There was also a lot of information about conservation in this room, which I thoroughly approve of. They have a brilliant example of pest damage, a jar a fluff that used to be a duck! Poor thing.

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After our taster we had a walk around the gardens. These are much more orderly than inside the house, with lovely colourful flowers and a secret tunnel leading back toward the house and out near this amazing grotto in the gardens.

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There is also a church in the grounds. Some days they have Gravediggers in the church yard, unfortunately there weren’t any there when we went, but it was lovely weather so the stained glass looked fab.

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After our walk around the ground we headed back to the house, and it is huge, there just seemed to be room after room and there was just so much stuff! The first room of the Entrance Hall was full of taxidermy, which I did not like. I cannot understand why anyone would want to fill their home full of angry-looking dead things. * shudder *

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The room we were dragged into by the eager volunteer earlier is called the ‘Caricature Room’ because the walls are covered in caricatures from newspapers. The walls are bright blue, not a colour you expect to find in your typical Trust property. Honestly, I think the room is quite hideous, but it did have a rather lovely clock tucked at the back.

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All the rooms in the house seem to have their own style, the Dining Room is almost Robert Adams-esque, which I love.

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The Saloon is very impressive, stuffed full of interesting items in museum cases. I liked the geological artifacts, the gems and shells, but again there were more stuffed dead things which I do not like.

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The gorgeous golden wall paper of the Drawing Room manages to shine out even amongst more chairs than any one family could ever possibly need. The chairs had very fine embroidery on the seats though so i can understand the reason for collection them.

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I really enjoyed walking through the attics, this is where I felt Calke’s character the most. The rooms were really dilapidated and pile high with random pieces of furniture. In some ways they were quite creepy, but definitely atmospheric.

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There is a lovely large doll’s house in the school room.

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The house just seems to go on and on, it is huge! Near the end of the tour there is a lovely surprise, a beautiful bed. I remember reading about the bed but forgot it was at Calke. It was found in a trunk never having been a gift never put on display.

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The bed is stunning, Chinese silk and gold work and silk embroidery decorating. It is so pretty, birds fly through trees and flowers. The colours are still so vivid because it had never been exposed to light or dirt. When the Trust erected the bed they put it in a darkened room, behind glass to preserve it as is. It is so nice to see such a fantastic piece of furniture in such great condition.

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At the end of tour, once we were through the abandoned looking kitchens, we got the chance to go through a tunnel where beer would have been delivered to the house. The tunnel was very cool, and they even have their own skeleton, found in the Courtyard and laid back to rest there.

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Calke is a very unique property, they didn’t even get electricity until 1962! The Harper Crewe family were a family of collectors, so that is how the house came to be so full of such an amazing and varied collection. When Calke came to the Trust in 1985 they decided to treat it in a way the respects its individual nature.

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It was decided that the house would be preserved in the state it was left in. While most of the collection didn’t really appeal to me I do love the fact the Calke is so different to other Trust properties. I can’t say that I liked everything about the house, or even most things, but I did really enjoy my day out there. I liked the atmosphere of the attics and how interesting the house and its collection are, I would go back and take friends to visit with me, I bet you would see more and more every time you visit.

Textile Heaven

In recent weeks me and the Chaps at Hardwick have had the pleasure of doing an audit of our textile store. I love this store-room, I think it is one of the most interesting rooms on the property and having the opportunity to go through all the boxes and see the treasures inside has been fantastic!

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All our show rooms get audited on an annual basis, usually when we are deep cleaning them. With the store rooms we do this less frequently because they are not often open to the public so likely to be subject to less change.

Auditing the textile store involved going through every box in the room systematically and making sure what should be in there was, and that it was still in good condition,

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Luckily at Hardwick, thanks to many years of hard work before I arrived, the stores in the attics are very organised, including the textile store. Every box had a list of what should be inside, with useful little picture tags attached to it. These come in very handy when we want to find anything, because we can look at the tags first.

As so much work has been done in this room most of the boxes were as they should be, so it was really a case of recording and condition checking. This meant we got to have a good look at ll the beautiful and interesting textile pieces up there.

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Once we have finished the audit we took the list we had written and will be checking it off against our online database. If you want to see some of the collection at Hardwick, or at any Trust property, then look on the National Trust Collections page. This is a great resource for further research, and just having a nosey at what properties have hidden in their collections.

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I’m going to share with you some photos of the pieces I really liked. Some of them I don’t know anything about, I just thought they were really pretty! Others, like the one below, match items we have on display. This piece matched the embroidery we have on the Blue Bed. We know the embroidery taken off the original bed (dated 1629) and places on new, less damaged fabric by the 6th Duke in 1852.

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These columns are all that is left of a 5th great hanging. They once belonged to a piece featuring Cleopatra, part of the set with Penelope, Lucretia, Artemisia and Zenobia that we have begun conserving. They are all that remains because the rest of the piece was used to patch up the first four embroideries!

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Some things we have a large amount of, like these pieces of velvet and metal embroidered borders. We have 21 pieces of this in the textile store. It is believed that this border was purchased in Bess’ time, for a great amount of money, but it does not seem to have been used until the 19th century when it was cut into the lengths we see today.WP_004070

We also have nine of these panels, all featuring a variety of birds on white and blue velvet on a heavy linen base. We were trying to work out what they once had been, as they were only mounted in this way in the 1970’s. Looking at them at first we though they could have all been one piece, however the circles in the corner do contain complete images and don’t line up with one another, so we decided that probably wasn’t the case.

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Here we have sections from what would have been cushion covers. We have two of these, but neither is complete. The embroidery on them is fantastic, the time and patience that must have gone into these.IMAG0539

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The piece below matches the hanging we have on the Entrance Hall Gallery. It contains fabric very similar to the flossy silks (in the Cut Velvet Dressing Room) as well as patterned velvet. I think these fabrics were placed together long after they were originally made and purchased. It is just the sort of thing that has happened constantly throughout Hardwick’s history.

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This is possibly a small bed spread. In the same box is another very similar one but in blues. I love this design, the swirly elements and delicate little flowers are just my style.IMAG0550

We also have pieces that I’m not sure we’ll ever know for sure where they came from, including lots of little pieces of metal embroidery. Originally this little bird would have been very gold, but the thread has tarnished over time. It’s possible that these elements were purchased for projects that never got finished. Any one with a bit of a craft stash knows how easily that can happen!WP_004072

The amount of textile items we have in that store is almost unbelievable, and so much of it is contemporary with Bess. We know she purchased textiles and parts of textiles for projects she was working on. She also had a team of embroiderers she worked with and she and Mary Queen of Scotts used to sit and sew together but the amount of items we have that she could have possibly worked on is phenomenal! Another thing to admire Bess for!

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When visitors come into the attics they often ask why these objects are not on display but the truth is a lot of what is in our attics couldn’t be displayed, it’s too sensitive. A lot of the furniture doesn’t date from the period of time we are telling stories about, so wouldn’t fit in Hardwick today. And even if these things weren’t the case where would we put all of the stuff!? The Cavendish family had many properties to furnish, and a huge amount of that collection now resides at Hardwick. We have more tapestries that walls, more bits of textiles than we could ever have room to display, and more things like fire screens, mirrors and jugs than any human could ever possibly need!

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That is why we like to open our attics up from time to time, so these objects can be seen and admired, as they should be. But also so people understand about why we make the decisions about the collection that we do. If you would like a chance to visit the attics we are currently opening them on Wednesdays up until the beginning of the school holidays. Check the Hardwick Hall website for more information.

Embroidery excitement at East Riddlesden Hall

Last weekend it was my granny’s birthday so as a birthday treat me and mum took her for a day out. We decided to go to East Riddlesden Hall because mum had visited before and really liked it but neither me nor granny had ever been.

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The house is 17th century and was a family home for many years, built and owned by the Murgatroyd family . When it came to the Trust it did not have a collection so most of the items in the hall have come from elsewhere, but there are many really interesting objects there, and loads of beautiful Jacobean embroidery!

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Although located in a very suburban area in Bradford the hall is surrounded by green fields and we were lucky that the weather was really sunny for our visit so every thing looks very picturesque. As you walk up the drive there are lights hanging off iron stands with hearts on, very cute!

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Only part of the hall still stands, with only one wall remaining of the further wing.

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There was a beautiful ornately carved bed in the first bedroom we came too. The volunteer told us that she thinks the decoration on the bed was inspired by a rhyme often told to children. The rhyme goes:

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,

Bless the bed that I lie on.

Four corners to my bed,

Four angels round my head;

One to watch and one to pray

And two to bear my soul away.

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There are found angles on the wooden canopy of the bed, looking down on whoever was sleeping there, and four figures stand on the headboard, looking down towards the foot of the bed. Could these figures have been carved to fit the rhyme and keep the occupant sleeping soundly. I really like this idea, it’s a sweet notion.

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Just off the bed was a wash room with a surprising feature, a huge window that wouldn’t be out of place in a church.

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This bed was also very beautiful, if you ignore the rather obvious airbed under the bed cover. The black-work bed spread was made for the Trust in the 1960’s  and the crewel work bed hangings were embroidered in 1986 . These modern textiles follow the theme of embroidery through the ages that inhabits the hall.

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In this same room was this very ornate brass clock. It is in my ‘Treasures from the National Trust’ book ans that tells me it was made in 1685 by clockmaker Thomas Dyde.

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The landing room was used as a place the family would sit together after dinner and drink and talk. I love the idea of a family sitting around together in this space, talking until late in the night and then heading off to their rooms as they get tired. I imagine it to be like us at re-enactment, sitting round the fire and then heading to our tents surrounding the circle.

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There was a lot of the embroidery that I liked but these were some of my favorite pieces. I love the dress on this lady.

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This stunning little box, featured in ‘Treasures from the National Trust’ dates from the late 1600’s. The craftsmanship is outstanding! I also liked it’s personal display case, keeping the delicate raised work dust free whilst still allowing visitors to appreciate it’s beauty.

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In the green bedroom was spotted this rather nifty little embroidery device. It is a 19th century bobbin stand and I found myself thinking that I would quite like one of these myself!

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There were also some very ornate plaster ceilings, and I do love a pretty ceiling. Running throughout the hall was a trail to discover the origins of common phrases. In the Dining Room, where there was a very nice plaster ceiling I learnt one that really tickled me.

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The plaster for ceilings was originally mixed with beer, so on a hot day when the workers were thirsty there would have been a large supply of beer available to them. It is said you can see the bits of ceiling done in the morning and those done at the end of the day, as the designs had a tendency to get wobblier as they day went on, due to the beer. This is where the term ‘getting plastered’ comes from!

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In the other room with a very nice plaster ceiling was also a replica trundled bed made by NT furniture conservators Tankerdale that visitors are allowed to try. Of course I had to have a go, and found it quite comfy really, better that the hiking air beds we used to use camping anyway!

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Even though not all the collection is not hereditary to the hall the rooms felt really cosy, and you could imagine them having been lived in. The hall still feels like a family’s home, a very beautiful home for a very lucky family!

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After looking round the hall we had a walk in the gardens. I just could not get over how lovely the weather was, the sun was really shining and the sky so blue!

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The room cards while basic looking had some very interesting information on them, particularly the objects focused ones. Shame the story didn’t touch on the rather scandalous elements of the families history as I think that might have made for very interesting reading. However I understand it’s not suitable for all pallets especially as it was salacious enough to make the River Aire change course to avoid the family!

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It was an absolutely lovely day out, the staff were really friendly and on our was out we even met the mouse of the manor! I would very much recommend a visit to this charming family home, and hopefully you will get the same amazing weather we did!

Textile excitement at Eyam Hall

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This week I was drafted in to help cleaning some of the more delicate textiles at Eyam Hall. Eyam is a beautiful house and gardens in the Peaks that the Trust have taken guardianship of nearly two years ago. As they are still quite a small team and in our property portfolio staff from Hardwick offer support in a variety of ways, including looking after some of the more fragile items in the collection.

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I last visited Eyam on a beautifully sunny day so being there on a very misty day while there was snow on the ground gave the Hall a different feel. Very mysterious and atmospheric. It was so cold even the pond was still frozen!

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While we where there we cleaned the amazing Crewel Work bedspread that Eyam have in the Oak Bedroom. The bedspread was apparently made for Elizabeth Wright around the time that Eyam Hall was being built in the 1680’s. It features amazing colours and wonderful images of exotic birds, beautiful flowers and highly decorated leaves that I just loved!

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I was in my element, getting to see this wonderful embroidered work up close. Thinking about skill and hours that must have gone into making this bedspread, and the hangings to match, make me so please we can care for this amazing piece so people can continue to admire it for years to come. And the carved wood of the bed frame complements the elaborate embroidery nicely.

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We also took a look at the Tapestry Room, taking a sample of the dust on the tapestry nearest the door to see how the increase in visitor numbers has been affecting it. Since it is a small room even if they have less visitors than Hardwick to dust will build up faster as there is less room for it to disperse. Since there will be many more visitors now the Trust are running Eyam it is something we need to monitor closely. The tapestry room is lovely, it makes me feel very at home!

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With Eyam Hall being a family home for many, many generations the collection rather eclectic with some really interesting objects. Some of my favorites included this stuffed moose, and these steps in the library, which double as a chair!

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The House has real character, we got to sneak up to the top floor and see some of the rooms not open to the public, and there were these curious windows. There are several different types of windows throughout the building, which I thought was rather unusual.

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I also love the detailing around the house, like the carved finials up the stair case, with little hearts in the center.

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As another perk of being a staff member we got a sneak peek into the a little building in the garden, which will be opening to the public at weekends. The use of this building, situated in the garden, has been debated.

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Until recently it was known as the Gardener’s cottage but it has been discovered that is was originally used as a Banqueting House, where dessert would have been eaten after a meal. Although it is only a little room, it is full of character and atmosphere, and curious items.

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I really enjoyed my day at Eyam, and we have planned to go back and do some more work there soon. I love my work, and it is really nice to have a little day out and get a chance to do what I love in another beautiful location!

Back to the Deep Clean!

November has been a very busy month, and when we have not been decorating for Christmas we have been getting stuck back in to our Deep Annual Clean! As with last year we have lots of other projects scheduled over the winter so getting all we need to done will be an interesting challenge. But in the mean time I have been enjoying having some time with the objects.

One clean, one Dusty

One clean, one Dusty

We start our Deep Clean on the top floor in the High Great Chamber where I have been cleaning the Farthingale Chairs. These chairs were supposedly designed so that ladies wearing Farthingale Petticoats, with large hoops underneath their skirts, could perch on them to rest between dances.

Some of the embroidered detail on the chairs

Some of the embroidered detail on the chairs

These chairs have stunning 16th Century embroidery on them, featuring flowers and insects. They match the Canopy I had the opportunity to clean last year.

The High Great Chamber Canopy

The High Great Chamber Canopy (before cleaning)

As well as chairs we have stools and two throne chairs, which have really interesting scenes on them in beautiful gold-work.

The back of one of the Throne Chairs

The back of one of the Throne Chairs

Embroidered Deer

Embroidered Deer

To remove the dust I used a mixture of techniques. We use an adjustable suction ‘Museum-Vac’ with crevice tool attachment through bridal netting and using artists brushes as we were trained by the Textile Conservators last year. The brushes work better on certain areas because the can remove strands of clothing fibers that have landed on the velvet which would otherwise be left underneath the bridal netting.

One of the Throne Chairs

One of the Throne Chairs half way through cleaning

I also used the brushes near the metallic embroidery, this removed the risk of the metal threads getting hooked on the bridal netting and pulled. However the bridal netting method is better for the rest embroidery, it is so delicate that the brushes could cause damage by removing any loose pieces.

I love the Deep Clean because we get a chance to really look at the objects we care for, and they are such amazing and beautiful objects. It is one of my favorite things about this job!

Another Nostell Visit

Last week I went to stay with mother in Marsden for a bit of R&R which was lovely, and while I was there we did a bit of Trust visiting too. I decided I really wanted visit Nostell Priory again, I had been there in January for the Housekeeping Study Days but I hadn’t seen it open and ready for the public.

Nostell Priory

Nostell Priory

We managed to drive there without getting too lost and when we got there were loads of ’50 Things’ activities taking place in the Estate, and hundreds of cows! It was lovely to see the Estate in use, and full of people. Nostell Priory, the house that stands today, was built by the Winn family in the 1700’s.

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The 18th Century Saloon

The thing I was most taken with in January were the amazing plaster and painted ceilings, they are so beautiful, with really intricate details and colors including gilded parts.Rowland Winn, the 5th Baronet took over the building and decorating of the house from his father, and he hired Robert Adam to do much of the work on the interiors, including many of the ceilings.

The Dining Room

The  State Dining Room

The collection of objects and furniture at Nostell is amazing, they have so many beautiful things! Much of the furniture was made by Thomas Chippendale specially for Rowland and this house.

A Leather Chair

An embossed Leather Chair

Seeing all the rooms properly the whole effect was stunning! I can’t decided which was my favorite room, but it could very possibly be the State Bedroom, which has beautiful hand painted wallpaper, installed in 1771 and matching furniture, as well as this stunning hand embroidered bed spread! The guide said it was believed to have all been worked by one person. The bed itself was installed in the room in the 19th Century and designed to match the existing Chippendale furniture.

The bed spread from the Chinese Bedroom

The bed spread from the State Bedroom

I love being able to just get in the car and drive to different places, and working for the Trust means as a reward we get in for free so it makes for a brilliant day out! I have been to quite a few different properties lately and plan to go to a lot more when the re-enactment season is over (not that I’m wishing it away of course!).

Designed by Robert Adam

The Tapestry Room

The last room on the tour of the house was a mini exhibition on how the House Team look after Nostell, and it was really well done. It talked about the agents of decay, and had examples of each, as well as a mini room set out to show what a Deep Clean of a stately home looks like. This was all in the room which also house an amazing Doll’s House, decorated inside to match the rooms of the main house!

A lovely Doll's House at Nostell Priory

The lovely Doll’s House at Nostell Priory

The Doll’s House was made for the Winn family in 1735 by Thomas Chippendale. I can imagine the hours of fun the Winn family children must have had playing with such a beautiful thing!

Nostell has a very different feel from Hardwick, but it too is really beautiful, with an amazing collection. I bet there House Team feel just as lucky to work there as I do to be at Hardwick!