I have had a very exciting few days, all thanks to my amazing job, and it has left me with a little taste of what it must be like to be famous! At the beginning of last week Hardwick was … Continue reading
Or should I say ‘see you later’! We have just sent the next one of our Gideon tapestries away from conversation!
The Gideon tapestries projects has been on-going for years and I was lucky enough to help re-hang the last two Gideons that returned from conservation in May. Even though this was the first time I had taken down a Gideon the team are more than well-practiced so we were in safe hands.
The tapestry we were taking down this time is in the worst repair of the three that remain to be conserved, which is why we decided it needed to be the next to go. The closer we looked at the tapestry, the worse the damage is!
As this tapestry is one of the three largest in the property we had to re-think about how to approach handling such a massive weight. It was decided to help us this time round fixed scaffolding would be hired to cope with the weight of the tapestry, which was going to be a new experience for us (It was odd climbing a different scaffold that was so sturdy it barely moved at all!).
The first thing the Textile Conservators did we remove the bottom border of the tapestry. All the tapestries are woven in three pieces, with the top and bottom borders being separate. The bottom border is in the worst repair, having taken most of the wear and tear and the most dirt. Taking off the bottom border makes it easier to roll the tapestry later, and makes it a little bit lighter.
The tapestry had to be rolled onto a drain pipe so our carpenters built a brilliant little track for us. We had a trolley that the drain pipe stood upright on and this ran along the wooden track set at the base of the wall. This partnered with the fixed scaffold with three levels on made rolling the tapestry easier for us.
There were three levels to our scaffold, we had four people on each helping roll and another four or so at the bottom pushing the trolley and rolling the very bottom of the tapestry onto the drain pipe. It true when they say ‘many hands make light work’!
Starting at the side nearest the fireplace velcro was tacked to the lining of the tapestry and this was fixed to the velcro on the drain pipe. We then ran the trolley along the track, rolling the Gideon smoothly onto the pipe as we went. Once it we rolled on to the drain pipe the whole thing had to be lowered.
Thanks to the ingenious design of the trolley the pipe was on a hinged piece to make lowering it much easier. Two straps were tied around the roll and used to slowly lover the roll down to the ground. This had to be done very carefully to make sure we did not squash anyone standing below waiting to receive! A good test of my knot tying ability and it certainly flexed our muscles too.
The planning that has gone into this event, based on the previous tapestry removals, made the whole process very smooth and quite quick, once we started it took us about half an hour to roll and lower the tapestry. Then the textile conservators took the newest backing fabric off in the Long Gallery, and found an awful lot of detritus behind it!
After they had finished they rolled the tapestry onto a second drain pipe (without velcro on), padding it with wadding and acid free tissue as they rolled it. This mean the tapestry was properly protected and ready for transport the next day. It’s first stop will be the Textile Studios at Blickling Hall, where it will be made ready for being washed.
Our Gideon tapestries are sent to Belgium to be washed, not far from Oudenaarde where they were originally woven. They are sent here because it is the only workshop with tanks large enough to wash our tapestries flat. They tell us we have the dirtiest tapestries in Europe! (But to be fair they haven’t been washed in over 400 years!).
After washing the tapestry will be sent back to the Blickling Studio where the Textile Conservators will work on it, and then it will be returned to Hardwick in about 2 and a half years time! It will be absolutely amazing to see the whole set after they have all been conserved , but that is still several years away!
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This week has been a very big week for us at Hardwick Hall, we have been re-hanging two of the largest Gideon tapestries in the Long Gallery, after their return from two years of conservation work. Monday and tuesday were full of preparation work, we had to re-route our visitors as we were going to be working directly over the door where people usually come into the Long Gallery. We used two scaffolding towers to hang the tapestries, so these needed to be built. I love working on the scaffolding, it usually means were doing something exciting and it allows for a really different perspective of the beautiful rooms I get to work in!
Then we had to staple the velcro strips onto the wooden batons on the walls where the tapestries will hang. originally the tapestries would have been nailed up, and later were attached with poppers, but now we use velcro. Many people find this surprising, but it gives a really firm hold and allows use to easily remove the tapestries, should we need to for any reason. Next the walls then had to be cleaned, we did this with a backpack hoover and a veeerryy looonngg pole.
The Textile conservators arrived on tuesday and set about doing the final prep on the tapestries (which had been delivered some weeks ago). The ladies who worked on the Gideons have been working with Hardwick for a long time, on many different projects, and have been responsible for the conservation work on all the Gideons so far. They are based at the National Trust Textile Conservation Studio in Blickling, Norfolk.
Here is a link to the blog of the fabulous ladies at the Blickling conservation studio, I am so very jealous of their jobs and they do such amazing work. Seeing the before and after on the Gideons they made some areas that were really badly damaged barely noticeable! They have also been working on an embroidery from Hardwick, Penelope, so there are a lot of entries about that process, really interesting reading! Another project they are undertaking is the tapestry from the Ballroom at Powis Castle, that I helped to take down a couple of months ago.
After the velcro is sewn onto the top and side of the tapestries more velcro is pinned along another side. The tapestry then needs to be re-rolled so the end the will be hung first is on the outside. The side with velcro pinned on goes on the inside of the roll, as it is attached to the velcro on the plastic pipe the tapestry is being rolled onto. This prevents the tapestry from slipping when the roll is held vertical. I was lucky enough to get to help re-roll the second tapestry, and to pin some of the velcro on!
We started to re-hang the first at twelve and we had hung them both by three. It was a much easier and smoother process than I had been expecting. The team worked really well and by the time we were hanging the second tapestry we had quite a crowd of public watching. For a moment I did feel a little stage-fright then, but it was soon forgotten! As well as the crowd we had several cameras and there were a couple of newspaper reporters who came to join in the fun so here are a few videos of the event. The first at the beginning of putting up the first tapestry, and the second after it had been re-hung.
The rest of wednesday afternoon, and thursday we got to spend talking to the public about what we had been doing, and the Gideons project in general. I love talking to the public, and I am so glad we got to show them this fantastic event, it was so nice to hear people saying how much they enjoyed it. It is wonderful when someone responds well to me enthusing about work, and I am so lucky that I have always had opportunity to interact with the public and share with them what I do. As you can probably tell from the length of my blog posts, I am rarely short of things to say! Thursday evening I got another opportunity to talk about what I do by taking my second ever ‘Last One Out’ Tour with a lovely group of people from Australia.
Talking to the conservators the couple of days they were here was really interesting and enlightening. They had brough photos of the damage to the Gideons and then pointed out the conserved spots on the tapestries. The difference was amazing, from a distance you can hardly notice the damage. Cleaning the tapestries makes a huge difference in their appearance, taking off the dirt and dust. Before this point these tapestries had never been cleaned, and they have been hanging in Hardwick for 400 years! Then the conservators work to ensure and damaged areas are stabilised, so that they can hang for another 400 years without ending up in any worse a condition. Holes are backed with fabric in colours sympathetic to the original tapestry, meaning you can see what has been lost if you look for it. I think this is brilliant as it is not blurring the lines between what is original and what we have done to the tapestry.
After looking at the restored tapestries we looked closely at the three still in need of conservation. With the returned tapestries hanging one side of the door, and those awaiting conservation the other the difference is startling. The damage the conservators were pointing out was so awful, and the more they showed us I thought I was going to cry! What is really working is the fact that in many placed these tapestries are literally hanging on by a thread, and if it takes us too long to raise the rest of the money it is really scary to think how much more damage will have occurred. I know I have already asked once but after taking a closer look at the tapestries I feel no shame in posting the link to our Just Giving site again. These tapestries are in dire need of major conservation work and it would be wonderful to see them on their way before too long!
Thankfully I had Friday off because as fab as this week has been, I was knackered by thursday evening and really looking forward to a lazy day! This gave me a couple of days to prepare for working my first solo shift on sunday! Although I have been the only team member in the house before there has always been someone else in the office who was in charge overall, however usually procedure for weekends is to only have one house team member in and they be responsible for everything. Sunday was my first turn to be in charge, including being main point of contact within the Hall for the other departments on site, and delivering the morning brief to the volunteers. While I was a little nervous I wasn’t too worried as I knew as long as nothing terrible went wrong before 11, after that the Vols would be in, and our Vols are brilliant! Everyday there is a Voluntary Day Leader that organizes the team and they do such a good job. It frees up an awful lot of time for the House Team to be getting on with the morning routine and our other projects. Sunday went really well and I enjoyed having more responsibility for the day, looking forward to more work as a team this week though!
This month saw the re-launch of the National Trust’s ’50 thing’s to do before you’re 11 3/4′ with a new ultimate list compiled with the help of a ‘Kid’s Council’. The list is full of brilliant activities to do in all seasons, such as:
4) Build a den
16) Make a daisy chain
24) Go on a walk barefoot
29) Explore a cave
43) Build a raft
They are all fun activities that make me glad its camping season again. I did nearly everything on the list myself as my childhood involved being a scout and a re-enactor and countless camping holidays. For me these activities were not hard to come by, and were in the most part encouraged (mum did use to get frustrated sometimes that in summer it seemed my feet were always shoe-less and grass stained, or a little annoyed when I went paddling in one of my pretty medieval dresses! :s ). The only thing on the list I have never done is 49) Find a Geocache, but given that I had never heard of a Geocache until a few years ago they probably were not about when I was a kid (that makes me feel old!).
Hopefully like me these activities will already be part of a kids summer, but I know not every child has as much access to the outdoors as I had growing up. That is where the National Trust plays a really important role. The trust is protecting not only beautiful historic properties but also amazing open spaces so kids can find do these sorts of creative activities and have these experiences I believe form a really important part of childhood. Movements like this promote how easy it is to get outdoors, and the endless fun you can have when you’re out there!
Hardwick has its own ’50 things’ map available when you come and visit, and it shows where you can do about 34 of the 50 things on the list! There are also links on the Trust web page as to where you can do the activities near you, the main web page for kids here: https://www.50things.org.uk/ and lot’s of videos from inspiration in the NT YouTube page. Reading the list I remembered all the fun I had with friends and family completing the items on the list, it brought back some wonderful memories and made me realise how lucky I was to have such an active childhood. Like building a very unsuccessful raft on a school trip and ending up in a lake that was also home to some very large pike! Watching the frogspawn grow in the pond near my house with my little brother, or just sitting out on the school field at break times making daisy chains and grass trumpets. A lot of these memories involved getting mucky, getting soaked and occasionally bruised or into trouble, but that’s what childhood is about! I’m thinking I may have to re-visit a couple of these things to, and find me a Geocache!
In contrast the Metro just reported (May 7th) a list of ‘Top 50 ways to live life to the full‘ a kind of ’50 things’ for adults. The list, which has some really good things to aspire to achieve, starts by saying ‘Stop worrying about money’, easier said than done however with other items on the list being;
3) Take two holidays a year
7) Pay off your debts
10) Use money for fun rather than a rainy day
26) Blow money Shopping
29) Save money for your grandchildren to enjoy
31) Earn more than your age
39) Pass your driving test
40) Get a degree
Money seems to be one of the main focuses of the list, or at least you need money to be able to do a lot that is on the list. The second biggest focus of the list are relationships, with partners, friends and family. Some of the items are more of a work in progress, challenges to work on your mindset, while others are experiences. So far I have complete about 21 of the 50, with a few others to be checked off not to far into the future (‘No 21. Visit all Britain’s historical landmarks’ I’m looking at you!).
People have said, about both lists, that it is sad we have lists like this drawn up for us, that people are straying so far from being ‘happy’ someone has to sit down and write a list to tell us how to enjoy ourselves. I agree, when you look at it like that it is sad, but I know how easy it is get caught up with worrying about money (being a uni graduated at the start of my career in the current climate it is not surprising). Personally however I think lists like this are a good idea. Some people will look at them and think ‘that’s nothing new’ but others will look at the lists as something to work towards, supplying new ideas for entertainment or adding to your Bucket List and a reassuring reminder that other people have the same worries you do. No one is saying that if you don’t complete these lists you have failed at childhood or happiness, but it also reminds people what is important, to lighten up and live your life rather than worrying about it instead! I know I’ve picked up a few new ideas.
Anyway, back to Hardwick. Last week was another busy week but we got a lot done to show for it, so as well as feeling shattered Friday night I felt very accomplished too! Us chaps had finished cleaning all the linen being housed in the Still Room and now we had to decide where to move it to! You would think in such a huge building that there would be plenty of space but at Hardwick, as with all other properties I have visited, every space not open to the public is full of curious items from the collection not on display. The linen could not go back in the cupboard it came from in case it became mouldy again, so we had to find it a new home.
After many discussion and different options we decided on a plan, to move some of the ceramics from the attic down to the cupboard and put the linen in their place in the environmentally sound store. While this was a good plan, it did mean moving ceramics from one part of the Hall to the opposite corner of the building! So that was exactly what me and Claire did, luckily having been working here for a few weeks now we were fairly fit to start with, but I can tell you now we are a lot fitter now (or possibly just knackered!).
From the Attics to the cupboard there are 95 steps. We did this journey at least 14 times, not to mention how many times we went up and down the main stairs and the ladder in the attic to get to ceramics off the shelf. We must have walked up and down at least 3000 steps on thursday alone! By the end of the day our thighs were aching but we were nearly there. Friday we finished the job, we had moved over 120 pieces of linen and towels and around 60 ceramics! Now everything is neatly stored and the Still Room is ready to be prepped and then opened to the public!
However there is no rest for the wicked as next week is the great Gideons re-hang! I’m really looking forward tot this, even though it is quite a daunting prospect I think we’ll manage brilliantly. If you’re in the area on wednesday 15th come and watch as we put these amazing tapestries back in place. There are three Gideons left to be conserved and if you would like to help us raise the money please donate to our newly launched Just Giving page, any help would be greatly appreciated!
I mentioned in another post about the Gideon Tapestries and the huge project Hardwick is undertaking. The project has been going on for many years, and many more remain until all the tapestries have been conserved. I have been lucky … Continue reading