As we are getting towards the end of our Winter Clean we had to undertake one of the biggest tasks of the Clean, lowering the chandelier on the Grand Staircase! It was one of those moments where everyone was holding their breath! And it was not even the first time this week we were lowing a large, priceless item from the ceiling to the ground at the castle!
Monday morning we had to bring down the large tapestry that hangs above the bookcases in the Ballroom. It is believed the tapestry was commissioned to celebrate the French trading treaty with the East in 1545. We have received some funding for the tapestry to be conserved, so this week we had the conservators come to take a look at the tapestry and do a preliminary condition report. This allows them to see what state the tapestry is in and asses how much work is needed, and therefore how long it will take and how much it may cost to do.
Taking other tapestries in the property down is fairly simple, but this tapestry is on winches and above a bookcase. This means we can’t just lower it straight down, so when it came down last the team came up with a very innovative idea of turning ladders into slide to get the tapestry over the bookcase. It works really well and the tapestry came down fairly speedily!
The gardeners came to help us, they worked the winches while we guided the tapestry, folding it as it reached the bottom, then lifting it and laying it out flat on dust sheets on the Ballroom floor. It was much bigger than I expected, and looking at it up close you can really see it is in need of some TLC. The craftsmanship of the piece is amazing, there is so much going on in the scene. I am very envious of the team that get to work on such a fab object!
Days later we were lowering the chandelier from the ceiling of the Entrance Hall down two floors to the marble floor below. We have lowered the chandelier half that before, to change the light bulbs but I have never seen it come this far down. It is lowered all the way once a year and there is a wooden from to hang it off while we clean it.
This year was a bit different however as we were also changing all the light bulbs for brand new LED light bulbs. Hopefully these bulbs will last for two years, so we wont have the problem off having bulbs constantly being out. The news bulbs are also much better for the environment, and therefore our electric bills too! Good news all round.
When the light was coming down I was on the ground ready to help get it in position. Them me and Ben dusted it and replaced all the bulbs and it was time to winch it back up. This time, I got to do the winching!! Will took me up onto the roof, which I had been on before, but this time we walked all the way across the rooftop to the other side! Then I lowered myself down into a little hatch in the roof and was in the roof-space. It was only slightly disconcerting, as when I was about to go in Will said, just make sure you step right, not left, if you step left you’ll fall through the ceiling!
This is where the winch for the chandelier is, so we winched it back up, plugged it and turned it on! It was a good work out, and seemed to take an awfully long time, and I felt very relieved when the chandelier was back in place and secured! The new bulbs look brilliant, really bright, and hopefully we wont have any off them going out any time soon! LED bulbs are something that is being tried out at a few different Trust properties, and with all the advantages over regular bulbs I think it is a great idea to replace regular bulbs with LEDs where possible! Hopefully it is something that will be put in place around the rest of the property over the next few years.
We are drawing very close to the end of our Winter Clean now, and the property is in full swing getting ready for opening again on the 1st March! I have really enjoyed doing the Winter Clean, and am looking forward to the ting we’ve got going on over the next couple of weeks, including uncovering all the cleaned furniture and putting the rooms back to rights. Change is very much in the air at the moment, but I’ll say more about that in another post!