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!

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The magic of Matting

Last week was the long-awaited matting week; when we finally got the new matting for the High Great Chamber! Hardwick has been waiting for this for a long time! I have talks about our flooring problems in a previous post you can read here.

Planning for this began a loooong time ago, and we originally has a week scheduled in May, and then September and for our new date last week we began preparing the room a fortnight ago. First we had to clear the High Great Chamber of all the furniture, and cover the Canopy to protect it from the dust that removing the old matting would stir up.

The covered canopy in the High Great Chamber

The covered canopy in the High Great Chamber

Then we had to begin the daunting task of clearing all the old matting out. As we could not afford to have the alcove matting replaced as well as the rest of the room we have to find a piece from the old matting to put here. Luckily part of the room is underneath at 16th Century rug and roped off from the public so was still in quite good condition. We measured the alcove and cut a piece to fit, storing it our of the way until the new matting was laid.

Next, in strips of about a meter wide we pulled up the old matting. To do this we had to cut the stitching between each strip, which is sewn with garden twine. Then the lengths were rolled, and as we did this we vacuumed underneath them to remove the dust and debris, and there was an awful lot! We filled at least five hoover bags and twice as many bin bags with the brown paper and dust that was underneath the matting.

The Old Matting

The Old Matting

It took us nearly an entire day to take up the matting, and then the next week the matters arrived. We spent monday morning carrying old rolls of matting down the Main Stairs and pushing new rolls up them! A bit of a work out indeed!

Up we go!

Up we go!

The Plaiting of the Matting

The Plaiting of the Matting

Then we could let the matters get on with their work. Long strips of rushes are plaited from hooks hanging on ceilings to the required length, and then these strips are sewn together to form pieces several feet wide. This is how the matting arrives and then the matters sew these rolls to one another on site. This is a really back-breaking job, I have no idea how the matters do it! They amazed me with their speed as well, finishing the whole thing in less than four days.

The New Matting - ready to roll

The New Matting – ready to roll

The matters use a large curved sail needle and go in-between the gaps in the rushed that make up the plaited strips. They have to use a really heavy-duty thimble that fits across their palm on a leather strap. After sewing all the pieces together edging strips are then sewn on to all the cut edges of the matting to stop it coming undone.

Sewing the Matting

Sewing the Matting

When it arrives it looks very different to matting that has been down a while. It is very textured and still green, and overtime becomes flattened down and beige. It also still really smells like the countryside, and when the room was completed it was a really nice feeling of having brought the outdoors in. It almost looked how fields look when you are flying above them in a plane. I can’t wait for our visitors reaction when they come in and see our beautiful new matting!

Here is a link to the website of the Matting company we use; Rush Matters.

We’re closed!

Well sort of closed, for a little while . . .

So it is finally the ‘Closed Season’ at Hardwick Hall. Traditionally this would have been the time when the house could be cleaned from top to bottom and then ‘put to bed’. However for us, we’re open again in December, for Christmas and more then doing the Deep Annual Clean we also have a few little projects planned. Projects which include laying new matting in the High Great Chamber and getting trained by the NT textile conservators on how to clean some of the larger textile objects in our collection.

The High Great Chamber

The High Great Chamber

This week we have mostly been getting ready for our up-coming projects, and starting our Deep Clean. We started by emptying the High Great Chamber of everything we could carry, and covering the rest with dust sheets.

The covered canopy

The covered canopy

This meant we got to build the scaffolding tower not once but twice! I really enjoy building scaffolding because we get to all work together as a team, and we always have a laugh together! Before we covered the scaffold we had to clean the top of it, and it really needed it!

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Before cleaning

Mid-clean

Mid-clean

After we had moved all the furniture out then we cleaned to cornice around the top of the room from the scaffold. Actually cleaning the cornice doesn’t take that long, but moving the scaffold what feel like every five minutes takes up the time. Every time the scaffold tower is moved it has to be re-leveled, which on our less than flat floor definitely needs doing! I think I was up and down that scaffolding about 20 times!

The scaffold tower in the High Great Chamber

The scaffold tower in the High Great Chamber

After finishing the cornice I moved on top deep cleaning some of the amazing pieces of furniture that live in the State Withdrawing Room. I dusted the Sea Dog Table and the Spice Cabinet, both pieces are believed to have been gifts to Bess from Mary Queen of Scotts.

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This is believed to be the case because both pieces are of royal quality. To dust our furniture during the deep clean we use different types of brushes, so on these partially gilded pieces of furniture I used two types of paint brushes. We use hog’s hair paint brushed on the main pieces of carved wood, and a softer pony hair brush on the gilded wood. this is to help preserve the gilt as much as possible.

One of the Seadogs

One of the Sea Dogs

This also means we get a chance to look inside the objects we are cleaning, like opening all the doors inside the beautiful spice cabinet! I was told that originally it was lined with silk inside, and must have looked stunning!

The Cabinet open

The Cabinet open

While I was cleaning some of the wooden furniture the other Chaps were turning their attention to the Farthingale stools from the High Great Chamber. Because of the delicate embroidery on the top of these stools we have to clean them very carefully. We use one of our adjustable suction Museum Vacs and a fine tool, and clean the piece through net to avoid pulling up any fibers.

Cleaning the Farthingale Stools

Cleaning the Farthingale Stools

Sorry for the lack of posting recently, I’ve been having technical problems (ageing laptop is refusing to co-operate any more)!