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Day to Day Differences

After a series of very busy weeks we have had a couple of almost normal weeks at Hardwick. While Gideons week, and all the prep, was really interesting work and good fun it did disrupt our normal routines!

A normal weeks at Hardwick Hall means we are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and we use this time to do a deep weekly clean. Since there are four of us in the team two people take the top floor, and one each on the middle and ground floors. These are our responsibility for the rest of the week then. We vacuum the whole floor, except for any rugs, and then we give it a deep dust.

Hardwick Hall

A deep weekly dust consist of dusting pretty much all objects in the house, unless they are gilded or covered in textiles. Flat surfaces are dusted with a blue duster and carved areas, chair and table legs are dusted with a banister brush and so are textured surfaces like many of the large traveling chests we have.

At Powis Castle since we were open every day, but the Castle is smaller than Hardwick the routine was different in several ways. Monday was deep vacuum day, when every where is vacuumed, not just the visitor route like other days. Windows and fireplaces are also vacuumed, as these areas let in a lot of dirt from outside. Mondays is also when the door mats are taken outside and beaten.

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Tuesday is deep dust day, as Powis has a lot of different materials out in the house, and as the show rooms are smaller than at Hardwick there is usually more time to do a somewhat deeper clean. At Powis we used two different dusters (one especially for polished wood and one for everything else), a banister brush and a set of pony hairs. There was a different pony hair for each different type of material; copper/brass, ceramics, wood and gilding.

At Hardwick once the weekly clean is finished (usually by the end of Monday) we continue with our annual deep clean. This is the winter clean, but since at Hardwick it continues all year round it seems more fitting to call it the annual clean. I really enjoyed the winter clean at Powis, which we did during the winter even though we were not fully closed, once we had cleaned the rooms all the items got covered up and they got a rest. However at Hardwick since we are open the rooms do not get the same rest, but we do get to talk to the public while we are working, and share with them what we are doing.

Out front of HH

Different types of collections require different care but the basic techniques are the same, through and careful work to give all the objects a deep clean, and checking them for any deterioration or damage. Working through the winter clean is a nice way to get to know the collection, and expand my skills base and experience.

Mornings before opening at Hardwick involve vacuuming the Entrance Hall and both sets of stairs, if time allows. Then we dust the flat surfaces around the house, but we do not usually have time to do any more. Schools are often in at half ten, or tours at half eleven so we have to be quick! Even more so on weekends when it is just one person in!

The roof of HH

At Powis mornings involved vacuuming the visitor route on each floor, and doing a quick dust of the rooms, changing how much we did depending on how much time we had. It is important that whatever routines are in place they are flexible, every day is different so we try to do what we can, but it is no use us bending over backwards to attempt the impossible when we simple don’t have enough time to do everything!

Afternoons at both Powis and Hardwick are spent continuing with project work. At Hardwick when we are all in we spend the afternoons continuing the deep annual clean, in front of the public. If not, I have been working on a project to make character biographies for our Living the History volunteers. These will be displayed when the vols are in, so the public will have a bit of background info about who they might meet in the Hall.

The HGC HH

The main difference I have found between Hardwick and Powis are all the tours and talks that are always taking place at Hardwick. Every day is different depending on which volunteers have singed up to come and do which talks ect. And the House Team offer our ‘Last One Out’ Tour most days, which I really enjoy giving.

This week I also took my mum, my gran and a good friend round Hardwick. My mum has visited many times before, Bess is one of her role models and my mum is one of the main reasons I have the interests and passions I do. It was brilliant for me to be able to take my mum round the Hall, and show her it from an insiders point of view (with even a few behind the scenes bits throw in!). It was a lovely sunny day and I had a really nice day off, even though I spent it where I work! It did make me laugh that when my friend was looking at the Tobit Table Carpet in its display case, I was spotting the fingerprints. When I mentioned it however, she said ‘what fingerprints?’. It just goes to show the different thing you see when your looking at something from a different mindset!

Visitor looking at the wooden drawers in the Muniment or Evidence Room at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire.

I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of moving to a new property and learning so many new things, I am still working on learning the history but feel confident enough that I can take people on tours or answer peoples questions when I am walking around the Hall. So for the next few weeks it seems like everything is back to the usual, but I’m sure that we will find plenty to keep us on our toes!

A big weekend!

Hello all, this is just a very quick post to let you know I am finally re-connected to the world wide web! (sigh of relief). Unfortunatly however I won’t have time to post this weekend as it is the first weekend of re-enactment season (hurrah!!).

Beautiful Ladies

Beautiful Ladies

 

For many years now I have been a Medieval Re-enactor, originally with a group called The Order of Fighting Knights, we are now know as Swords of Mercis, based at Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire. This weekend we a re doing our first show of the season and I am so excited. I didn’t get to go to many shows last season so I am really looking forward to catching up with all my friends!

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Ever since I decided at a very young age I want to work in this sort of field (originally I was going to be an Archaeologist on Time Team) my mum has been very supporting and our early family holidays consisted of lots of visiting heritage properties. We were members of both the National Trust and English Heritage. One trip to Bolsover Castle we found a re-enactment going on, and at the end of the show the group said they were looking for new members, and me and my brother jumped at the chance. I was eleven when we did our first show, now over ten years later this hobby has given me access to some of the most amazing places in the country, as well as a fantastic insight into the heritage industry that many on the outside do not get to see. But more about my hobby in another post.

National Trust Images/John Millar

Now from a big weekend for me to a big weekend for the Trust, the Free Weekend! Found yourself at a loose end this weekend, well hundreds of Trust properties across the country are offering free entry for this weekend only! All you have to do is follow this link > > > http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/get-involved/competitions-and-offers/offers/free-weekend/

Find out where your nearest property taking part is, print off a voucher and join in! The Greyfriars House and Gardens (Worcester) Powis Castle and Gardens (Wales) and Hardwick Hall (Derbyshire) are all taking part, so gte out there and discover your local Trust! I love the idea of this weekend, letting people discover the wonderful places we care for for free! Hopefully this will give people a taste for what we do and encourage more supporters and more people to become members. I love knowing that I can just go and visit any Trust property with my card, and many of our family holidays and day trips are still planned around visiting properties, there is still so much to see!

Well whatever your doing this weekend I hope you have a good one!

Farewell Powis, It’s been fantastic :)

Well I have left Powis Castle, and Wales all together for the slightly chillier climes of Derbyshire. My last weeks at Powis were as busy as ever, culminating in a live Baroque concert in the Ballroom on Sunday afternoon, and a play in the evening, both broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

I will spotting these guys up to mischief

I will miss spotting these guys getting up to mischief

The day involved the usual rushing around getting everything ready for the big events, but I was also trying to make sure I got a chance to say goodbye to all my lovely colleagues, and try not to get too sad about leaving. The evening play, The Misanthrope, wasn’t starting until 8 so I was going to head off an hour early and come back about 7 to set up for the play, however I was so busy running around helping the BBC people set up I didn’t get off early. The crew were really nice and remarkably laid back about the whole event, and the actors were so down to earth and friendly!

The Misanthrope was originally written by Moliere as a parody of 17th Century French court life, but this version was adapted for radio by Roger McGough, who was there on the night. He looked a little tense in the early evening but had a well deserved smile on his face at the end of the night, so I think he was pleased with how it all went. The actors were from the Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse and English Touring Theatre co-production. The play mocks the two-faced way in which people in French society acted with one another, with the main character Alceste deciding he has had enough. I was a little worried the humour might go over my head, but it was a very amusing story and I would recommend watching it on stage should you have the chance, I know I will be keeping an eye out for it near me!

The BBC van parked outside the castle

The BBC van parked outside the castle

Luckily the evening was not as tiring as I was worried it was going to be. Everyone was being so nice they just wanted me to enjoy my last evening and watch the play. I had the seat of honour on the front row next to the Earl! The play was fantastic, the actors were really good and it was very funny. The costumes were fab too, I felt a bit sorry for everyone listening on the radio as they did not get to see the costume or watch the actors at work. I was really worried about sitting at the front as I was right in-front me and I tend to be quite fidgety, and I didn’t want to ruin it for the listeners. Luckily I managed to keep still as I was riveted by the story. It was a brilliant opportunity for Powis to be part of something so high-profile, and it was nice seeing the Ballroom come to life with people and the play. Let’s hope the BBC and the Trust can continue to work together on similar ventures in the future, it was so exciting seeing Powis Castle on the adverts on TV, and just the sort of expose Powis should be getting!

Inside the van, where the magic happens

Inside the van, where the magic happens

I felt so lucky to have been part of the whole experience, and it was a nice last day and kept me busy to stop me feeling sad about leaving such lovely people. I have had so many unique and wonderful experiences at Powis it felt right that my last day was yet another amazing event I would never have got to be part of if I had never gone to Powis. I have been so lucky in the wonderful things I have taken part in, and already being at Hardwick I have a very good feeling this trend will continue. There are some very exciting things planned in the coming months at Hardwick Hall!

from BBC Radio 3

The stage is set

For more information about the event and BBC Radio 3’s Baroque Spring events follow this link to the official BBC website. There are also some more photos of the play and cast on the Powis Castle Facebook Page.

 

Hardwick Hall here I come!!

So mission accomplished, I have got a full-time paid job with the National Trust, and it is pretty much my dream job too!! I will be working as a Conservation Assistant at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire for 12 months! I cannot tell you how excited I am to have secured this amazing opportunity, and how much that is thanks to the experiences I have gained here at Powis.

I will be very sad to leave Powis Castle, there have been so many fantastic experiences and I have made good friends with so many wonderful people, all in such a stunning location. Everyone has been so nice throughout my time here, and incredibly sweet and helpful in my last few weeks (there have been near tears on my part on several occasions). There will be so many things I will miss and I know I have been a very lucky lass, and continue to be working at another truly amazing NT property.

From National Trust Images

Hardwick Halll

The skills I started to learn at Greyfriar’s, and have built upon at Powis helped me secure my dream job, where I shall continue to build on my skills and hopefully have more amazing opportunities. I shall endeavour to keep my blog going while at Hardwick, but I am afraid there will have to be a little hiatus while I get myself set up (and get my internet connected in my new place). Click here for the Hardwick Hall web page.

Anyway; more about what has been happening here at Powis. Last week was manic, we spent the whole week un-covering all the upstairs rooms ready for opening fully again on Friday 1st. Then we had to do all the little odd jobs to get the castle ship-shape; changing light bulbs, putting new batteries in room alarms and giving the whole place another dust. Considering the fact that we had just finished the deep winter clean in those rooms they were really dusty. However they did not seem to get a real rest this year, as we were still going up to the upper floor regularly  and because we fell behind with the chimney sweeping unfortunately some rooms weren’t swept until after they had been winter cleaned. This meant that although the furniture was covered and stayed clean, the fixtures of the rooms got covered in dirt.

Pretty Powis Castle

Pretty Powis Castle

Once all the prep for opening was done you would have thought we could relax a little, but that was not so. Although the castle is now opening half an hour later than it did last year (12:30) we have a tour going round at 12. The tour take s a slightly different route than our usual visitor route; this means we have to open up for the tour, wait until after the tour and then alter the rooms to how they are presented for regular opening. Add to this our morning light readings, and the regular unexpected happening that always seem to crop up minutes before the doors are opened to the public and we end up running around like mad-people. I am sure that when the teams gets back into the swing of things it will all go much smoother than it has done the last couple of days, we are a bit out of practice.

The tour route is very exciting, it take people into some of the bedrooms that on regular opening they would only be able to view from the door. There is also a handling collection that we are using on the tour, and this is what I have been working the last few weeks. This project really appeals to my love textiles, and I got to go on a shopping trip to the fantastic vintage clothes shop in town. I have been sourcing props and millinery accessories online as well, my advice to anyone undertaking a similar project, Ebay is your friend! We found the same for our winter offer sourcing too.

Some of the fab illustrations

Some of the fab illustrations

Emma lent me some really special Edwardian magazines she has, with fashion articles and adverts in that I got some fantastic images for inspiration from.

Emma's hat with the gloves and hankerchief from Mrs A's

Emma’s hat with the gloves and hankerchief from Mrs A’s

From the fabulous Ashman’s Antiques we bought two pairs of gloves, one netted and one of shammy leather, an ostrich feather fan, a lace hankerchief and an amazing purple (my favourite colour) silk parasol. Mrs A did us a brilliant deal, but we still had a torturous decision to make from all the different items in her vast collection, but I am so pleased with the decision we made. I did end up doing some personal window shopping as well and had to pop back that weekend to buy a silver charm bracelet I had spotted perfect for my bestie; with a book charm (she works in a library), a football (she’s a Baggies supporter) and an elephant (she has the same strange attachment to them that I do to frogs). I do adore that shop!

The parasol in the Lower Tower Bedroom

The parasol in the Lower Tower Bedroom

I have loved working on this project, and will be sad not to be around to work on it some more, and see the hats in there completed state; but I am sure they will look stunning! I have a few other projects to put the final touches too and then this sunday is my last day at Powis. I can guarantee I won’t have much time to be sad as it is also the day of our Baroque Concert hosted by BBC Radio 3, a very exciting last day!

Let there be light!

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!

From National Trust Images

The Ballroom Tapestry

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.

Detail of the Ballroom Tapestry

Detail of the Ballroom Tapestry

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!

Ready to be taken down

Ready to be taken down

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!

On its way down

On its way down

The tapestry laid out on the Ballroom floor

The tapestry laid out on the Ballroom floor

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.

The chandelier coming down

The chandelier coming down

On its frame

On its frame

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.

Me dusting the chandelier

Me dusting the chandelier

The new bulbs

The new bulbs

Ben putting in the new bulbs

Ben putting in the new bulbs

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!

Powis Castle Roof

Powis Castle Roof

The Hatch

The Hatch

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.

The hole for the chandelier cable

The hole for the chandelier cable

The winch

The winch

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!

Looking shiny!

Looking shiny!

Wonderful wallpaper and a busy week

So I was logging on to start writing this post when what popped up on my reader but this post by the National Trust Press Office. Very coincidental as in this post I am going to tell you all about the Wallpaper Training day I attended on Tuesday!

Sunset behind the castle

Sunset behind the castle

Last week was very varied (not unusual in my job) and I have been thoroughly enjoying all the different activities! Monday we were continuing with the Winter Clean in the Smoking Room. I am loving the Winter Clean so much, I said to everyone the other day once we’re finished we should just start going again! I was working on the left-had side of the Smoking Room, which included some very interesting furniture; a beautiful inlaid wooden desk and two fold-out regency card tables. The Winter Clean allows us to spend time on different objects getting to know them and discover new things. For example to open the card tables you have to swivel the top as you open it and open the legs, a really beautiful mechanism.

The mahogany card tables are made of wood and have green felt on top, I like objects like this that take some time to clean and have a couple of different materials to work on. They are lovely pieces of furniture. The Inlaid desk is absolutely gorgeous, it is made of walnut and has floral motifs inlaid in wood and bone. Furniture like this is fun because often there are objects hiding in the drawers. In one of the desk drawers was a lovely oriental style writing set, with many tiny little pieces and boxes inside boxes. It was so nice to take is out and make it shine again. It is a shame to think it probably won’t be seen again until the next winter clean but I also loved that I got to see it, I felt very special. Some of the drawers and a cupboard in the centre were locked with no keys, make you wonder what could be hiding inside!

One of the wallpapers we looked at at Sunnycroft

One of the wallpapers we looked at, at Sunnycroft

Tuesday was a brilliant day because I got to go on another training course!! I’ve done floors and this time I was doing Wallpaper! It may not sound that interesting but it really was. We were taught all about the history of wallpaper, the different types and how the are manufactures. Then we had a tour of the host property’s papers and a session on monitoring wallpaper and how to identify problems. The National Trust has the largest collection of wallpapers still in situ in the world.

Powis does not have that many wallpapers in the rooms open to the public, but we have two amazing hand-painted Chinese wallpapers in the Earl’s Apartments. For some reasons even though they are the Earl’s rooms the Trust owns that wallpaper. One room is pink and features branches, flowers and birds. The other is green and features scenes of village life, and birds too. Both are satin effect paper, as much wallpaper was designed to imitate other materials; textiles, wood, leather. Wallpaper was a cheaper way of creating the same effect, especially after it began to be machine printed and mass-produced in the late 1800’s.

The Chinese wallpaper in the Earl's Music Room

The Chinese wallpaper in the Earl’s Music Room

A secondary perk of going on training courses, other than learning so much interesting new information, is getting to go to another Trust property. The wallpaper training was hosted at Sunnycroft, a Victorian house very small in size compared to Powis. Not only did the have a fab collection of wallpapers but also a very interesting collection of objects. The Billiard Room for example, featured a fantastic faux-linen wallpaper, a tiger-skin rug under the Billiard table, and a grenade and small bomb in the fireplace (disarmed of course, I am reassured). The property is so cute, and I loved the staircase and foyer. I will definitely have to go back again when there open because it was just so lovely, and the staff were really friendly too!

Sunnycroft

Recently I have been given the responsibility of being in charge of the team of volunteer Pat testers; Peter and David. They are lovely gents who come in every year and undertake the mammoth task of testing ‘anything with a plug’ in the castle. I love that I’ve been given the lead on this, and we are flying along with our testing. On our first day we tested every item on the top floor show rooms, a record so I am told. At the end of the day both Peter and David said what a help I had been to Will, which was lovely. So I have learnt to PAT test items, and have been dredging up feint memories of high school science lessons too! Having volunteers to do this for us saves the property so much money! We found an old invoice that said they charged £4.50 for each item tested, so with our first days work we had saved the Trust over £250!!

The legs of the Pietre Dure Table

The legs of the Pietre Dure Table

Friday was so busy! I was meant to be doing marketing work all day but there was so much going on that meant I was running around the castle most of the day. We had someone in taking UV photographs of the Pietre Dure Table. These photos will show us which areas of the table have had repair work undertaken on them. It will be really interesting to see the results. While that was going on the BBC were here to record an interview that will be used to promote the upcoming Baroque Concert were having in the Ballroom in March. The interview was focusing on the Baroque items in our collection. Baroque is  a style of architecture and decoration popular in Europe in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Some of the ‘star’ Baroque items in our collection include the State Bedroom, and a cabinet in the Gateway Room that holds a very mysterious item; learn more here.

The cabinet in the Gateway Room

The cabinet in the Gateway Room

On top of all this our lovely Costumed Interpretation Volunteers were in to have a meeting about the new tours were going to be giving in March. When We open again fully in March we will be focusing on the 4th Earl of Powis and the restoration he and the architect G. F. Bodley did to the castle in the early 1900’s. The castle we see today is largely result of their work, and the Gardens the work of the 4th Earl’s wife, Violet. Each day at noon we will be offering an introductory tour around the castle focusing on the 4th Earl and Violet’s changes and use of the castle. The volunteers were taking a walk around the castle to test run the tours, so I was accompanying them, opening and closing rooms. The tour seems really interesting, and I learnt even more new information about Powis!

Luckily I have taken this week off to recover from last weeks business, and to prepare for taking more tours the weekend!