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!

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Christmas Highlights!

My Christmas was very busy this year, full of all the things I love; work, sweet things, crafts, family, friends and glitter! Here are a few highlights from my festive season! This year we spent even longer getting Hardwick Hall … Continue reading

Cradling Books and Taking Tours

Now it is the new year the castle is open weekends only and we are giving guided tours! Well we should be, however the snow has been playing havoc with our plans slightly and the castle was closed for a few days. While it was snowy I stopped taking my usual route to work through the gardens and started going up the East Front. I say this is to avoid making footprints in the pretty, unspoilt snow, but really I’m trying to avoid getting snowballed by the gardeners!

Perfect snow in the Formal Gardens

Perfect snow in the Formal Gardens

All this snow has meant we have been checking all the rooms in the castle for leaks everyday (for some reason I keep getting sent to the spooky top floor!). We have to be vigilant and check the windows when there is bad weather anyway. We check for leaks, windows blowing open or wind causing detritus to fall down the chimneys. As it has been snowing we are also now looking out for snow piling up on window ledges. If the snow starts to melt on a window ledge with a gap then it could drip inside. Luckily the windows at Powis aren’t too bad and a few well placed towels seem to be doing the trick and keeping everything dry!

My weekend duty I had been preparing and psyching myself up for giving tours it seems it was not to be on Saturday, the roads had turned to ice so the property was closed again. Since me and Emma were the only people in the whole castle we were wondering what to do with ourselves (not that my to do list is anything like short!). In the end we decided to get crafty! We are preparing a new display to go out in the Ballroom and we were going to commission some new book cradles to be made for the books that we will be putting out on display. However after an e-mail back from the man who would have been making the cradles said we could have a go at making them ourselves we decided to rise to the challenge. We had the acid free card, and now the time, why not give it a go.

First steps

First steps

And it turned out ok, we have made seven book cradles over the weekend, and once I got my head around the tricky mathematical part of the process it was easy enough. Book cradles are used when books are put out on display open at a page. You can get generic sized cradles but ones specific to the book gives the pages better support, spreads the pressure out and minimise any damage being open for a length of time could do. When a book is laid out on a flat surface open it puts a lot of pressure on the spine. It is better for the book to be supported in a V shape, to prevent the spine from cracking or the pages coming loose. This is especially the case in the books we are putting out on display, as they are one-of-a-kind accounts personal to Powis, and are all around a hundred years old! I was really eager to attempt the cradles, not only to save the property a bit of money, but also to add a new skill to my repertoire!

The finished product

The finished product

Sunday was not as quiet as Saturday we had a huge amount of rain that washed away all the snow. I went to bed in a world of white and woke up in colour! It was a shame to see the snow go but I’m glad that the property could open fully again! However the rapid thaw meant there is some quite bad flooding in the fields beyond the castle grounds. I have seen them flood before, with the heavy rain we have been having this winter, but I had never seen it this bad! The ponds in the castle grounds were overflowing too, and flooding into the meadow next to the Great Lawn. This did reveal something of interest to the Archaeologist in me however. The flood waters pooled around a small mound in the centre of the field, and Emma told me this was where a fountain used to stand!

So with the property open the tours could commence and all my preparation would pay off. I was excited to get back into giving tours, something I used to do a lot of as a Student Ambassador at uni. The first tours we agreed that Emma would do the most part, and I would talk about the family history in the State Dining Room and about the Kitchens (since they’re my baby). Then as the second tour was running a little behind I told Emma I would go and start the last tour while she finished the second one up. I was feeling very confident after listening to Emma and taking mental notes, and I was eager to do a bit more talking, and showing off just how much I have learnt since coming to Powis.

It look so different without the snow

It look so different without the snow

I really enjoyed delivering the tour, throwing a few jokes in and engaging the visitors by asking questions. I love talking to visitors, and until I started preparing for the tours I didn’t realise how much I had learnt about Powis’ collection and history. Emma says you absorb the information by osmosis the longer you’re here but I know it’s spending time with our House Team. They are so knowledgeable and willing to share (and be bugged with endless questions!).  Especially at the moment doing the winter clean; me and Emma have spent days sat on the scaffold cleaning items while I ask questions about the room, a particular objects or the family, and she seems to know every answer! I guess that happens after ten years at a property!

Snowdrops!

Snowdrops!

The history here is so long and complicated but so varied and interesting! I’m glad I know enough that I can fill an hour-long tour around the castle, but I’m still a long way off feeling confident about the whole of Powis’ timeline! Again it reminds me how lucky I am to be in this industry, and especially here at Powis, where it seems everything has a story to tell! I’m looking forward to giving my next tour, the weekend after next!

There’s snow place like Powis Castle!

All my wishing has paid off and it has been snowing here for the last couple of days! I’ve been so excited and making the most of it, sledging and making snow men, as well as taking lots of pretty pictures!! Unfortunately the snow meant the castle has had to close for a few days, as it is difficult to get up here and the gardens are very slippery (but very beautiful too!) but that did mean we got to spend Friday afternoon trying out the many hills around the castle foe sledging potential, there were some spectacular runs and even better falls (with a couple of crashes thrown in for good measure!). This has to be one of the best places I’ve been in the snow! I just love how this places looks amazing in every season!

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Snow!

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View from the top floor of the snow!

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Stay warm and have fun, whatever the weather is like where you are, until next post!