Textile Heaven

In recent weeks me and the Chaps at Hardwick have had the pleasure of doing an audit of our textile store. I love this store-room, I think it is one of the most interesting rooms on the property and having the opportunity to go through all the boxes and see the treasures inside has been fantastic!

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All our show rooms get audited on an annual basis, usually when we are deep cleaning them. With the store rooms we do this less frequently because they are not often open to the public so likely to be subject to less change.

Auditing the textile store involved going through every box in the room systematically and making sure what should be in there was, and that it was still in good condition,

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Luckily at Hardwick, thanks to many years of hard work before I arrived, the stores in the attics are very organised, including the textile store. Every box had a list of what should be inside, with useful little picture tags attached to it. These come in very handy when we want to find anything, because we can look at the tags first.

As so much work has been done in this room most of the boxes were as they should be, so it was really a case of recording and condition checking. This meant we got to have a good look at ll the beautiful and interesting textile pieces up there.

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Once we have finished the audit we took the list we had written and will be checking it off against our online database. If you want to see some of the collection at Hardwick, or at any Trust property, then look on the National Trust Collections page. This is a great resource for further research, and just having a nosey at what properties have hidden in their collections.

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I’m going to share with you some photos of the pieces I really liked. Some of them I don’t know anything about, I just thought they were really pretty! Others, like the one below, match items we have on display. This piece matched the embroidery we have on the Blue Bed. We know the embroidery taken off the original bed (dated 1629) and places on new, less damaged fabric by the 6th Duke in 1852.

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These columns are all that is left of a 5th great hanging. They once belonged to a piece featuring Cleopatra, part of the set with Penelope, Lucretia, Artemisia and Zenobia that we have begun conserving. They are all that remains because the rest of the piece was used to patch up the first four embroideries!

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Some things we have a large amount of, like these pieces of velvet and metal embroidered borders. We have 21 pieces of this in the textile store. It is believed that this border was purchased in Bess’ time, for a great amount of money, but it does not seem to have been used until the 19th century when it was cut into the lengths we see today.WP_004070

We also have nine of these panels, all featuring a variety of birds on white and blue velvet on a heavy linen base. We were trying to work out what they once had been, as they were only mounted in this way in the 1970’s. Looking at them at first we though they could have all been one piece, however the circles in the corner do contain complete images and don’t line up with one another, so we decided that probably wasn’t the case.

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Here we have sections from what would have been cushion covers. We have two of these, but neither is complete. The embroidery on them is fantastic, the time and patience that must have gone into these.IMAG0539

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The piece below matches the hanging we have on the Entrance Hall Gallery. It contains fabric very similar to the flossy silks (in the Cut Velvet Dressing Room) as well as patterned velvet. I think these fabrics were placed together long after they were originally made and purchased. It is just the sort of thing that has happened constantly throughout Hardwick’s history.

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This is possibly a small bed spread. In the same box is another very similar one but in blues. I love this design, the swirly elements and delicate little flowers are just my style.IMAG0550

We also have pieces that I’m not sure we’ll ever know for sure where they came from, including lots of little pieces of metal embroidery. Originally this little bird would have been very gold, but the thread has tarnished over time. It’s possible that these elements were purchased for projects that never got finished. Any one with a bit of a craft stash knows how easily that can happen!WP_004072

The amount of textile items we have in that store is almost unbelievable, and so much of it is contemporary with Bess. We know she purchased textiles and parts of textiles for projects she was working on. She also had a team of embroiderers she worked with and she and Mary Queen of Scotts used to sit and sew together but the amount of items we have that she could have possibly worked on is phenomenal! Another thing to admire Bess for!

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When visitors come into the attics they often ask why these objects are not on display but the truth is a lot of what is in our attics couldn’t be displayed, it’s too sensitive. A lot of the furniture doesn’t date from the period of time we are telling stories about, so wouldn’t fit in Hardwick today. And even if these things weren’t the case where would we put all of the stuff!? The Cavendish family had many properties to furnish, and a huge amount of that collection now resides at Hardwick. We have more tapestries that walls, more bits of textiles than we could ever have room to display, and more things like fire screens, mirrors and jugs than any human could ever possibly need!

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That is why we like to open our attics up from time to time, so these objects can be seen and admired, as they should be. But also so people understand about why we make the decisions about the collection that we do. If you would like a chance to visit the attics we are currently opening them on Wednesdays up until the beginning of the school holidays. Check the Hardwick Hall website for more information.

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The Deep Cleaning continues

After a slight hiatus over the last couple of weeks to send Gideon on his way we have jumped right back in to our Deep Cleaning. We are getting along with it so well I couldn’t be more pleased, and … Continue reading

Up in the Attics

This week is Delving Deeper week at work, so we are showing off a few things that the public don’t often get to see, including our attics. Meaning us Chaps have spent several days over the last week tidying, organising and dusting the attics in readyness. Now they are looking fab and are ready to receive visitors. I hope people will find them as interesting as we have.

Door to the Attics

Door to the Attics

The attic rooms are used today to store items from the collection that we don’t have on display for various reasons. Each room houses a different type of object, so we have a Chair Store, Paintings, Beds, Fire Screens, Watering Cans and my favorite store-room; the Textile Store. Each room is full of surprises and wonderful and interesting objects and it has been a real pleasure to spend so much time up there; even is it has been very hot recently!

The attic rooms were originally used in the Elizabethan period as guest bedrooms, which explains why they have beautiful plaster-work above the fire places.

The Chair Store

The Chair Store

Later they were used as nurseries, and servants rooms, ans the bell pull system installed, as well as a telephone.

The Telephone

The Telephone

Furniture in one of the Attic rooms

Furniture in one of the Attic rooms

A beautiful embroidered chair

A beautiful embroidered chair

As I mentioned several of the stores are for specific object types. This is one side of the picture store. The other side has large compartments for paintings, with curtains across the front.

The Picture Store

The Picture Store

It houses pictures such as this water-colour, which I’m fairly certain is of one of the window alcoves in the State Withdrawing Room.

The State Withdrawing Room

The State Withdrawing Room

There are lots of books in the attics, from areas such as the Stewards rooms, that we opened to the public and removed the books for their protection. Don’t they look lovely all lined up together.

Beautiful Books

Beautiful Books

Some of the items of furniture in the store rooms are duplicated of what we have in the show rooms, but others are amazing unique items such as this carved chair. It is such a beautiful piece of furniture, I wonder what it’s story is!

An intricately carved chair back

An intricately carved chair back

I am very biased an even though the Watering Can Store Room comes a close second, for sheer novelty, no other store-room could beat the Textile Store in my mind. It is heaven and every box is filled with treasure! I love being asked to come up here and hunt out one piece or another, I could spend hours in this room.

My favorite store

My favorite store

Treasures such as more of the beautifully embroidered red velvet panels that are on display in the embroidery exhibition.

Embroidery done by Bess herself

Embroidery done by Bess herself

A rather odd, but interesting item also resides in the Textile’s store. The 9th Duke was the husband of Duchess Evelyn, the last person to live at Hardwick.

The 9th Duke's Wheelchair

The 9th Duke’s Wheelchair

I think the stairs up to the attics are also really lovely. They are huge wooden steps, and as you go further up, towards the roof, the get more and more sloping, but after over 400 years they are still doing their job!

The stairs from the attics

The stairs from the attics

Lets hope our visitors enjoy the attics as much as I do, but I’m sure they will. And if the last two days are anything to go by we Chaps are going to have a very interesting week ahead! Delving Deeper week, like Conservation Week, will be happening again in september if you fancy a chance to explore Hardwick Hall’s attics.

 

 

 

50 things and thousands of stairs!

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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!).

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Spring has sprung!

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!

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Sheep on the Hardwick Estate

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!).

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A sunny day at the Hall

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.

The linen in the Still Room

The linen in the Still Room

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!

Ready, set, heave . . .

Ready, set, heave . . .

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!

Settling in

There is always something happening at Powis Castle. Rarely does a morning go by when we just get on with the normal routine without there being deliveries, tours, specific tasks needing doing or items needing special attention. My first day filling in paperwork in the morning, which should have been fairly quick and simple took most of the morning before tea break due to so many other things going on. It was a brilliant way to start, getting thrown right into the buzzing atmosphere of the place, a real departure from  quiet Greyfriars. This past week was no exception.

On monday we put up some scaffolding for new sun blinds due to be installed in the Oak Drawing room. One of my six objective for my time here at Powis is to go up scaffolding so I was excited to see how it is built even if I wasn’t going on it this time (and it gave me more chance to get my head around the height!). It amazed me how well the team worked together here and the scaffolding went up quickly in a way similar to flat pack furniture. The part of the process that took the longest was brining the pieces down to the Oak from the top floor. The metal poles clip onto one another and screw to secure, I never thought it was so quick!

After the scaffold was up I was doing the morning clean downstairs. The morning clean is a set routine split into different areas of the castle; the Coach House, Clive Museum and Ballroom, the upstairs rooms, the downstairs rooms and if there are enough of the team the very downstairs floor rooms including the staff area. This allows us to be able to allocate an area to one person each morning, so we will know where we are going and we are to do with little explanation. I still haven’t decided which is my favourite area to clean (yes I enjoy cleaning! however cleaning my own home is not quite as satisfying).

The scaffold came down after tea break, so that was my first quick foray into scaffold construction and de-construction. It is amazing the amount of new things I have learnt already having been here only just over a month. Them me and a colleague took the light levels and relative humidity readings. Light levels are taking twice a day every day (more on that in another post) and the relative humidity readings were being taken twice a day for two weeks to check the calibration of the automated system that controls the heating. The environmental side of conservation really interests me, the way the environment and the way it changes and affects the collections. There are set limits for all environmental factors but the biggest danger to collections is fluctuation in the environment.

That afternoon I was working in the stores as is the usual activity scheduled for monday afternoons. This is a fantastic opportunity to go behind the scenes and see the amazing collection not on display in the property. National Trust policy is to check store rooms annually for environmental damage, pest activity and that all the items are still where they should be. I was sorting through a box of Ivory Ganjifa Cards condition checking them and ensuring they were all still accounted for. Working for the Trust here feels like having VIP access to this amazing building, it is such an amazing position to be in.

Here is a link to the National Trust Images web page with an image and information about the Ganjifa Cards in the Clive collection: http://www.nationaltrustimages.org.uk/image.aspx?id=29737&loggedIn=False

I finished the day by applying wax to the Library and Gateway floors. Even though I have done this several times before at Greyfriars there are differences between how the two properties operate even within the same organisation. At Greyfriars wax is applied by hand with a folded cloth but here at Powis it is applied with a soft headed flat mop. I must say this is quicker as the mop has a larger surface area, and involves less kneeling down, so is slightly better from my knees point of view! It is no surprise that methods differ from property to property, due to difference staff training and the size of the properties. Powis is much larger than Greyfriars, so it makes sense they have developed a quicker method of applying wax to the vast amounts of wooden floors!

Tuesday also brought another new experience, and Wednesday my first National Trust training course! but that is a story for another post! I’m going to have an early night to prepare for day 4 out of my first 7day-in-a-row stint. I will leave with a photo of my shorter route to work (the longer one being through the castle gardens):

My walk to work.