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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Pretty Packwood and a bit more Baddesley

Recently I went down to stay with my dear friend and help out at her work, as well as indulge in some much need catching up over tea and cake! Becky is the Heritage Manager at Droitwich Heritage Centre and I help them out by doing some conservation work there.

Cleaning porcelain

Cleaning porcelain

I started my career by volunteering and it is nice to still be doing some, especially knowing that what I am doing would other wise probably not get done. Money is so tight in the heritage industry and smaller places must be all they can to juggle all their needs on a small budget.

Shiny!

Shiny!

I have been down several times before to train staff and volunteers and to set up some good conservation practice. Doing something like this gives me chance to stretch my conservation muscles! This visit we did some object handling, metal polishing and decorated for Halloween! I just have to say that fake cobwebs are so much fun to play with!! I have since covered my house and the Still Room at Hardwick as well!

Halloween in Drotiwich

Halloween in Drotiwich

Spookyfying the Still Room

Spookyfying the Still Room

When I was not helping at the TIC we decided to do a little Trust visiting and go to Packwood House and, since it was so close, go to Baddesley Clinton again too. Packwood is known for its collection of tapestries, so obviously I was very interested to see their interpretation. The house was restored by Graham Baron Ash in the 1920’s & 1930’s.

Packwood House

Packwood House

The interpretation was done in a similar manner to that at Baddesley, where it was presented on objects, like printed on a rug or even a reproduction tapestry. I really like this style of interpretation. I tend not to want to read long pieces of information until after I have finished looking around a property, unless I want to find out something in particular. That’s why I always try to buy a guidebook, so I can read more about the property at a later date (and look up info’ for blog posts!). They had chosen to put quotes about Baron Ash, the house and the gardens from past visitors and guidebooks around the house.

Tapestry Interpretation

Tapestry Interpretation

 

Personally these quotes didn’t grip me or give me a sense of who Baron Ash was, as they were supposed to. I don’t know if this had something to do with the fact that I did not see a picture of Graham Baron Ash in the house (I may have missed it if there was one). Other properties where you get a strong sense of the people their faces are imprinted in your mind as a starting point for any other information to grow from. I left feeling like I wanted to know more about the man who I though you could admire for his take on conservation and for saving and creating such a unique property, specifically for visitors to enjoy.

Conservation Interpretation (and pretty embroidery)

Conservation Interpretation (and pretty embroidery)

However we did find out some really interesting information while we were there, like the fact that the timbers used in the building were recycled from Henry VIII ships! They can tell this by the crown symbol carved into one of the beams. There is also some graffiti carved into another beam, pictures of sailing ships, that they believe were done by the sailors on their long voyages. I love how something you could easily take for granted in a Tudor building has such a history of its own.

The royal symbol on one of the beams

The royal symbol on one of the beams

I really enjoyed that fact that the house didn’t have a visitor route, you were able to wander around how you wanted to and that made it feel like we were exploring. We were given a map with bits of information on which we used at the end of our visit to check we had seen everywhere. I also loved the floors upstairs, they were uneven and made some of the rooms feel like you were sliding down to one corner. I love this about older houses, and at Packwood it really reminded me of Greyfriars, where I had my first job with the National Trust.

Packwood's Gardens

Packwood’s Gardens

Packwood’s gardens were really beautiful and somewhere I would like to go back to on a sunny day to fully explore. After stopping at Packwood’s restaurant for a cup of tea and slice of delicious chocolate cake our little party went on to Baddesley. It really contrasted with Packwood in how strong the many characters in Baddesley’s story are, and how full an image you get of them. The property has several paintings or photographs of the people it talks about which makes me thing there is something to my theory of needing that image to form an idea around. I really enjoyed it again and so did my friends, as you can see in this photo!

Becky and Chris enjoying Baddesley

Becky and Chris enjoying Baddesley

Goodbye Gideon

Or should I say ‘see you later’! We have just sent the next one of our Gideon tapestries away from conversation!

The latest Gideon we took down

The latest Gideon we took down

The Gideon tapestries projects has been on-going for years and I was lucky enough to help re-hang the last two Gideons that returned from conservation in May. Even though this was the first time I had taken down a Gideon the team are more than well-practiced so we were in safe hands.

The damage to the tapestry

The damage to the tapestry

The tapestry we were taking down this time is in the worst repair of the three that remain to be conserved, which is why we decided it needed to be the next to go. The closer we looked at the tapestry, the worse the damage is!

Bess' patch peeling to reveal  the original shield underneath

Bess’ patch peeling to reveal the original shield underneath

As this tapestry is one of the three largest in the property we had to re-think about how to approach handling such a massive weight. It was decided to help us this time round fixed scaffolding would be hired to cope with the weight of the tapestry, which was going to be a new experience for us (It was odd climbing a different scaffold that was so sturdy it barely moved at all!).

The fixed scaffold

The fixed scaffold tower

The first thing the Textile Conservators did we remove the bottom border of the tapestry. All the tapestries are woven in three pieces, with the top and bottom borders being separate. The bottom border is in the worst repair, having taken most of the wear and tear and the most dirt. Taking off the bottom border makes it easier to roll the tapestry later, and makes it a little bit lighter.

Removing the lower border

Removing the lower border

The tapestry had to be rolled onto a drain pipe so our carpenters built a brilliant little track for us. We had a trolley that the drain pipe stood upright on and this ran along the wooden track set at the base of the wall. This partnered with the fixed scaffold with three levels on made rolling the tapestry easier for us.

Our little trolley

Our little trolley

There were three levels to our scaffold, we had four people on each helping roll and another four or so at the bottom pushing the trolley and rolling the very bottom of the tapestry onto the drain pipe. It true when they say ‘many hands make light work’!

Starting to roll the tapestry

Starting to roll the tapestry

Starting at the side nearest the fireplace velcro was tacked to the lining of the tapestry and this was fixed to the velcro on the drain pipe. We then ran the trolley along the track, rolling the Gideon smoothly onto the pipe as we went. Once it we rolled on to the drain pipe the whole thing had to be lowered.

Rolling, rolling . . .

Rolling, rolling . . .

Thanks to the ingenious design of the trolley the pipe was on a hinged piece to make lowering it much easier. Two straps were tied around the roll and used to slowly lover the roll down to the ground. This had to be done very carefully to make sure we did not squash anyone standing below waiting to receive! A good test of my knot tying ability and it certainly flexed our muscles too.

Coming down

Coming down

The planning that has gone into this event, based on the previous tapestry removals, made the whole process very smooth and quite quick, once we started it took us about half an hour to roll and lower the tapestry. Then the textile conservators took the newest backing fabric off in the Long Gallery, and found an awful lot of detritus behind it!

Removing the backing fabric from the tapestry

Removing the backing fabric from the tapestry

After they had finished they rolled the tapestry onto a second drain pipe (without velcro on), padding it with wadding and acid free tissue as they rolled it. This mean the tapestry was properly protected and ready for transport the next day. It’s first stop will be the Textile Studios at Blickling Hall, where it will be made ready for being washed.

The tapestry in the Long Gallery

The tapestry in the Long Gallery

Our Gideon tapestries are sent to Belgium to be washed, not far from Oudenaarde where they were originally woven. They are sent here because it is the only workshop with tanks large enough to wash our tapestries flat. They tell us we have the dirtiest tapestries in Europe! (But to be fair they haven’t been washed in over 400 years!).

The tacks that were keeping the tapestry up

The tacks that were keeping the tapestry up

After washing the tapestry will be sent back to the Blickling Studio where the Textile Conservators will work on it, and then it will be returned to Hardwick in about 2 and a half years time! It will be absolutely amazing to see the whole set after they have all been conserved , but that is still several years away!

Chap photo in front of the Gideon

Our Chap photo in front of the Gideon

And we’re open!!

We have opened our doors to the public again, but it doesn’t seem very long since we closed after Christmas! However, getting the house ready for the public made me realise just how much our team has achieves over since … Continue reading

A New Year full of Old Objects

As soon as we were back at work we were straight back into our Deep Clean, finishing the top floor and moving into the Entrance Hall. However we’re not just thinking about the closed season, we have already begun preparing … Continue reading

And they’re up!

This week has been a very big week for us at  Hardwick Hall, we have been re-hanging two of the largest Gideon tapestries in the Long Gallery, after their return from two years of conservation work. Monday and tuesday were full of preparation work, we had to re-route our visitors as we were going to be working directly over the door where people usually come into the Long Gallery. We used two scaffolding towers to hang the tapestries, so these needed to be built. I love working on the scaffolding, it usually means were doing something exciting  and it allows for a really different perspective of the beautiful rooms I get to work in!

Going up!

Going up!

Then we had to staple the velcro strips onto the wooden batons on the walls where the tapestries will hang. originally the tapestries would have been nailed up, and later were attached with poppers, but now we use velcro. Many people find this surprising, but it gives a really firm hold and allows use to easily remove the tapestries, should we need to for any reason. Next the walls then had to be cleaned, we did this with a backpack hoover and a veeerryy looonngg pole.

One of the poppers

One of the poppers

The velcro strips

The velcro strips

The Textile conservators arrived on tuesday and set about doing the final prep on the tapestries (which had been delivered some weeks ago). The ladies who worked on the Gideons have been working with Hardwick for a long time, on many different projects, and have been responsible for the conservation work on all the Gideons so far. They are based at the National Trust Textile Conservation Studio in Blickling, Norfolk.

The reverse of the tapestry (on the right) show it's vibrant original colours

The reverse of the tapestry (on the right) show it’s vibrant original colours

Here is a link to the blog of the fabulous ladies at the Blickling conservation studio, I am so very jealous of their jobs and they do such amazing work. Seeing the before and after on the Gideons they made some areas that were really badly damaged barely noticeable! They have also been working on an embroidery from Hardwick, Penelope, so there are a lot of entries about that process, really interesting reading! Another project they are undertaking is the tapestry from the Ballroom at Powis Castle, that I helped to take down a couple of months ago.

After the velcro is sewn onto the top and side of the tapestries more velcro is pinned along another side. The tapestry then needs to be re-rolled so the end the will be hung first is on the outside. The side with velcro pinned on goes on the inside of the roll, as it is attached to the velcro on the plastic pipe the tapestry is being rolled onto. This prevents the tapestry from slipping when the roll is held vertical. I was lucky enough to get to help re-roll the second tapestry, and to pin some of the velcro on!

Re-rolling the second tapestry

Re-rolling the second tapestry

We started to re-hang the first at twelve and we had hung them both by three. It was a much easier and smoother process than I had been expecting. The team worked really well and by the time we were hanging the second tapestry we had quite a crowd of public watching. For a moment I did feel a little stage-fright then, but it was soon forgotten! As well as the crowd we had several cameras and there were a couple of newspaper reporters who came to join in the fun so here are a few videos of the event. The first at the beginning of putting up the first tapestry, and the second after it had been re-hung.

The crowd

The crowd

The rest of wednesday afternoon, and thursday we got to spend talking to the public about what we had been doing, and the Gideons project in general. I love talking to the public, and I am so glad we got to show them this fantastic event, it was so nice to hear people saying how much they enjoyed it. It is wonderful when someone responds well to me enthusing about work, and I am so lucky that I have always had opportunity to interact with the public and share with them what I do. As you can probably tell from the length of my blog posts, I am rarely short of things to say! Thursday evening I got another opportunity to talk about what I do by taking my second ever ‘Last One Out’ Tour with a lovely group of people from Australia.

Before conservation

Before conservation

Talking to the conservators the couple of days they were here was really interesting and enlightening. They had brough photos of the damage to the Gideons and then pointed out the conserved spots on the tapestries. The difference was amazing, from a distance you can hardly notice the damage. Cleaning the tapestries makes a huge difference in their appearance, taking off the dirt and dust. Before this point these tapestries had never been cleaned, and they have been hanging in Hardwick for 400 years! Then the conservators work to ensure and damaged areas are stabilised, so that they can hang for another 400 years without ending up in any worse a condition. Holes are backed with fabric in colours sympathetic to the original tapestry, meaning you can see what has been lost if you look for it. I think this is brilliant as it is not blurring the lines between what is original and what we have done to the tapestry.

After conservation

After conservation

After looking at the restored tapestries we looked closely at the three still in need of conservation. With the returned tapestries hanging one side of the door, and those awaiting conservation the other the difference is startling. The damage the conservators were pointing out was so awful, and the more they showed us I thought I was going to cry! What is really working is the fact that in many placed these tapestries are literally hanging on by a thread, and if it takes us too long to raise the rest of the money it is really scary to think how much more damage will have occurred. I know I have already asked once but after taking a closer look at the tapestries I feel no shame in posting the link to our Just Giving site again. These tapestries are in dire need of major conservation work and it would be wonderful to see them on their way before too long!

Finished!

Finished!

Thankfully I had Friday off because as fab as this week has been, I was knackered by thursday evening and really looking forward to a lazy day! This gave me a couple of days to prepare for working my first solo shift on sunday! Although I have been the only team member in the house before there has always been someone else in the office who was in charge overall, however usually procedure for weekends is to only have one house team member in and they be responsible for everything. Sunday was my first turn to be in charge, including being main point of contact within the Hall for the other departments on site, and delivering the morning brief to the volunteers. While I was a little nervous I wasn’t too worried as I knew as long as nothing terrible went wrong before 11, after that the Vols would be in, and our Vols are brilliant! Everyday there is a Voluntary Day Leader that organizes the team and they do such a good job. It frees up an awful lot of time for the House Team to be getting on with the morning routine and our other projects. Sunday went really well and I enjoyed having more responsibility for the day, looking forward to more work as a team this week though!

The first tapestry we re-hung on wednesday

The first tapestry we re-hung on wednesday

The angel on the second tapestry we re-hung

The angel on the second tapestry we re-hung

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!