Wednesday 28 November 2012

Putting the House to Bed – Bateman’s ... Kipling’s House – Part 2 of 2: Managing Wear and Tear ...

Why “Put the House to Bed” ... so that the caretakers and volunteers can carry out conservation work, general maintenance and give the house a chance to recover from 100,000 visitors – this year Bateman’s had just over 82,000 and it was much easier for all concerned.
Kipling painted by
John Collier 1891
hanging in his study

The furniture gets knocked – so bits rub off, the upholstery wears at the corners ... dust settles, occasionally moth and rust doth corrupt, silver needs polishing, grates need blacking, maintenance needs to be carried out etc etc

One of a series of
plaques crafted by
Kipling senior
However Bateman’s may close its doors – after Christmas ... before that there are lots of Edwardian festivities going on ... but the gardens remain open ...

.... so a good pair Wellingtons, a waterproof to conserve our bodies to some extent against the hiemal air (hiemal = a less common word for hibernal ... so pleased this came from Jannie in Texas – see last post!) as we perambulate the landscape, before settling into the tea room.

School uniform - not John's -
but similar vintage
By closing up, Bateman’s is protected against the cold and damp ... of which the caretakers are acutely aware – but needs must and perhaps a change is in the air when the doors will be kept open next year.

One of two model ships in the Study
how they are cleaned I have no idea!

When there aren’t any visitors – it means each room can be thoroughly inspected and where necessary repaired and/or cleaned ... how they would manage with visitors around is anyone’s guess!

There are 9 agents of deterioration:
Family tennis
racquets .. not weapons
of destruction!
  • Direct physical force ... eg a backpack, handbag, elbow
  • Thieves, vandals ... deliberate action
  • Water – leaks or via a child (water bottles, though we’re asked not to drink inside)
  • Fire – as happened at Windsor Castle ... probably the most well known fire disaster ...
  • Light and heat – excesses of either
  • Chemical – pollution/contaminants  (little of that here)
  • Biological – pests and mould
  • Incorrect relative humidity
  • Incorrect temperature

Wooden toy in John's room
Bateman’s have had a Chinese bank note from the 1400s stolen; however a stolen cartoon was found in a shop in Hastings – no peace for the caretakers!  Ten years ago – two Tiffany lights were stolen .... these items might come to light over time – as they are recorded in the police annals.

Toy theatre, and rugby boot hanging
over wardrobe door

One of the Managers/Caretakers has to stay on the property at all times – and the rare and valuable items are marked up – so if disaster strikes it is ‘easy’ to quickly take them to safety, as long as no-one risks life and limb.

Each window has two blinds which are adjusted according to the light – often the beige blind is pulled a great deal of the way down keeping most light out ...

The only window I have - the Kiplings'
bathroom (without blinds)

... then when the sun streams in, the blackout blind is used.  They’re adjusted during the day as the sun moves round, and as soon as the visitors leave then the blackout blinds are pulled into place.

One of the display cases

The estimated light tolerance is 1,000 hours per annum ... that’s about 19 hours a week.  The windows are covered with a light resistant film (which lasts 8 – 15 years), while there are ultraviolet dosimeters around the house and window sills, recording the light intake.

Embroidered curtain
decoration in John's

There are tiny squares of muslin tucked away in cupboards, behind ornaments etc – which will show how much dust is being collected.  Bateman’s textiles and upholstery, where appropriate, are cleaned with a special museum vacuum cleaner ... where the nozzle-suction can be turned down very low.

John's bathroom

They hoover/vacuum through a piece of muslin, which will show how much dust is coming off and which can be checked for fabric fibres – the item will be damaged if fibres are coming away and a more gentle method must be found.

The National Trust has changed its tune, no doubt in line with many other conservators, that Careful Management of Change is the order of the day ...

Ivory Relief plaque
... so that the life of things is extended beyond their expectancy – and in the process catering for more and more of us wanting to see round these properties, while realising that society today can’t be that precious about things.

Example of Ganeshi - from
Wikipedia and not ivory
Obviously various items are ‘protected’ ... ie placed where the least damage is likely to occur and there are volunteers in the rooms overseeing the visitors as they walk round.

Different brushes are used for dusting off the more fragile items ... porcelain brush, brush for gilding – these are made of pony hair; the hall lampshades made from abalone shell are brushed off with hog’s hair brushes.

An example of  an
abalone side light
The silver, brass, bronze items are all brushed off onto a sheet with the hoover cleaning up the dust residue.

Books that need dusting and are very precious are often put into a box, through which a hoover hole has been cut out – then a muslin cloth is place over before the dust is hoovered out from the box, with the book inside.


·        Copper – has often been worn through with 300+ years of polishing ... so it is very gently wiped over with cotton wool;
·        Silver – they use silver dip and clean it off with warm water, sometimes they use a silver cloth, if the condition is not too bad.
·        Ivory – a Ganesha ... sits on the north wall – an influence from the Kipling’s Indian days.  This ivory item is pre 1947 – when the trade in ivory became forbidden.  This needs to be brushed off with its own brush
·        Pewter plates – they must only be dusted off
·        Glass – they keep the dust off as best they can; then wash with methylated spirits (denatured alcohol) and warm water
A paraffin and vinegar cloth is used to get out any excess polish.

Tapestry on stairs
Harrell’s polish – no colouration or scent in it ... and if you polish your precious item/floor for 300 years – then it’ll look just like the National Trust ones!

Kipling smoked a pipe and so the house was impregnated and occasionally still releases that pong ... from the fabrics, carpets, books etc

If a book is damaged – usually the spine – they wrap a ribbon round it, gently make a bow or two to hold it in place, which sits within the cover extensions – so it doesn’t damage anything.

The house is given a thorough clean ... without ‘overdosing’ because that can cause more damage ... spiders are mainly left – as they are the conservator’s friends!  Fire grates are re-blacked, floors waxed where necessary, and the furniture once cleaned is covered up during the house’s closure.

There are temperature and humidity gauges around the place too ... the radiators can be turned on in a hot summer – to dry out the air.  They need to keep the relative humidity at 40% - 65% ... changes are ok if they are gradual and not sudden.

Powder room off
Kiplings' bedroom

Preserving plastic ... the National Trust is now working out the best way forward ... 

The NT continues to learn as they go ... their National Trust Manual of Housekeeping is essential reading for those interested in the care of historic houses and their collections.

The National Trust is now promoting the ways in which preventative conservation measures can help reduce the need for expensive repair at a later date ... including how to strike a balance between the care and display of historic interiors and the ongoing provision of public access.

One of the 'holes in the wall' at chest
height - why? possibly for potties?
certainly not bread ovens - beautiful door

The Manual explains how the nation’s treasure houses have survived until today, and champions their future preservation, using conservation science, professional advice and environmental sustainable methods and materials.

Managing Change each year ... is the maxim of the day ...

Bateman’s has used Zenzie Tinker who is a freelance conservator for UK museums and institutions, to advise on one of the tapestries.

The Argus article (a Brighton newspaper, where she has her workshop) details her work very comprehensively ... and she goes in to explaining about the dye used for Ellen Terry’s green dress, and Keira Knightly’s gown which have recently been on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum etc etc

Fruits on winter foliage in orchard

So if anyone is keen on Spring cleaning – I’m sure the National Trust would be willing to hear from you!!  I might join you next year.

There’s all the outside maintenance work and gardening, which also needs to be done ... it’s never ending – and here are some more links as an added cleaning bonus!

National Trust - Bateman's

Argus article:  When Life Hangs by a Thread 

National Trust 'Manual of Housekeeping' - via NT shop 

To the Manor Born - is a BBC and NT collaboration tv programme looking at the process behind bringing an historic house back to life ... 500 years of history - craft and furniture making ... restoration ... 

I know this is long .. and there are lots of extra photos too - my rather dark ones - this sort of finishes that day - but I can ask questions of them ... sometime I'll do the garden, the pond and the mill - there'll be some outside shots when I get to do a Christmas posting ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Optimistic Existentialist said...

This is most definitely a place that I would love to visit someday. I'm going to add it to my bucket list :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Shame people would steal stuff. And limiting light exposure makes sense. I remember when I lived in England, there were many places where flash photos were not allowed so the extra light wouldn't damage the papers.

Sara said...

This was fascinating. I didn't so much work went into the cleaning. I mean it makes sense, but it must take a lot of people and a lot of time. Still, it's good the NT does this. It will make this home and others last so much longer.

I loved your pictures:~)

Annalisa Crawford said...

I remember seeing a TV programme a couple of years ago about the upkeep of stately homes and the maintenance that's needed. It was amazing the amount of work, and I see NT houses in a completely different light when I visit them now.


An excellent post Hilary I found your fact most interesting, I have heard about limiting light before.


Janie Junebug said...

Fascinating -- I had no idea it was so much work to keep up such places.

Janie Junebug

Patsy said...

Another to add to my 'must visit' list!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Keith - Bateman's is not going anywhere .. so we'd love to see you over here!

@ Alex - yes theft is just so mean and unnecessary. Flash often isn't allowed .. and I noticed the little muslin swags around Kew Palace when I visited there, and the 'blinded' windows and the humidity and temperature guages ...

@ Sara - I think it takes methodical work, then the recording of what they've done - I forgot to put that bit into the post .. at least 'things' are likely to be there for longer if they use preventative conservation techniques before a major repair is necessary.

Thanks re my dark pictures ... a motley selection ..

@ Annalisa - yes I saw that show too - it was at Petworth House wasn't it? I didn't pay that much attention - but really need to see if I can watch it again somewhere now I've been to learn about Bateman's ...

@ Yvonne - good to see you ..

@ Janie - an awful lot of work, because they're constantly preserving and protecting ..

@ Patsy - when you get up here .. give me an email!

Thanks everyone - lots of cleaning involved .. I see no-one offered to get stuck in?! Cheers Hilary

Tammy Theriault said...

i love history and seeing it, well, too bad we can't touch it and that would definitely ruin it! your posts bring me back to memories of museums and national park exhibits i grew up walking through

Friko said...

We can only be grateful to the NT that they take care of such relics of the past. I have never been to Bateman’s but from your descriptions it appears to be a most interesting place.

A Lady's Life said...

Interesting to learn how they take care of old things especially oil paintings.

Inger said...

Interesting how we so often just march through those places and enjoy the contents and the history without a second thought to what it takes to maintain it all.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

In a word, fascinating. The history, the care that went into every day life, all so interesting. Wish I could jump on a plane and visit. One day. Thanks, Hilary.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Tammy -yes the public rubbing their hands over things does incredible damage .. always surprising to see.

Ah the museums and tours of youth .. we did a fair amount of that ..

@ Friko - totally agree - thank goodness the NT were set up. It's lovely that it's local and I must go and see a few more places nearby ..

@ A Lady's Life - there's so much more to cleaning - the textile lady's article and her website is to understand the conservators work ..

@ Inger - quite right .. I've done that too often, without thinking about the work everyone connected with the property are doing.

@ Joylene - many thanks .. would love to show you round - it'd be great if you get here ... one day!

Cheers and thanks for being here - Hilary

M. Reka said...

Beautiful post Hilary I found your posts most interesting,thank you.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Oh, that's bad that folks would steal things and be careless about allowing children to have drinks (we parents know how often kids spill!) Such a lot of work to go into maintaining these lovely places.

Robyn Campbell said...

Thanks Hil. This was intriguing to read. Thieves! Bah! Why must there be such people on earth? One thing is for sure, I always learn stuff over here. :-)

The spiders are truly our friends. We love them in our barn.

So much work goes into all of this. I cannot wait to see it one day soon and then remember back to this post. (I love me some Kipling!)

Sherry Ellis said...

It's fascinating to see the inside of the house. I'd love to visit it someday1

(Thanks for sending the link of Rodin's Gates of Hell. I enjoyed reading it!)

Jo said...

I had no idea so much went into the preservation of houses. I lived in a Queen Anne house in Kent and we never did anything special, maybe we should have, it was a lovely old house.

If thieves can steal toys they can steal anything. Plus people don't care about their kids being careless.

Suze said...

I'm going to think all day about the nine agents of deterioration and see if I can't come up with more. Don't know why! Just gripped my thinking ...

hyperCRYPTICal said...

Would love to visit Batemam's and must admit I did not know of its existence until your fine post Hilary - thank you.

Anna :o]

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Marinela - thank you ..

@ Elizabeth - it's something that's gone on for years ... just seems so much worse in our day and age. Kids - I can imagine .. control is a challenge, especially when they're not meant to create mini havoc!

@ Robyn - thieves - particularly now-a-days when times are tough. Yes there was a lot in this post ..

Spiders - the barn is a good place for them .. actually the corners are where Bateman's allow them to linger longer ..

Maintenance and recording of everything must be a great deal of hard work - you're right there. Well we in Sussex will welcome you with open arms when you get here .. lots of horses too (somewhere!) ..

@ Sherry - it is a very different house that's for sure .. but the Kiplings loved it.

Oh good glad to read about the Rodin link ... it stimulated my interest! - so I was pleased I'd popped over to look.

@ Jo - well historic houses are always slightly different in their care - and if it's ours, then we look after it as we feel we should. I have relatives and friends with special places and they do their best to adhere to the status quo.

People and respect for others' property does not seem to abound any more.

@ Suze - crumbs ... actually now you mention it I've been dreaming of my walls pouring dust off them! The flat does need a clean ... but if my post has given you dust for thought = then fine! Strange way of getting stimulation!!

@ Anna - well when you come back to the UK .. and are here at a time when it is open ..then it'll be a good place to visit.

Cheers everyone .. thanks for commenting - Hilary

Diane said...

I wonder why it is that some of the public have no respect for these things. I just cannot understand people stealing things from a place like this. As for restoration I know it is hard work. Our place is only small, and just 200 years old, but there is constant work and maintenance to be done. Great post and I love your photos. Take care Diane

Morgan said...

You always have the COOLEST posts! Gosh, you make me want to travel really bad. Thanks so much for sharing. Really fascinating.

Romance Reader said...

I would also like to visit this place someday. Thanks for posting!

Linda said...

Hilary, these are fascinating stories. I bet the house, which seems too small a word for such a place, is amazing. One would need much patience to manage the cleaning and maintenance with such care as you describe.

klahanie said...

Hi Hilary,

And thanks for another excellent distraction as I try to emerge from a rather overwhelming time. Good to get around and marvel at your, as always, meticulous to detail, posting.

Bateman's is just the sort of place I'd like to visit. Of course with the utmost care and attention to the furniture and upholstery.
Suddenly, I'm smelling pipe smoke! :)

Thank you, Hilary. Your articles are greatly admired.


Empty Nest Insider said...

It is amazing how much care is involved in maintaining this lovely place. You have an incredible eye for details, and these photos really bring Bateman's to life.

Christine Rains said...

Such a wonderful post. And so fascinating. Thank you for sharing.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Diane - the lack of respect is getting worse and like you I can't understand people stealing things.

Your lovely 'cottage' is a delight and you've done so well in restoring it ... I loved watching via your photos.

@ Morgan - many thanks .. I enjoy putting in what interests me and thus very fortunately many readers. Appreciate the comment.

@ Nas - I know .. the setting is beautiful too ...

@ Linda - it is a house ... it's not terribly big (granted not small!) - but the caretakers are very good at what they do .. and everything is supervised by the overarching experts at the NT

@ Gary - I'm so pleased I can divert your mind away to different pastures .. even if they're dusty ones at the moment! Thanks so much for the comment.

Well if you come down .. hopefully we can meet up - but when Alan (the caretaker) said he occasionally can smell pipe smoke .. so could I - funny how easily associations can be made.

@ Julie - thanks .. the photos were of things that are slightly different, so I knew you'd be interested too - despite the darkness of them.

@ Christine - delighted .. thanks so much.

Ciara said...

Such a shame people would steel. :( I love the side lamp. It looks Steampunk.

Tara Tyler said...

i got a wonderful behind the scenes tour!
thanks! so interesting and the extra tidbits were surprising!
stolen lamps will come to light, ha!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Ciara .. I know - stealing others' possessions is a bit much - sorry but the lamp was just showing what an abalone shell would look like ... I remember your love of Steampunk!

@ Tara - many thanks .. so did I. Those little extras make the difference don't they .. and I do hope sometime the Tiffany lights will come to light on the open market. The police do pick up stolen items after quite long time frames ..

Cheers Ciara and Tara .. good to see you - Hilary

Juliet said...

What meticulous care is needed to look after all these things - I had no idea!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Juliet - it was really interesting to be around and to see how they managed some of the cleaning etc - and protecting the contents. Made me sit up and think .. good to see you - cheers Hilary

Laura Eno said...

Wowsers...I'm tired after all that cleaning. :)
I never really thought about how much went into keeping an estate like that safe from damage.
And stealing! What rubbish some people have for brains. It's so sad that that happens.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Laura .. I thought I might pick up the hoover and duster today --- I'm plucking up courage!! I may do some.

Stealing from public places is terrible isn't it - I think you've got the right description "rubbish brains" ...

Thanks .. people just don't care or appreciate and sadly don't have any sense of responsibility - it is sad - great to see you - Hilary

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Wow, your post is chock full of information, and with super pictures to illustrate your points, to boot. Thank you so much for doing all this research and then sharing it with us. Fascinating stuff. The amount of work that goes into maintaining sites like this is mind-boggling, but well worth every bit of it to preserve their priceless historical lessons. And I rather suspect the people doing the work consider it to be a labor of love, and an honor.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Susan .. there was a great deal of information and I'd love to know more.

The caretakers and volunteers certainly do appreciate all the treasures contained in the house, and having those stories to tell.

It was great to be able to share and learn from them - you're so right ..

Good to see you - cheers Hilary

Julie Flanders said...

Wow, it's amazing to learn how much work goes into maintaining a place like this. I'm with Laura, it makes me tired just reading about it! But certainly the work is worth it, what a beautiful place. I love the photos. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Julie - me too .. especially as I'm meant to be cleaning this place!

They do keep these historical places very very well and learn so much in the process ..

Good to see you - cheers Hilary