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
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:
racquets .. not weapons
- 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.
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.
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|
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
Zenzie Tinker - her website has some wonderful photos ..
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 ...
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