Changing the Light Bulbs

There are many lightbulbs inside Nostell Priory. How many is a good guess – at least two hundred at the last count! Nostell is a very old house, which means that the electricity system and electric fittings in some of our objects are also fairly old. As a result, we normally have to change at least five or six light bulbs every week… until now! (More on that later).

Below are a few of the different types of lamps, lights and fittings that we have to change the bulbs in at Nostell.

Lamp in the Library. This is an altar candlestick in the 17th century style which has been converted to electricity.

Chandelier in the Billiard Room (with one lightbulb not working!) It’s an English gilt-metal and cut-glass four-light chandelier, dating from the second quarter of the 19th century. You can also see a spotlight which focuses on a painting hanging on the opposite side of the room.

Standard up-lighter lamp, used to lighten up some dark areas on the visitor route.

Changing the lightbulbs allows to see up close some of the fixtures and fittings of the lights at Nostell. Here is a frosted glass ‘flambeau shade’ from a Regency chandelier in the Top Hall.

Constantly changing lightbulbs can take up a lot of time (and money!) To combat this, we’re installing special new heritage LED lightbulbs in every fitting. These are designed to last at least ten years, which will be a great help to the team. We’ve spent a lot of time recently replacing every bulb, and have taken some photographs showing the all-important switch over from normal to LED bulbs! 

Equipment ready! We did a lot of the changing of the bulbs in front of the public, so we could explain to them what we were doing.

We left our equipment out for people to have a look at, and put out an information sign so visitors could read about what was going on. Click on the image to get a closer look.

Left to right: ordinary bulb and LED heritage bulb.

Empty boxes and old lightbulbs! These will be recycled, and some will be kept as part of a new temporary exhibition.

Then we began the time-consuming process of changing the bulbs.

Starting off in the Top Hall

We have different LED bulbs for different light fittings. Frosted glass shades have 5 watt bulbs, clear glass shades will contain 4 watt bulbs, and candelabras and paper lamp shades will have 3 watt bulbs.

Not forgetting the candelabras!

The new LED bulbs are brighter than the old ones, and have so far proved very effective (meaning that we haven’t had to replace one yet). Here’s to the next ten years of not changing lightbulbs at Nostell!

Nostell’s House Team

“My grandfather’s clock / Was too tall for the shelf / So it stood ninety years on the floor”

For those of you who regularly read this conservation blog, you might remember that some time ago we posted a blog about clocks (you can find it here: http://nostellprioryconservation.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/clocks/). This focused on caring for clocks and Nostell’s John Harrison clock. We received a great deal of interest and emails about Nostell’s clocks, so we’ve decided to focus this week’s blog post about the other clocks at Nostell (not just the star of the show John Harrison!) A few weeks ago we also received a visit from one of the National Trust clock experts, so we’ve included photos from his visit too!

A Tour of Nostell’s Clocks

As visitors enter Nostell, they are greeted with the chime of a mid-Georgian oak longcase clock by George Etherington of London. It’s a functional clock, but due to it’s location near the front door is subject to vastly fluctuating temperature and humidity, and loses about five minutes of time each week.

Lower Hall clock

Once we enter the state rooms, the clocks become much grander. Below in the Crimson Bedroom clock, which is an empire style ormolu mantel clock, with the striking movement in a plinth case. It is accompanied by a boy or gardener (or a boy-gradener), and dates to 1800-1835.

Boy-gardener clock in the Crimson Bedroom

A rather stately-looking clock greets visitors in the Breakfast Room. It’s a George III bracket clock on low gilt bracket feet, made by Jump in London, dating to 1760-1820. The photograph below is deceptive, as it makes the clock look quite small but it is in fact rather large and very heavy!

George III bracket clock

 Our clock conservator is Elliott Nixon, and he comes to service Nostell’s clocks once a year to check that they are healthy and working correctly (some of our clocks don’t work, but we hope to get them working in the future).

On the photo below you can see him checking our regency period quarter chiming bracket clock, made by Barber & Whitwell, York, around 1800-1830.

Examining the bracket clock

Opening up the back of the clock reveals the mechanism. The back door is made out of glass – this is because the clock was made to sit in front of a mirror, so you could see the mechanism reflected in the mirror.

The decoration looks like a ghost!

The clock below is possibly my favourite inside Nostell – it’s an ebony mantel clock made by Cousens in London, around 1800-1825.

Ebony mantel clock

We also have some rather ornate clocks, such as the blue enamel clock below, possibly made in France.

Enamelled clock

Regulator clock

Tucked away in a corner is a longcase regulator clock, so called because it would have been the first clock that was wound each week, and was the clock that all of the other clocks were set to. Therefore, this is the clock that the servants would have used as they went about their daily business, making sure tasks got completed on time.

Last but not least is not strictly a clock, but a barometer, made out of tulipwood, dated to George III, with a case made by Thomas Chippendale, and the movement made by Justin Vulliamy (1712-1797). Nostell Priory’s accounts from October 1769 state that it is ‘a very neat case for a Barrometer made of fine tulip, and other woods and very rich carv’d ornaments Gilt in Burnish Gold’, and cost twenty five pounds to make.

Chippendale’s barometer

I hope we haven’t taken up too much of your time (sorry!) reading this blog post, and hope you’ve enjoyed a tour of Nostell’s clocks! There’s just one more clock in Nostell that I haven’t mentioned. It’s very small, doesn’t work, and lives in a house within the house. Any guesses? Next time you’re at Nostell, have a look for the miniature clock inside the Dolls’ House – the attention to detail is amazing!

Spotlight on: Chairs for Children

“Children should be seen and not heard” – I don’t know whether or not this was ever a view held by the Winn family who lived at Nostell, but it seemed fitting as today’s post highlights the furniture at Nostell which was specifically made for children.

First up is a rather grand affair. It’s a Louis XVI style 18th century child’s open armchair with upholstered seat (or fauteuil) with tapered panel back and carved gilt frame. Ther’s also a rather nifty child’s footstool to match!

Louis XVI style child’s open armchair

To contrast with the above chair, the second example is much plainer. It’s a George III child’s mahogany open armchair with a drop-in seat covered with modern leather and squared legs. It’s inscribed ‘Lord St Oswald’.

George III child’s open armchiar

If you look closely you’ll see the keyhole-type shapes in metal at the front of the legs. This shows that there used to be a stand/footstool fitted to the front, which has been lost over the years.

Minus the seat – the ‘drop-in’ style of the chair means that the seat is literally ‘dropped in’ to the frame of the chair

Seat of the chair. You can see how the design of the seat is very simple, with a leather cover and padding tacked onto a board

Brush-vacuuming the George III chair during one of our volunteer conservation workshops

Next time you’re at Nostell, why not look out for these miniature chairs – just remember to look around at knee height!

Extreme Conservation In Action!

Some of the most labour intensive jobs the house team undertake at Nostell are the ones which (thankfully!) are on a rolling schedule and take place every few years. One of these tasks is the cleaning of the ornate plasterwork (which is in almost every room inside Nostell!)

A lot of this work went on in front of the public, with us high on the scaffolding and visitors down below – meaning that it really was extreme conservation in action!

Below is a photo diary of the work that was involved in cleaning the historic plasterwork of the North Staicase and landings.

Boards ready and waiting to be turned into scaffolding

Foam to protect us from the bars when walking underneath the scaffolding

Scaffolding on the North Landing ready for us to clean the high plasterwork

Who’s this handsome fellow?

Plasterwork faces on the ceiling

Eagles feature a lot in and around Nostell, as an eagle was the symbol of the Winn family

This one has rather a large nose!

And this one looks angry!

Piles of equipment ready for cleaning the plasterwork – vacuum cleaning, brushes, smoke sponges…

The first step is to brush vacuum the plaster (gently use a hog’s hair brush to flick dust into the nozzle of a vacuum)

Next step is to use a smoke sponge (made out of vulcanised rubber) to clean the plasterwork

As the smoke sponge gets dirty, we trim it with scissors to get down to to a clean part

Working hard!

If any stains, mottled patches or mould is found, we wash it off gently using cotton buds and a mixture of white spirit, water and washing-up liquid.

The door frames are not forgotten either!

Julie gets stuck in to the brush vacuuming

View from above

After three weeks of hard work, the plasterwork was fully cleaned. And the best part is that it’s five years until the work will be done again!

A bit of spit and polish

Unlike cleaning silver (which really smells), cleaning the rest of the metalwork at Nostell is much better, as the wax smells lovely and harks back to the days when housemaids would give a ‘bit of spit and polish’ to metal to clean it on a regular basis. Nowadays, we clean our metalwork once a year.

Poker with flambeau finial

Nostell has a very large collection of fire irons (pokers, tongs and coal shovels). We invited our volunteers along for a day to share with them the skills and techniques used to conserve our metalwork. Having the volunteers with us for a day was fantastic, as it meant we got all of the metalwork in the house cleaned!

In this blog post you’ll find out how we go about cleaning our metalwork. Steel, iron, brass, copper – you named it we cleaned it!

Blue nitrile gloves

Blue nitrile gloves are worn to protect the metal from the sweat, chemicals and grease that exist on our hands.

Metal brush (top) and hog’s hair brush (bottom)

Brushes we use include the metal brush (top) which is used to buff up larger items (particularly copper kitchen ware) and the hog’s hair brush (bottom), which is used to gently brush dust into the nozzle of a low-suction vacuum cleaner.

Low suction museum vacuum cleaner

Goliath lamp – an absolute essential when it’s winter and the house is dark!

Steel wire wool for getting rid of rust

We use the finest steel wool to gently rub away any rust that may have formed on the metalwork.

After the fire irons have been brush vacuumed and de-rusted, we can wax them using Renaissance wax and cotton wool.

Renaissance wax for the fire irons

Metalwork duster/buffer

Once an object has been waxed, we can buff it up using a blue duster (above). An important rule with metalwork is that ‘whatever you put on, you must take off!’ The aim is to buff away the wax residues.

Hard at work waxing the fire irons

Volunteers get to grips with a fender

Thanks to all of the volunteers who came on the metalwork conservation workshop – it was a really good day!

Cleaned and sorted fire irons. Hopefully they will go back into the right room!

We also had a big sort out and inventory of the fire irons, as over the years parts of sets have been moved and swapped to different rooms. After a lot of head scratching, ee managed to arrange them in their correct sets and put them back in their correct rooms. Job well done!

What is it like working with the house team at Nostell Priory?

Guest blog post from Alice Matthews, a student placement in conservation who spent four weeks with the house team at the start of 2013. 

I really enjoyed working with the conservation team at Nostell.  Here is a bit of what I did.

From day one, I was thrown straight in cleaning some of Nostell’s numerous chairs and learnt lots of new cleaning skills. I can safely say that cleaning chairs will never be the same again!

Cleaning one of the chairs on the North Staircase

Throughout the weeks, I enjoyed exploring the parts of the house that you don’t normally get to see and was surprised at how much goes on behind the scenes when the house is closed.

Sorting out dust covers – they all looked the same!

It was great that Nostell was running conservation workshops while I was there which were great fun, slightly hectic, but also it was very rewarding to see how much work got done.

Gauze vaccuming a bedspread from the Peacock Bedroom

Insect hunting was an eye opening experience and I never realised how many different bugs lurked in houses.

The sausage making (of the tissue kind) was obviously one of the highlights of my placement. Always been a big sausage fan but this was new a variety for me!

Making acid-free tissue paper sausages to help store curtains correctly

The weather definitely made things challenging, not only getting there, but also working when it’s so cold. It did look very pretty though in the wintery weather and the view I got walking down the drive every morning made it worthwhile.

It was a pleasure to work with the team for four weeks and I just want to thank all the house team and volunteers for making me feel welcome. Thanks for the white gloves, I’m sure they will come in useful in the future!

Alice

Thank-you Alice – you were a real help and we enjoyed having you as part of the house team during your placement.

Good luck with your future career in conservation/heritage!

Lord Effingham Leaves the Billiard Room

One of our largest paintings moved to a temporary new home a few weeks ago! Why did he go away, you might ask?

As part of the National Trust’s care of the objects in our collections, we send objects which need it away for professional conservation and cleaning. The large portrait below has been transported away and will return (hopefully) looking much brighter.

The painting that has gone away for conservation is called ‘Portrait of Charles Howard, Lord Howard of Effingham, 1st Earl of Nottingham’ by Daniel Mytens the elder. It dates to 1620.

Lord Effingham on the wall of the Billiard Room

Lord Howard was commander-in-chief of the English fleet against the Spanish in 1588. The picture is what is known as a ‘swagger portrait’, intended to show off the wealth, power, and social status of the sitter. The subject would usually be standing and the painting would be hung high up in a room to make the viewer ‘look up’ to the painting, whilst the figure in the portrait can look down and masterfully survey the room.

Today’s blog post shares the process of taking such a large painting off the wall, out of Nostell, and away for conservation.

Carefully manouvering Effingham down onto the floor. He was very heavy!

Beginning the packing process. Many layers of tape, acid-free tissue and bubble wrap will be added to thoroughly protect the painting for the journey

The painting is packed in what’s known as ‘soft wrap’. ‘Hard wrap’ is when a solid structure (such as a wooden crate) is used to home an object for transportation. As Lord Howard isn’t going too far, then soft wrap is fine for this journey

Taking down Lord Howard has revealed a problem – the wall behind shows flaking paint. This will need to be checked out by our buildings team, as it could indicate a problem with the wall (for example, the wall could be damp)

Here comes the hard part – negotiating the painting around the bannisters, through Nostell, and out into the awaiting van

A tricky point

Going down!

Watch your heads!

Almost there…

Into the van…

And we’re done! Hopefully the painting will be back with us in a few months

A close-up of the stern face of Lord Howard of Effingham

I wonder what Lord Howard will think of his temporary home for the next few months? Judging by his expression in the above photo, I think he’ll be much happier when he returns to Nostell! We look forward to seeing Lord Howard back where he belongs.

Thank-you to the outdoors team, who helped with the move of Lord Howard out into the van.

What have sausages got to do with conservation?

Yes, you read that correctly. What have sausages got to do with conservation?!

Well, all will be revealed as you read on. After a textile conservation workshop which we held for our volunteers (more about that in a future blog post) we had to put away the objects that we had cleaned.

On our ‘to do’ list were the curtains that had previously hung in the Breakfast Room. Having water come down into the room after a particularly wet week last year meant that lots of the objects inside were moved quickly to a temporary home. The curtains had now been cleaned and it was time to rest store them.

The curtains are being stored in the Muniments Room until they are rehung for the open season, and it is important to rest them correctly to prevent any damage/deterioration occurring.

Manouvering the curtains

Acid-free tissue is placed on tables to create a safe surface for the material to rest on.

The curtains are put into place

Gorgeous golden material

The material used for the Breakfast Room curtains were designed and made after the fire at Nostell Priory in the 1980s. However, it’s just as important to conserve this material as it is our textiles that are much older in date.

And the sausages that are mentioned in the title of this post?

Well, to ensure that no permanent creases appear in the material as it rests in storage, we make sausages. However, these sausages are made out of acid-free tissue paper rolled up into a loose tube, or sausage, shape.

Rolling the tissue paper sausages

Creases and folds create weak points in textiles, and make them vulnerable to splitting and damage. Adding the sausages create rounded creases and lessens the chance of damage.

Arranging the sausages

Folding the curtains over the tissue paper sausages

The curtains will stay here until the new season, when we will rehang the curtains and reattach the pelmets.

I’m feeling quite hungry now, after all this talk of sausages!

In which the team from East Riddlesden Hall lend a helping hand…

As you know, the National Trust is responsible for caring for hundreds of historic buildings and their contents, thousands of acres of countryside, and many miles of coastline.

It’s a very supportive network, and a great organisation to be part of. Properties, whilst independent, work with each other sharing skills, knowledge, and ideas to improve the way we care for and present our properties ‘for ever, for everyone’.

With this in mind, we invited the conservation team from East Riddlesden Hall to visit Nostell for the day. East Riddlesden Hall is a lovely 17th century manor house in West Yorkshire. You can find out more info about East Ridd on the National Trust website here: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/east-riddlesden-hall/

The plan for the day was to spend the morning getting to grips with Nostell’s winter clean, followed by a tour of the house, derelict servants’ quarters and extensive cellars. I’d also show one of their conservation assistants, Jackie, how to create a blog of their own in order to share stories about what they get up to at East Riddlesden. Skills-sharing is how we like to define it!

Jackie gets to grips with our Small Dining Room chairs

The team from East Riddlesden helped us begin this year’s winter clean. We divided into two teams, one to begin in the Breakfast Room and one to make a start in the Small Dining Room.

Vacuuming

Volunteer Lesley uses a piece of gauze to protect the chair cushion as she vacuums it. The gauze ensures that no loose pieces of thread or material disappear into the vacuum.

Nostell is a little behind in our winter clean programme because we have spent the past few weeks up scaffolding cleaning our historic plasterwork (more about this in a future blog post). So it was fantastic having willing helpers from East Ridd for a day – we managed to brush vacuum and cover all of the furniture in the two rooms. Many hands do indeed make light work!

Conservation work

Our second team, led by Angie, get to grips with the Breakfast Room

Dining table

We definitely worked them hard!

Conservation work

It’s a team effort to manhandle the dust cover which protects the Small Dining Room table – it’s very big!

Conservation work

Dust cover in place. Now the fun can begin!

After the strenuous morning, we rewarded the team with a tour of Nostell, including a behind-the-scenes look at our derelict servants’ attics and extensive cellars. We also took the time to show them how to create a WordPress blog of their own, as blogs are a great way to share aspects of the collections and their care which visitors don’t normally see (but find really interesting!)

Here is the link to the East Riddlesden Hall WordPress blog: http://eastriddlesdenhall.wordpress.com/

We had a great day – thank-you East Riddlesden!

Nostell Priory and Chippendale on BBC4!

Last Thursday (10th January) BBC4 screened a great documentary called ‘Carved with Love: The Genius of British Woodwork’. It’s a three-part series, and the first focused upon ‘The Extraordinary Thomas Chippendale’. And the most exciting part is…

…lots of it was filmed here at Nostell!

Nostell is home to one of the largest (and we like to think, best) collections of Chippendale furniture in the country. The programme highlights many of our pieces such as the medal cabinet in the Library, the gentleman’s dressing table in the Crimson Bedroom, and our Chinoiserie collection in the State Bedroom, amongst many others. Our House & Collections Manager, Chris, also gets a starring role!

Catch it again on BBC iPlayer – it’s available until 7:59PM Sun, 3 Feb 2013.

Here’s the all-important link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01psbwz/Carved_with_Love_The_Genius_of_British_Woodwork_The_Extraordinary_Thomas_Chippendale/

Enjoy watching!