Don’t look down!

When visiting stately homes and beautiful mansions, we always marvel at the wonderfully crafted furniture, the architecture of the house, the wallpaper, the number of books in the library, and imagine what it would have been like to live there.

However, what we often forget to do is look at what we are walking on! Inspired by this really good post from the house team at Knole – http://knolenationaltrust.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/whats-beneath-your-feet/ – I thought we would focus on what your feet walk on when visiting Nostell Priory.

When we thought about which floors/carpets to include in this blog post, we realised the huge amount of different coverings and carpets that there are inside Nostell. We hope you enjoying looking at a few in more detail, with the photos below. (If you click on a picture it will enlarge it so you can have a closer look.)

And remember – next time you visit Nostell, don’t forget to look down, do look down!

Stone floor

Stone ground floor

Throughout the ground floor there is a stone slate covering. This is now worn away and cracked in many places, which reflects how thousands of visitors over the years can damage even the strongest of materials. Having stone on the ground floor is purely practical, as it is on the ground floor where all of the dust and debris from outside would have landed when the family used the Lower Hall as the main entrance.

Additionally, the ground floor was the servants’ domain, and would be where the servants at Nostell would have hurried around doing dirty jobs. Carpets would have become far too grubby!

Carpet

Crimson Bedroom carpet

I’m a fan of the carpet in the Crimson Bedroom because it really matches the objects in the room, and has a warm red tone which compliments the curtains and bed hangings (which were reproduced after the fire in the 1980s). It is a Feraghan wool carpet with a multiple striped border, made at some point in the nineteeth century.

Carpet

Drugget

When you visit Nostell, you’ll probably have noticed the long carpet that follows the visitor route through most of the rooms – this is known as the ‘drugget’. This carpet gets vacuumed every day, as the drugget is where a lot of the dust and dirt which visitors bring in lingers. Nostell’s drugget is a two-tone crimson floral wool pile carpet with an arabesque foliate design and a border along each edge. It was made in the late twentieth century.

Wooden floor

Wooden floor in the Top Hall

The floor in the Top Hall is an interesting one. When visitors enter the Top Hall, there are plenty of well-deserved ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ over the ornate Robert Adam plasterwork, the size of the room, and the extensive view down the vista at the front of the house. However, when visitors look at the floor, there is usually no comment (that’s if people actually look at the floor!)

I feel quite sorry for the Top Hall floor, made from oak floorboards. This is because this floor was not meant to be walked on. Yes, you read correctly!

A drawing from 1776 shows that the intention was to create a striking white and brown marble pavement floor which would reflect the ceiling pattern like it does in other Robert Adam houses such as Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire. The photograph below shows the floor of the Great Hall in Ham House in Surrey, which has a floor similar to that planned for Nostell’s Top Hall.

Great Hall at Ham House

The Great Hall at Ham House, Richmond upon Thames, Surrey. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Carpet

Breakfast Room carpet

The Breakfast Room carpet is a modern light beige felt carpet, laid after the fire at Nostell in the 1980s. It’s very simple, and reflects the simplicity of the room. The Breakfast Room is currently a ‘free flow’ room (meaning that visitors are able to walk all around the room) so we wanted something robust and long-lasting. The corner of a rug that you see is one brought in especially for people to walk on, and isn’t a historic rug.

Carpet

State Dressing Room carpet

The photograph above shows how delicate the carpets in our collections are – you can see where the seam has split and the carpet is wearing thin. This carpet is in the State Dressing Room, and is a green flowered seamed Brussels wool pile carpet, made at some point between 1850 and 1950.

We hope you’ve enjoyed looking in detail at some of our carpets inside Nostell – which one is your favourite?

The House Team

Advertisements

How do you roll a carpet?

If you’ve visited Nostell Priory in the past year, you’ll know that visitors are able to walk around the Breakfast Room to get a better look at Brueghel’s The Procession to Calvary and the other paintings and furniture in the room. To enable this, we moved the original carpet in the Breakfast Room and replaced it with one which could take the wear and tear of thousands of visitors walking over it each week.

It’s the original carpet that we were cleaning and rolling up today. It’s a Fereghan fine wool small carpet with an all-over repeated stylized pattern in the centre with a hook motif, and a black ground border with stylized motifs in stepped compartments, and fringed ends. It dates to the 19th century.

Cleaning a carpet

First the carpet is cleaned using a low suction vacuum cleaner. A gauze is placed in between the carpet and the vacuum to prevent fibres being sucked inside the vacuum. Ideally we would lay the carpet on the floor, but as the Muniments Room had a dirty floor we put it on a table to ensure no dirt/pests accumulated on the carpet

Close up of a carpet

The carpet is then examined to identify the direction of the pile. Carpets should always be rolled in the direction of the pile, so that the fibres and material are not crushed.

A carpet with tissue paper on it

Acid-free tissue paper is placed on the carpet, so that when it is rolled up the carpet is protected from squashing against itself, the tissue will hopefully prevent deterioration, and it will make the carpet an unsuitable home for pests.

 

Rolling a carpet

More acid-free tissue paper is added as the carpet is gently rolled up at a steady pace. We have to make sure that the fringe of the carpet is not crushed in the process of rolling

Fully rolled carpet

A final covering of tissue paper is put over the top and tucked in at the ends to make it secure

Carpet in a store room

The fully rolled carpet in its temporary resting place until it is given a new, permanent location

There we have it, a rolled carpet now safely in storage. Job done!

Dust, Carpets and Books

Housekeeping Training Blog Post No. 2

One of the main enemies that National Trust properties fight with on a daily basis is cleaned away, but always comes back with a vengeance. It can be found high and low, from cornices to flagstones, and that enemy is…dust!

Dust sample of just one day’s dirt from Blickling Hall, collected from vacuum bags

Dust is a subject which was mentioned in almost every session during the housekeeping course – namely, how to get rid of it. It can be very scratchy and gritty, and is composed of many things from soil, grit, skin, hair, which makes it not very welcome at National Trust properties. When left for a long time without cleaning, dust can begin a process called ‘cementation’, where the dust actually sticks to the objects it has landed on. This cemented dust can be very difficult to completely remove and can stain, discolour, and scratch the objects underneath. We examined the properties of dust, how to remove it using vacuum and different types of brush (for example pony hair, goat hair and hogs hair), and what sort of objects we should wipe on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis (flat surfaces from about knee to shoulder high acquire the most dust and so should be cleaned daily, but items in cabinets get the least, and so can be cleaned less often).

Another session was about carpets and rugs – after all, most properties have some form of carpet somewhere inside! Skills learnt include the beating of smal carpets:

Modern day carpet beaters, much like a table tennis paddle, just a bit floppier (yet still rigid to beat away the dirt)

More intricate carpet skills were also taught, including how to roll a carpet or large rug for transport or storage:

How to roll a carpet: equipment includes a large piece of pipe to keep shape, and acid free tissue paper to separate each layer

When the carpet is large it can require three or more people to roll it so that no creases are made and it stays in line

It’s very important to roll a carpet with the direction of the pile, so as not to pull or put stress on the weave. Therefore, at the start of the rolling process our very first task is to identify and mark the direction of the pile so we know whether it is symettrical or asymmetrical, and in what direction the weave goes.

Carpet with a symmetrical pile

A further session was on book and paper conservation. We’ve written a few blog posts about how to clean and repair books on Nostell’s conservation blog so hopefully readers should be aware of some of the work that we do! On the course, we were taught correct techniques of removing books from shelves (no grabbing at the top of the spine, please!) and how to display books, check for pests, handle books, tie them together in case the covers were coming loose, and examine the hangings and fastenings of paper items in frames for weak points. It was especially useful for Nostell, as we have an extremely large book collection in the library.

Demonstrating the proper technique for removing old books from library shelves

The Long Gallery at Blickling, which holds the majority of their book collection

And so ended another day jam-packed full of conservation demonstrations and the sharing of knowledge – a little of which I hope that we’ve shared with you today. Happy reading!

Ellie