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

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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!

An Edwardian Country House Party – Nostell at Christmas 2012

We hope that you had a Very Merry Christmas in 2012 and are enjoying the start of the new year. We had a lovely time preparing Nostell Priory for its annual Christmas opening, and thought we’d share with you some of the photographs that we took. We certainly enjoyed hosting an Edwardian Country House Party for visitors. Enjoy!

Beautiful Christmas tree in the Top Hall, with handmade decorations by our volunteers

Wreaths and swags above the fireplace

Butler’s tray with drink aplenty – care for some Champagne?

Horse and carriage rides

Getting ready for the main meal – I hope you like lobster!

Wrapping presents in the Library

Afternoon tea in the Tapestry Room

Sherry in the Billiard Room

A gorgeous Edwardian State Dining Room, set out for the lobster starter

Father Christmas and his ready are all set to deliver presents – I hope you’ve been good this year!

We hope that next year Christmas at Nostell Priory is as good as this one! Look out for more information about Christmas 2013 dates and events on our website.

Nostell Priory Conservation Blog in 2012 – A Review

Happy New Year from Nostell Priory & Parkland!

2012 has been a great year for the Nostell Priory Conservation Blog. We launched in January, and have seen a steady increase in page views from all countries around the world, from Argentina to Australia. In December we reached the wonderful milestone of 10,000 views! Thank-you to all our readers and supporters. 

WordPress.com has compiled an annual review of our blog’s year. It contains facts and statistics about the Nostell Priory Conservation Blog. So if you’d like to know which was our most popular blog post, what was the most poular search term that people used to find our blog on the internet, which was our busiest day for the blog, then take a look at the review! (The link is provided at the bottom).

Here’s an excerpt of our 2012 review:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 10,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 17 years to get that many views.

 

Click HERE to see the complete review of

Nostell Priory’s Conservation Blog during 2012.

Spotlight on: National Trust Blogs

Over the past few months there has been a surge of interest in ‘behind the scenes’ aspects of life in National Trust properties. This in turn has led to the creation of lots of really good blogs to fuel this interest. The blogs engage and inform people all over the world about what we do, how we do it, and the background/history of the objects and buildings in our care.

As Nostell’s conservation blog has had a mention in the Autumn 2012 edition of the National Trust magazine (page 57), I thought we had to share some other NT blogs that are being written at other properties all over the country.

This week’s blog post shares with you some of my favourite blogs that I enjoy reading.

If you click on each screen shot it will take you to that particular blog.

Happy reading!

Mount Stewart – Conservation Project

 The Knole Conservation Blog

Attingham Park

NT Treasure Hunt

Montacute House

Rob’s Blog @ Dyrham Park

Fletch the Perchcrow – Wordsworth House

Beningbrough Hall and Gardens

Petworth House and Park

Charlecote Park: Uncovered

NT Calke Abbey

These blogs show the variety of work that goes on in and around NT properties, from large scale building projects to academic research to conservation to gardening to exhibitions. Maybe they will inspire you to come and visit us! Which is your favourite blog?

If you think I’ve forgotten a really good blog, please let me know!

Ellie

Turn Over an Old Leaf…

…by coming to our event next week in Nostell’s historic library!

Join us on Thursday 20th September at 12.30pm for Turn Over an Old Leaf.

It’s one for the bookworms – enjoy a talk about Nostell’s historic library, followed by a special opportunity to take a closer look at some of our favourite books. If you’ve ever wanted to look inside the books on Nostell’s shelves then now is your chance! 

A variety of fishes and a hand drawn picture of an eel (bottom right of the illustrations). We don’t know who drew it but we can always guess! Who knows what books you’ll see at Turn Over an Old Leaf, so come along and find out!

The cost is £5 plus normal admission, which ensures re-entry for you to explore the house after the event. Booking is essential. Please be prepared to leave large bags in the cloakroom, and if you wish to take notes please use pencils.

For further information please look at: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/nostell-priory/things-to-see-and-do/events/

We look forward to seeing you there, for some literary fun!

Ellie

See any resemblances…? A page from ‘A Series of Lithographic Drawings Illustrative of the relation between the Human Physiognomy and that of the Brute Creation from Designs by Charles Le Brun’, 1827.

Please Do Not Touch

It’s fair to say that many of the visitors to Nostell Priory have a preconceived idea that when visiting National Trust properties, they might be confronted with signs like this:

and signs like this:

There are many good reasons for such labels being present in rooms inside Nostell. For example, if every one of our 120,000 visitors touch the eighteenth century wallpaper in a room, or sit on an antique chair, those objects will not be around much longer for visitors to see and admire in the future due to damage, wear and tear, or even possibly theft.

However, we know that being able to touch things and sit on furniture really brings the property to life for our visitors, and we are doing what we can to share our property in a tactile way with visitors We have a sofa and some armchairs in the North Bedrooms which visitors can sit on, visitors can play the piano in the Top Hall, and we have recently acquired three conservation frames which we can confidently say to our visitors…

PLEASE TOUCH!

Silk conservation frame

Flock wallpaper conservation frame

Gilt wood conservation frame

These frames are handling frames which show the effect of touching different types of material. Each frame contains two pieces of the same material (we have gilt wood, oyster-coloured silk and crimson flock wallpaper). One piece is covered up with perspex and can’t be touched, and the other piece is exposed and visitors are invited to have a good feel and touch of the material. Over time, the silk will become tatters, the flock wallpaper will disintegrate and the gilt will wear off. The frames are really good at demonstrating the damaging effects associated with abrasion, dirt, acidic skin/moisture/grease, and general wear and tear. It will be interesting to see how long it will take for the condition of the exposed material on the conservation frames to become very poor – we have been told that it may happen alarmingly quickly!

A very old conservation frame, that Nostell had quite a few years ago. The new ones are more professional-looking, and we have had the wood on the new frames stained darker to match Nostell’s collection of predominantly dark furniture

The conservation frames on display in the Breakfast Room

The frames are in the Breakfast Room for visitors (and staff and volunteers!) to handle. As all of the frames are together on a table, the visual impact of wear and tear on different materials through handling is much greater than if the frames were placed here and there throughout the mansion. Similarly, because visitors are able to handle the conservation frames almost at the start of their route around the state rooms, they will appreciate what would happen to the rest of the objects in the collection if they were able to be touched freely.

Come along and a have a go and contributing to the wear and tear of the conservation frames yourself – this is one of the occasions where instead of saying ‘please do not touch’ we really can say ‘please touch!’

Ellie

Decorating for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

Here at Nostell Priory we’ve got into the Diamond Jubilee spirit by decorating the State Dining Room! Our theme was ‘street party’ and we had lots of fun dressing the table as though it was about to receive guests for its own Jubilee party. Most of the decorations were prepared and put in place in front of visitors, who enjoyed the transformation of the room.

We’re going to share the Jubilee decorating process with you in this blog post, and perhaps inspire you to have your own Jubilee fun!

Prepare to see a LOT of photos! As ever, feel free to comment on our pictures, and maybe share your own with us?

Preparing to make paper chains

House team and visitor services working together to make the chains

Many lengths of chains, carefully measured for the correct length. At first we stuck them together with the stickers that came with the paper chains, but a day later a lot had unstuck so we had to staple them instead!

Readying the decorating materials!

Setting out the paper plates and napkins, all bedecked with the union flag

Who could resist – after all, we were setting up for a party!

Positioning folded napkin mitres inside the glasses

Placing jubilee-themed cards onto the side tables

Meringues and cherries, mmmm!

As befits such a house as Nostell, masquerade masks would be worn at this fictional indoor street party, to give it an air of elegance!

Who can blame us?

We each picked our favourite masks to try on…

…even Maurice!

Red, white, and blue streamers on the backs of the chairs

Artistically arranging streamers on the table

Jubilee decorating team!

Hanging up the paper chains

Carefully hooking onto the centrepiece

A street party wouldn’t be right without some party food!

Jam tarts, bourbon creams, party rings, custard creams, you name it we have it!

Positioning slices of Battenburg cake

Straws, napkins, and red wine (what else?) in the glasses

Our flower ladies Jennifer and Dorothy set to work on the flower arrangements

Golden urns and delphiniums

Dorothy inserts ‘spiral ting ting’ to make the arrangements seem like fireworks spiralling up into the sky

Maurice adds the finishing touches with an expert eye

Finished golden urn, two of which will be on the back tables in the State Dining Room

For the flowers in the centrepiece (the ‘epurne’) the flower ladies used a ‘frog’, which ensures that the flower arrangements don’t move

Jennifer adds the final few red roses (note the red, white and blue theme to the flower displays – all in keeping with the Jubilee theme!)

And we were finished! The final results are in the five photographs below – we hope that you like them. The decorations within the State Dining Room are a fun addition to the Diamond Jubilee feeling sweeping the country.

Come and visit us and have a look for yourself!

Dramatic floral centrepiece

House of cards

Masquerade party

A feast for the eyes as well as the stomach!

Marvellous! (And lots of fun to decorate, too!)

Enjoy the Jubilee bank holiday weekend!

Ellie

It’s time for a spring clean…on a tiny scale!

One of the universally favourite items within the collection at Nostell Priory is our Dolls’ House. Nostell’s dolls’ house is one of two important 18th-century doll’s houses within the National Trust (the other is at Uppark House). Our dolls’ house was made for the Winn family (who lived at Nostell) around 1735, which was when the current Nostell Priory was being built. Traditionally, it’s thought to have been built by a young Thomas Chippendale, who was born at Otley, which is only a few miles away from Nostell (which sadly can’t be proved – but it would make a great addition to Nostell’s fabulous collection of Chippendale furniture, one of the largest in the country). The decorating and furnishing of the dolls’ house was done by the Lady Susanna Henshaw, the wife of the 4th Baronet at Nostell (who built the present main house).

And just like Nostell Priory itself, the dolls’ house gets its own spring clean once a year. We did this in front of the public as it was a great opportunity for them to see, learn, and ask questions about our work.

Julie gets ready to vacuum out one of the rooms of the dolls’ house (the furniture of the room about to be done has been removed – we don’t want any piece disappearing up the vacuum!)

The cleaning itself is relatively simple, but great care is needed due to the size of the objects. We don’t want to lose anything! It’s really a scaling down of the work involved in cleaning the main building and contents at Nostell. For example, each object will be carefully dusted, checked for damage or deterioration, and the fabrics will be vacuumed (with a special museum-grade low-suction vacuum cleaner). 

We set out tables in front of our work area so the public could get a close up view of the conservation cleaning, whilst protecting the dolls’ house

Carefully brush vacuuming the velvet curtains

When the house is open to visitors, the dolls’ house is covered with a large glass pane, to ensure that visitors can get a good view of the inside (and there are steps for our smaller visitors to be able to see the top floor rooms). The glass has the added effect of reducing the amount of dust and dirt entering the doll’s house, reducing the need to clean it more frequently. Infrequent cleaning also means that we are less likely to lose any of the contents – as some of them are very small indeed! It also fits in with a rolling programme of annual cleaning which takes places across the whole of Nostell Priory – after all it’s a big house, there are lots of objects to clean and conserve.

Each item is individually brushed to remove dust and dirt before being placed back inside the house, including this ceramic vase and lid

Wearing white gloves when handling the larger pieces of dolls’ house furniture to ensure no accidental damage is done. For some of the really tiny items (we have tiny glass goblets which are about 1cm tall) we don’t wear gloves, as the chance of them slipping out of our hands and being lost or broken is too great

Each item in the dolls’ house is of exquisite quality and craftsmanship. This drop leaf table even has hinged legs so that they can be folded away if required

The craftsmanship of all of the furniture and accessories suggest that it was made for adults to admire, rather than for children to play with. For example, in the photograph below there is a cabinet which is in the drawing room. The cabinet is never open whilst the dolls’ house is on show to visitors, so when it is cleaned we look at in detail to make sure there are no pests or signs of deterioration. It’s inlaid with ivory and because the inside rarely sees sunlight the colour has been preserved very well, including the ornate artwork on the drawers. Wonderful! Visitors really enjoyed seeing the inside of the cabinet. 

Cabinet in the drawing room, inlaid with ivory

Vacuuming the floors with a special low suction, museum-grade vacuum cleaner

Rugs and carpets in the dolls’ house are vacuumed with a gauze over the top, to stop any loose threads being sucked in

Aside from the Chippendale connection and the fact that the building of the doll’s house is contemporary with the building of Nostell itself, what is amazing is the detail of all of the accessories. The tableware is made of hand blown glass, all of the silver is hallmarked, all of the fireplaces were copied from James Gibb’s Book of Architecture (dated 1728), a table in the parlour has real wrought-iron brackets and a marble top, and the walls in the drawing room are decorated with contemporary French prints. 

Hallmarked silver tea service

Each individual piece is examined, cleaned, and placed back in its original location

The silver spoons are only as long as the end of my finger!

Carefully placing the tea service back into the drawing room

Julie shows some of the star pieces of the dolls’ house to interested visitors

Most of the dolls are made of wax, but the cook (shown here) is made of painted wood. Some people suggest that the cook is made from wood to signify his lower status in the household than the other dolls, which is an interesting theory

Delicate hand blown glassware in one of the rooms

There we have it – a clean and dusted dolls’ house. We especially enjoyed talking to the public during our conservation work on the dolls’ house, as this is definitely one of our favourite jobs to do at Nostell and we love to share it with visitors!

Beautifully clean dolls’ house – at least until next year!

We arranged for some journalists and photographers to come and photograph us cleaning the dolls’ house, which is great publicity for Nostell and will hopefully encourage more people to come and see the dolls’ house for themselves. Articles were published in The Yorkshire Post, the Yorkshire Evening Post and the Wakefield Express. Here is a link to one of the articles that was also published on the newspaper’s website:

Spring clean for Nostell Priory dolls house – Top Stories – Yorkshire Evening Post

Happy reading!

Ellie