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.

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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.

I Spy With My Little Eye…

A few months ago, one of the regular readers of the Nostell Priory Conservation Blog requested that we have a post focusing on the escutcheons and handles that are a feature of our furniture. Escutcheons are the metal fastenings which surround the keyhole of a door, for a combination of protection and/or decoration.

More than happy to oblige, I spent some time walking around Nostell and taking photographs of some of the more interesting examples. Most were supplied by Thomas Chippendale.

It’s amazing what you see when you take time to look!

Prizes if you can guess which pieces of furniture they are from! (No prizes really…)

The three below hail from the Crimson Bedroom. They are a great example of how something so small can be quite beautiful.

Escutcheon

Carved brass escutcheon

Chinese cabinet

Chinese cabinet escutcheon

Drawer handle and keyhole

Ornate handle and escutcheon combination

From the chinoiserie furniture in the State Bedroom come the two examples below. The escutcheons are rather insignificant when you look at the lacquer decoration surrounding them. I particularly like the leopard/cheetah!

Chinoiserie furniture

Chinoiserie handle and escutcheon

Leopard

Chinoiserie cheetah/leopard, and escutcheon

Delicate double round handles in the Saloon, no escutcheon around the lock. Maybe this drawer wasn’t used very often? It’s from a beautiful lady’s writing table.

Writing table

Lady’s Writing Table

I’m sure you can guess the object below…

Harpsichord

Harpsichord

Below is the super small door handle on the false door in the Library. It would have to be unnoticeable so that it wouldn’t detract from the overall effect when the disguised door was closed.

False door

Library false door handle

Also in the Library, the huge writing desk…

Writing desk

Chippendale writing desk in the Library

The lower cupboards around the room also have no escutcheon (see below). This could be so that visitors’ attentions focused on the wealth displayed in the shelves upon shelves of books, rather than on other little details.

Cupboard

Library cupboard

The Medal Cabinet, with a military row of vertical drawer handles:

Cabinet drawers

Medal Cabinet row of drawer handles

What’s this piece of furniture, with no escutcheon around the lock? The picture next to it might give you a clue…

Clock

John Harrison longcase clock

It’s the John Harrison longcase clock! John Harrison is the gentleman in the photo to the left of the clock. Did you guess correctly?

An absolutely gorgeous ecutcheon below, extremely elaborate and decorative!

Escutcheon

Elaborate Chinese escutcheon

And finally, for something completely different…

LionRoar! This chap is carved around the very large keyhole of a wooden chest. The whole chest is intricately carved, interesting to examine, and very heavy to move! It dates from the late 17th century.

We hope you’ve enjoyed having a closer look at some of the details on the furniture here at Nostell. If you have any requests for future blog posts, please let us know and we’ll write one for you!

Spotlight on: State Beds

If you read the National Trust magazine, then you will have read one of the articles in the Autumn 2012 edition. It’s an article about the huge variety of state beds within Trust properties, which got us thinking about the different styles of state bed we have here inside Nostell.

Today’s spotlight blog post brings together our state beds for a closer look at them – large and small! (You’ll see what we mean about small state beds when you reach the end of the post…)

The state bed in the Crimson Bedroom is incredibly striking, and was certainly created to impress as this room has always been used as a guest bedroom. It’s a George III ebonised and parcel-gilt four post bed with shallow domed canopy, close-covered with crimson silk on turned fluted front posts and block feet, with crimson brocade upholstery. There is a reason why the crimson material is still so bright and colourful…

Bed

Crimson Room state bed

…and the reason is that the material is modern! It was made specially for the Crimson Room bed when the room was damaged by the fire at Nostell in the 1980s. The design followed a drawing for the hangings of a bed in the Nostell archives. The state bed itself may have been desighed by James Paine, as we have drawings of a bed very similar to this one by Paine in the archives.

The State Dressing Room was originally designed to be the State Bedroom, and was meant to host the most important guests who visited Nostell. The room changed to being the State Dresing Room in the late nineteenth century, when a four-poster bed was put in the room next door (the present State Bedroom).

Bed

State Dressing Room bed

The bed in the State Dressing Room is a George III green painted and parcel gilt four poster bed. It was designed and made by Thomas Chippendale, and cost £54. The bed is upholstered in modern hand-painted chintz, because the original material was smoke-damaged during the 1980s fire. The State Dressing Room is a really good example of how whole rooms were made to match the bed – if you look carefully you’ll see how chair and stool covers have been made out of the same material as the bed hangings, to create a matching suite.

The grandest bed in the whole of Nostell Priory is the one in the State Bedroom. State beds were created so that if a member of royalty came to visit houses and country estates, the landowners had somewhere suitable for them to sleep. As royalty did not come to every house in the countyry, state beds were not often slept in. This meant that state beds became a status symbol, because if you could afford to buy a highly decorative bed which quite possibly may never be slept in, then you were indeed very rich! Thus, a state bed was often a way to show off your wealth to your friends and acquaintances. During a house party at Nostell in 1936, this room was slept in by the Duchess of Westminster.

Bed

State bed in the State Bedroom

Nostell’s state bed is a nineteeth century green painted and parcel-gilt lit a la polonaise with an oval fluted canopy and domed interior. It is covered in buttoned eau-de-nil cloth, with hangings of flower-printed corded cotton. The material is extremely fragile, and so the curtain and blinds in the State Bedroom are never opened in order to prevent deterioration due to light damage. It is a beautiful bed, and the domed top is rather impressive!

When you move off the state floor and up to the second floor of the house, the beds become less extravagant. (This does not mean that they are not beautiful, as I think they are much more pleasing to the eye, and are certainly more inviting to sleep in!)

Bed

Peacock Bedroom bed

In the Peacock Bedroom is an early Victorian bird’s eye maple bed, shown in the above photograph. Some of the other furniture in this room (wardrobe, desk, dressing table, mirror) were designed to match the bed. The drapes would definitely have been necessary to hang around the bed to keep the draughts out, as the North Bedrooms are very very cold!

The two photographs below show two further four-poster beds in the North Bedrooms which we are researching to find out more about them. The rooms were slept in until the very late twentieth century by the family, and have relatively modern hangings. In the first photo (the Big North bed), you can see how high the bed is off the ground – it’s the highest at Nostell. A small set of mahogany steps would have been used to get onto the bed, which have unfortunately been lost. These days you would need to take a running jump!

Bed

Big North Bedroom bed

Bed

Blue Bedroom bed

What is particularly interesting about the Blue Bedroom bed is that the fabric of the bed hangings were modelled on the fabric of one of the beds in Nostell’s Dolls’ House. Other pieces of furniture in the room were also modelled on those in the Dolls’ House. Look out for a future blog post where I’ll compare the two rooms in more detail.

We think that the beds in the North Bedrooms are much more inviting to sleep in than the grand state beds shown previously!

However, it’s not only the main house at Nostell that boasts state beds – the Dolls’ House does too! The interior of Nostell’s Dolls’ House is decorated in the mid-eighteenth century style, and contains almost all of its original furnishings.

Bed in a Dolls' House

Dolls’ House Yellow Bedroom bed

The Yellow Bedroom bed is possibly similar to what the Crimson Bedroom looked liked when Nostell was built (1735 onwards), as the Crimson Room used to be known as the ‘Amber Room’. Unlike the human-sized state beds, the ones in the Dolls’ House are only around five inches high!

Bed in a Dolls' House

Dolls’ House Red Bedroom bed

The Red Bedroom in the Dolls’ House has undoubtedly the grandest miniature state bed (and comes complete with a grand lady, too!)

Although it’s unlikely that our Dolls’ House was definitely modelled on Nostell Priory, it’s fun to find similarities between the rooms. However, the Nursery Bedroom (below) in the Dolls’ House was the inspiration for the Blue Bedroom inside the main house. The fabric provided inspiration for the bed hangings and curtains, the dressing table and mirror were copied, and so was the colour scheme for the walls. Even the fire place is uncannily similar!

Bed in a Dolls' House

Dolls’ House Nursery bedroom

We hope you’ve enjoyed this spotlight tour of Nostell’s state beds. Which is your favourite state bed at Nostell? Let us know!

The House Team

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

Angelica Kauffmann returns – with a video surprise!

One of our star items at Nostell is our oil painting by Angelica Kauffmann, titled ‘Self-portrait of the Artist hesitating between the Arts of Music and Painting’, dated 1794. For the majority of this year, the painting (fondly known simply as ‘Angelica’) has been on display in the Angelika Kauffmann Museum in Schwarzenberg, Austria, as the chief object in the exhibition, ‘Angelika Kauffman and the Music’.

Angelica returned last week, and the furniture in the Small Drawing Room had to be moved to one side to accommodate her re-hanging. The room looked rather disorganised, as you can see in the photograph below.

Furniture in the Small Drawing Room

The Small Drawing Room looking unusually untidy

It took us a morning to put all of the furniture back into their original positions. As an experiment, we filmed the moving on a time lapse camera, and are quite pleased with the results!

If you watch the video below, you’ll see two members of the house team scurrying around to get everything right in time for the opening of the house – enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAKywNtGato&feature=plcp

Below is a photo of the finished room, with Angelica back in pride of place on the south wall. Everybody is pleased to see her back where she belongs! You can find out more about the painting by looking on the National Trust’s collections website at: http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/960079

Small Drawing Room

The Small Drawing Room back to its usual neatness and splendour!

We hope to record more time lapse videos during the winter period to share with you. Who knows what you’ll see us getting up to next!

You can also view Nostell’s YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/NostellPrioryNT and watch other videos that we have made over the past few years.

The House Team

What are you doing?

‘What are you doing?’ was a common question asked when the conservation team were up in the Blue Bedroom working on the ceramics collection.

Suggestions included that we were painting, restoring, cleaning, washing, touching up, or gluing objects together. A few perceptive visitors worked out what we doing. Now that we’ve excited your curiosity, we’ll tell you what we doing…

Equipment for inventory marking

Equipment set out for today’s job…

We were inventory marking! Did you guess correctly?

Inventory marking involves clearly marking objects with an identification number.

Ceramic bowl

Objects to be marked included small and delicate ones, and large and heavy ones like this ceramic bowl. Usually we marked them on the bottom, so that they are unobtrusive and don’t spoil the aesthetic ‘look’ of each object

Collection of ceramics

Ceramics ready to be marked. We had our own complex organisational system at our headquarters, which was the Blue Room bed!

Inventory marking is important for a number of reasons. If an object has an identifcation number, it allows us to keep detailed records about it. For example, we can note when objects are sent away for professional conservation. It allows us to add notes about routine checks to an item’s condition report. It helps with locating an object’s whereabouts, and help with security records, in case of any damage, loss, theft, or insurance. Inventory marking also assists us to identify objects that might be of interest to researchers, scholars and National Trust staff by having object records collated in a collections management database.

Staff member inventory marking

Hard at work inventory marking

Ceramic pot

Inventory marking gives us the opportunity to examine the items as we inventory mark them. This piece is a Pyramid food warmer, invented by Samuel Clarke in the late 19th century. It would originally have had a contraption underneath it that would hold a tea light or a candle. They were often used to wean children off breast milk by heating up milk, or to heat up water.

Black ink pen

Writing the numbers with the ink pen was difficult due to the contours and awkward shape of some of the objects we were marking

Small paintbrushes

Small paintbrushes were used to apply the different layers used in the inventory marking process. No surprise that many people thought that we were painting! We were, in a roundabout sort of way…

It’s quite fiddly work, but satisfying to tick items off a list when they have been inventory marked! Just a couple of hundred more items to go…

What do we use cotton buds for?

What do we use cotton buds for? You might be surprised to learn that we use them to help conserve some our precious furniture here at Nostell Priory.

Cotton buds are useful as they are very soft and very small, making them perfect to get inside the nooks and crannies of furniture to clean away the dirt, dust and grime that is attractive to pests and which aid an object’s deterioration. They are also cheap to acquire, which is another bonus!

Cleaning with a cotton bud

Cleaning the gilt decoration on a cabinet in the Tapestry Room with a cotton bud

One of our conservation tasks was to clean the two large cabinets in the Tapestry Room.

The first is known as the ‘Flemish’ cabinet, and is a tortoiseshell and ebony cabinet on a stand. It has eleven drawers surrounding a central cupboard, and is framed by columns. It dates from 1670 – 1700.

Cabinet in the Tapestry Room

‘Flemish’ cabinet in the Tapestry Room

Examining a cabinet in the Tapestry Room

We shine a bright lamp at the cabinet to examine for pests, any mould, woodworm holes etc so that we can check its condition

Cleaning a cabinet in the Tapestry Room

White gloves are worn to protect the tortoiseshell, ebony, and gilt from the oils and grease on our fingers.

Once the ‘Flemish’cabinet was completely clean, we moved onto the second cabinet in the room. This is the ‘Golle’ cabinet.

Cabinet in the Tapestry Room

The Pierre Golle cabinet

The Golle cabinet is made out from ebony, marble and marquetry. It’s thought to be made by Pierre Gole in France. It has twenty-four various-sized drawers  (both visible and secret drawers!) which surround a central cupboard enclosing a mirror-lined and stepped interior. The cabinet is panelled with light brown marble imitating buildings in landscapes, the borders inlaid with brass and pewter scrolling foliage and plaques and painted to imitate marble. It is sat on giltwood paw feet. The cabinet dates from 1670-1700.

Pierre Goll’s cabinet was an heirloom of the d’Hervat family, and was brought to Nostell by the 5th Baronet’s Swiss wife Sabine in 1781 as part of her dowry.

Cabinet in the Tapestry Room

The front of the cabinet is magnificently decorated, and when you open the drawers you can see the bare wood. The craftsmanship behind the beautiful exterior can be appreciated.

Cabinet in the Tapestry Room

Elaborate brass escutcheon on one of the drawers on the Golle cabinet. It is decorative rather than practical, as the drawers would probably not have been used often and the wood surround would not need as much protection from rough key usage than door locks may need. Look out for a post on Nostell’s wide variety of escutcheons soon!

Cleaning a cabinet in the Tapestry Room

Work in progress

Eventually we finished cleaning the cabinets. We did the work in front of the public as part of our conservation in action programme, and they really enjoyed seeing the cabinets illuminated, as usually the Tapestry Room is kept slightly darker to preserve the tapestries which hang on the walls.

We hope you enjoy looking at the cabinets when you visit Nostell!

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!

Cleaning the Billiard Room Curtains

One of the tasks which is completed on a rolling programme (meaning it’s not done annually, but alternated with other items) is cleaning all of the curtains in the State Rooms.

This time it was the turn of the Billiard Room curtains! They are made from dyed cotton, and date from 1870-1930. There are three curtains in total, and comprise of floral printed ribbed cotton curtains and swagged pelmets held with rope tie-backs.

Cleaning the Billiard Room curtains

We have to put the scaffolding up to reach the top of the curtains as they are so high. This is a big job as we have to recruit many people (about eight) to help us move the billiard table so that we can put up the scaffolding, as the table is really heavy! We also take the opportunity to change the lightbulbs in the chandelier you can see, as usually we can’t reach it!

Cleaning the Billiard Room curtains

The curtains are cleaned with a low suction vacuum cleaner which has thin gauze tied around the nozze to stop material being sucked in. This gets rid of any dust which might harbour pests and contribute to the deterioration of the curtains.

Cleaning the Billiard Room Curtains

Talk about sitting down on the job!

Brightly coloured curtains

Usually the curtains are gathered up and tied back, but when we are cleaning them we have the chance to look at them closely. The curtains retain their bright colours of reds, blues, and greens because the amount of light falling on the curtains is relatively low.

Back of the curtains

Whilst the front of the curtains are beautifully patterned and coloured because people see that side, the back is very dull in comparison. This is purely functional, as if nobody sees the back, there is no reason to spend money on fancy patterns if they will just fade in the sunlight.

Back of the curtains

However, the back of the curtains can be interesting too. We can see the mechanics of how they are tied to the plasterwork. If you look closely, you can see two shades of pale brown. The darker is where part of the textile panelling was replaced during conservation work.

After two days of work, the final result is a great addition to the visual impact of the thousands of books which line the walls of the Billiard Room at Nostell Priory.

Finished Billiard Room curtains

The clean and finished curtains in the Billiard Room. Magnificent! Photo copyright National Trust / Robert Thrift.