“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: https://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!

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!

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

How many National Trust staff does it take to change a light bulb?

One of the jobs that conservation assistants do on a regular basis is one that you also do at home. From the title of this blog post you can probably guess what the task is – that’s right, changing the light bulbs! I haven’t counted how many we have, but at least four or five bulbs fail every week and need changing (this could be due to the type of bulb used, a poor connection, or faulty wiring). After all, the electrics at Nostell are fairly old!
 
Many of the bulbs are in items which are easily reached, such as table lamps. Others, however, are in far more awkward places! It was these awkward bulbs that the conservation team were changing today. We had eight bulbs to change. All of the bulbs today were in the two lanterns which hang above the main staircases inside Nostell.
 
One of the lanterns is by the famous furniture maker Thomas Chippendale, and one is a very good replica.
 
The above picture is the Chippendale lantern. It is a George III gilt-bronze hanging lantern. It has a hexagonal body with narrow uprights cast with bullrushes and upspringing foliage surmounted by rococco urns and joined by arched and scrolled bands entwined with flower swags rising to a scrolled cresting. The scrolled base joined by husk swags to a tapering finial surmounted by a chimera. Although the lantern is not mentioned in Chippendale’s surviving accounts, it corresponds closely to one of his designs in his 1762 Cabinet Maker’s Director.
 
The other lantern is an excellent replica, made by Linford Bridgeman Limited in 1998, and is made of giltwood with a hexagonal body.
 
In this blog post we’re sharing with you the process of going and changing Nostell’s most awkward lightbulbs.
 
 
Team Harness!
For safety, we have to be attached to the building at all times.
Why is this, you may ask?
 
 
Because we are going on to the roof, and harnesses stop us from falling off. We will be climbing into the roof cavity in the ceiling.
 
 
Open Sesame!
 
 
Not only one person has to fit into the tiny roof space…
 
 
as in goes the second one!
 
 
We’re attached inside the roof space too, in case the floor below us falls in (it shouldn’t do, but just in case..)
 
 
 
Up in the roof spcae we’re getting ready to wind down the lantern so that it can be cleaned, and the bulbs can be changed.
 
 
The winch.
 
 
As the lantern is lowered, the conservation team gather below, mesmerised by the sight (and are ready to catch it if it falls!)
 
 
Two become three….
 
 
Angie anchors the lantern as it comes onto the stairs, and the signal is given to stop the lowering.
 
 
Changing the light bulbs.
 
 
We also take the opportunity to clean the lantern whilst it is down. This is done with pony hair brushes and low suction vacuum cleaners.
 
 
Steadying the lantern whilst it is cleaned.
 
 
A smiling Julie dusts the lantern. Who says we don’t have fun at work?
 
 
It’s a team effort to do it quickly yet thoroughly and carefully, as the lantern is in a vulnerable position when it is so low down.
 
 
From our position in the roof space, we can look down where the cable and chain goes to see the team cleaning the lantern far below us. Seeing things from a different angle, you might say!
 
 
The modern winch (from the replica lantern).
 
 
The old winch. Both are quite stiff and need a lot of strength to winch at a steady, slow speed to minimise swinging of the lanterns.
 
 
 Inside the tiny roof space.
 
We are finished! The signal is given that we can raise up the lantern. Once it was secured, the last task is to make sure that the hatch on the roof is locked up safely, which brings to an end a good morning’s work for the team.
 
That is, until the bulbs go and we have to do it all over again!
 
Ellie

Spotlight on: Highlights of Nostell Priory

A few months ago saw the launch of the National Trust Collections website. The website holds details of almost every item within the National Trust and all of our properties. It means that you can see what treasures we hold in our properties from the comfort of your own homes!

Here’s the all important link: http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/ You can also see highlights from individual properties, including Nostell. These ‘highlights’ are what are considered the foremost pieces in a property’s collection.

To see all of Nostell’s highlights together, follow this link: http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/search/highlights/Nostell-Priory,-West-Yorkshire-(Accredited-Museum)/1

Can you guess what we’ve included in the highlights of Nostell Priory?

We have chosen a mix of paintings, furniture, and a cabinet. The highlights are listed below (in no particular order). If you click on each link it will take you to the web page for that particular object, so you can read about it in more detail. Don’t forget to vote in the poll at the bottom of the page for your favourite highlight!

1. The Hongs Bowl http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/959642

Hongs Bowl

2. The Dolls’ House http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/959710

Dolls’ House

3. Lady’s writing table http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/959738

Lady’s writing table

4. Medal Cabinet http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/959788

Medal cabinet

5. John Harrison clock http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/959830

John Harrison clock

6. Barometer http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/959831

Barometer

7. Brueghel’s The Procession to Calvary http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/959460

Brueghel

8. Lockey’s Sir Thomas Moore and his Family http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/960059

Lockey

9. Hugh Douglas Hamilton’s Sir Rowland Winn, 5th Bt (1739 – 1785) and his Wife Sabine Louise d’Hervart (1734 -1798) in the Library at Nostell Priory http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/960061

Hugh Douglas Hamilton

10. Hogarth’s Act 1, Scene 2 of The Tempest by William Shakespeare http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/960074

Hogarth

Do you agree with our highlights? You may have your own favourites from Nostell that you would like to see included. Let us know! Vote in the poll below and find out if your favourite object is the same as everybody else!

So go on, check out the links to have a look at our collections online – it may inspire you to come and see the objects in real life!

Ellie

Spotlight on: Dressing Tables

For this ‘spotlight’ post I decided to focus upon two items that are included in Nostell’s ‘open cabinet’ plan. A lot of the most interesting cabinets and cupboards at Nostell Priory can’t be open all of the time for visitors to see as they are too fragile, and would be at risk of damage if left open constantly (from such agents of deterioration as dust, wear and tear, light, humidity, and sadly theft). The ‘open cabinet’ system involves a set number of these really unusual pices of furniture which are opened on rotation for visitors to see.

I thought we’d have one spotlight item for the ladies, and another spotlight item for the gents – and both happen to be similar items! They are both dressing tables, the first is a lady’s dressing table and the second a distinctively masculine one. Both pieces were created by the famous furniture maker Thomas Chippendale.

Lady’s Dressing Table, in the State Dressing Room

It’s a George III green and gold lacquer lady’s dressing table, with a serpentine hinged and divided top. If the conservation team are in the room when visitors are in the State Dressing Room we often open the top to show them the inside…

…which looks like this! It’s a mahogany divided interior, resting on cabriole legs. As the cabinet would not be left open on a regular basis, the inside wasn’t painted and decorated like the outside of the table. There is a pin cushion in one of the compartments, and you can see Julie holding one of the original glass bottles, which may have contained perfume.

The mirror comes out to rest at an angle, so that hairstyles can be seen, jewellery admired, and general preening occur! This dressing table matches a set of chinoiserie furniture which is in the State Bedroom.

Gent’s Dressing Table, in the Crimson Bedroom

The gent’s table is a more sedate affair. It too is a George III mahogany dressing table, this time on reeded (not cabriole) legs. There is a concave-fronted cupboard below the top drawer. When the top drawer is opened we see…

…this! A fitted drawer with compartments and a green baize-lined shelf (possibly for writing). When the baize shelf is pushed back and the drawer compartments opened, the contents are revealed…

…and here they are! There are cut-throat razors, a shaving brush, two spherical pomade pots, two dainty glass bottles with silver covers, and (believe it or not), a tongue scraper!

A close up of the drawer, complete with an array of contents considered necessary to make a gentleman groomed and presentable to his peers.

As ever, if you have a wish to see a particular object/room/painting/style/thing to do with Nostell Priory on the spotlight blog posts (or indeed any of our Nostell Priory Conservation Blog posts) then send us an email or leave us a comment – we’d love to hear from you!

Ellie

But how did they get up there?

One of my favourite rooms (possibly my absolute favourite, although there are some strong contenders!) is the library. Visitors also love seeing all of the books from floor to ceiling, and often wonder what knowledge and surprises are contained within the books.

One of the most frequent questions that people ask us is how we reach the books on the higher shelves in the library. For the Billiard Room, where the shelves are really high, historically they used really tall ladders to get the top shelves (which probably didn’t happen very often). Unfortunately none of these tall ladders survive at Nostell.

In the Library we know what they used to reach the high shelves as we still have the piece of furniture that they used!

And here it is…

It’s a set of Thomas Chippendale George III library metamorphic steps. The invoice dates them to the 4th of July, 1767. They cost the grand sum of £14.

Fully extended, the steps dimensions are 1840 x 1250 x 580 mm. This makes them big enough to reach the highest shelves in the Library (but not the super high shelves in the Billiard Room).

We’ve decided to open up the metamorphic steps and have them as our ‘open cabinet’ for a while, as we all like seeing such an impressive piece of furniture opened up as the Winn family who lived at Nostell would have had it.

Here are some photographs of us putting it together (complete with much scratching of heads and re-reading of the instructions!):

We lift the seat up and part of the steps fold out to provide some initial structure. Then it’s a case of fitting all of the parts together and slotting them in correctly!

The metamorphic steps are made out of polished mahogany, although the inside of the steps aren’t polished like the outside, as nobody would see them!

Carefully positioning the steps

Attaching the top support

The seat of the steps (which becomes the back when it is opened out) is padded with horse hair

Looking up the steps – it’s a long way!

Metamorphic library steps, with the Library’s false door of books in the background

And there we have it – a fully functioning set of metamorphic steps that the Winn family would have used to get books from the top shelves in the Library.

Fully opened set of Chippendale metamorphic steps in the Library of Nostell Priory. The painting next to the steps shows Lady Sabine and and Sir Rowland Winn, 5th Baronet, standing in Nostell’s Library next to Chippendale’s library desk. It was painted by Hugh Douglas Hamilton, and dates to 1767. Sir Rowland commissioned the painting because he was enormously proud of the Library once it was finished, and wanted to show it off to his London friends, so hung it in their house in St. James Square.

Now, which book shall we look at first…?

Ellie

State Dressing Room – Conservation in Action

We’re very keen to share our conservation work with visitors, so that they can see the ‘behind the scenes’ work that we do to look after Nostell Priory and its collection. With this in mind, as part of our new ‘Conservation In Action’ programme, a lot of our conservation work is done in front of visitors so that they can have a look and ask questions when they see us around during their visit. Visitors especially like seeing us working along the main visitor route in the state rooms on the first floor, and moving from a room which is pristine to one which is chaotic with stepladders, vacuums, brushes, and lamps strewn about! This week is was the turn of the State Dressing Room, which was ready for a deep clean.

Angie talks to a family about the conservation work they are seeing

Julie vacuums the carpet with a special low suction vacuum cleaner

The State Dressing Room all messy with equipment everywhere

Nostell’s State Dressing Room was originally designed by James Paine as the main State Bedroom where the most important guests would stay. A four-poster bed was introduced to the room next door in the late nineteenth century, and what was the State Bedroom became known as the State Dressing Room. The wallpaper (see the photograph below) was supplied by Chippendale in 1771, and had a brightly coloured pattern of a multitude of birds in bright pinks, blues, and greens on a white background. It is now much faded.

We have to get into the smallest of spaces. I’m in between the State Dressing Room bed and the wall, in order the clean the dado rail in the alcove

Julie cleans the fireplace – let’s hope she isn’t sucked up, Mary Poppins-style!

The fireplace is quite intricately moulded, and has to be cleaned very thoroughly as fireplaces are where pests like to lurk

When cleaning the floorboards underneath the bed with a dolly mop there’s only one thing for it – get as low as possible!

View under the bed when cleaning

Dirt accumulated from one half of the floorboards underneath the State Dressing Room bed. We use removeable cloth heads for the mops, so that they can be washed easily. It took three of them for the floorboards to be completely cleaned!

The feet of the bed aren’t actually on the floor – there is a second set of feet behind them with castors on so that the bed can be rolled, rather than lifted as it extremely heavy!

The ‘Dome Bedstead Japan’d Green and Gold’ was specially designed for the room, and cost £54. It was made with ‘its feet posts as Near as posable together to give as much room as posable to pass by’. Chippendale did not supply the fabric, which may have been bought earlier by the 4th Baronet. The current material was made for the National Trust in 1982 after smoke from the fire which gutted the Breakfast Room damaged the existing Edwardian material.

Let there be light!

Drum roll… and we have a finished, clean State Dressing Room. Who knows which room we’ll be found in next?

Clean and tidy State Dressing Room – a job well done!

Ellie