“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!

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!

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!

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

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 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!

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.