Woodworm Hunters

Now is around the time of year when pests start emerging and flying around once they have hatched and eaten through the wood that eggs were laid. This means that we are extra vigilant when opening and closing the house for any insects that we may see, so that we can identify problem areas.

Recently, we have noticed woodworm lurking in the state bathrooms. This meant an investigation was needed! We didn’t want any infestation (if there was one) to spread to any more of the state rooms.

Woodworm that we collected earlier

Woodworm is the universally known name for the Common Furniture Beetle. People know that woodworm are around and in their houses when they see the familiar woodworm holes (see the photo below).

Woodworm holes

Woodworm can also be known as bookworm (in addition to other paper boring insects), as seen in one of Nostell’s library books, above.

Holes can be present when the woodworm are active or whether the woodworm are not there any more. The way that we can tell is by seeing if there is any frass around the holes. Frass is the sawdust that is the by-product of the beetles chewing their way through wood.

If you look carefully you can see the small piles of frass which indicate the presence of active furniture beetles.

Today we were checking underneath the bath in the State Bathroom for signs of the pesky insect.

Underneath the bath – it has been a long time since anybody looked under here, if the dust is anything to go by!

And it’s not surprising why, as the sides of the bath are solid marble and had to be taken off professionally!

We found what looked like frass and a few dead furniture beetles. However it seemed as though the beetles we had found were coming through the floorboards elsewhere in the room. Further investigation will be needed, and possible professional conservators brought in.

Just to be sure, we treated the area to ensure that no woodworm would emerge from the areas where we found the dead beetles.

Another interesting task encountered by the conservation team at Nostell Priory, and indeed National Trust properties all over Great Britain!

Ellie

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Stonework

Housekeeping Training Blog Post No. 7

As well as considering the conservation of more immediately recognisable objects within National Trust properties such as books, textiles and furniture, the housekeeping study course also covered what could be conceived of as the fabric of many buildings – stonework. This included things like stone floors (often forms the flooring of entrance halls and ground floors) and stone busts (a large number of properties have stone statues and busts). This part of the course was really fun – it’s rare we get the chance to put substances on marble slabs and have a go at trying to remove them! The photos below show a taster of what we got up to.

Sacrificial marble slab where we were taught how to remove different substances, including ash, lipstick, mud, boot polish, olive oil, and red wine (which you do pour white wine over after sponging it up to remove it – it’s not a myth!)

Removing ash from the marble slab

We were also shown how to safely transport and carry a stone bust. Here’s what you do:

The stone bust has a bin which it will travel in, lined with a soft blanket to prevent damage. When the bust is in the bin it is much easier for two people to transport together than if one person was carrying it alone

Putting the bust in the bin, nestled in blankets

Two of the group carrying the bust through the room, having made sure that the route was clear and any obstructions removed

Bust safely transported to the other side of the room and lifted onto a table

A similar technique is used when transporting a stone slab across the room, in a safe manner to protect ourselves and the object. It is upright which makes it easier to handle, and is carefully slid off the table with a blanket for protection, before being placed on the ground upright, resting on some wooden blocks

Stone sculptures in the gardens have protective plastic covers put on them over the winter period to stop deterioration caused by wind, rain, and snow

And that was the end of our housekeeping study days course 2012! We hope that you’ve  liked following our progress during the course, and enjoyed getting a view of how the National Trust conservation staff all around the UK are trained to look after the properties and objects in our care. You should recognise us putting these skills into use at Nostell Priory in some of the upcoming blog posts!

Ellie