What have sausages got to do with conservation?

Yes, you read that correctly. What have sausages got to do with conservation?!

Well, all will be revealed as you read on. After a textile conservation workshop which we held for our volunteers (more about that in a future blog post) we had to put away the objects that we had cleaned.

On our ‘to do’ list were the curtains that had previously hung in the Breakfast Room. Having water come down into the room after a particularly wet week last year meant that lots of the objects inside were moved quickly to a temporary home. The curtains had now been cleaned and it was time to rest store them.

The curtains are being stored in the Muniments Room until they are rehung for the open season, and it is important to rest them correctly to prevent any damage/deterioration occurring.

Manouvering the curtains

Acid-free tissue is placed on tables to create a safe surface for the material to rest on.

The curtains are put into place

Gorgeous golden material

The material used for the Breakfast Room curtains were designed and made after the fire at Nostell Priory in the 1980s. However, it’s just as important to conserve this material as it is our textiles that are much older in date.

And the sausages that are mentioned in the title of this post?

Well, to ensure that no permanent creases appear in the material as it rests in storage, we make sausages. However, these sausages are made out of acid-free tissue paper rolled up into a loose tube, or sausage, shape.

Rolling the tissue paper sausages

Creases and folds create weak points in textiles, and make them vulnerable to splitting and damage. Adding the sausages create rounded creases and lessens the chance of damage.

Arranging the sausages

Folding the curtains over the tissue paper sausages

The curtains will stay here until the new season, when we will rehang the curtains and reattach the pelmets.

I’m feeling quite hungry now, after all this talk of sausages!

Advertisements

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 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.

Textiles and Mould

Housekeeping Training Blog Post No. 3

A key element of National Trust properties are textiles. These come in many forms, from curtains to clothing to wallpaper to furniture to bedclothes to tapestries – the list is endless. So it’s important for us to know how to care for textiles, and equally as important to know how to identify different materials, know of their construction, and how to recognise different types of textile deterioration (for example general wear and tear, pests, light damage, water, inherent structural damage). The photos below show some of the activities that we took part in during the Housekeeping Study Days course.

Examining samples of cotton and linen, learning of their construction and uses

Identifying water damage on bed clothes

Identifying materials and problems to textiles – this photo show silk, pest damage, wool, and in the very bottom right hand corner we looked at an example of inherent deterioration of silk due to the unstoppable oxidisation of the dye

Demonstrating how to clean a chair with a gauze when vacuuming to protect the tapestry material – upholstered furniture is one of the most common items of textiles in a National Trust property

Regular readers of Nostell’s conservation blog will know that we have already had a recent outbreak of mould in our museum room that we had to deal with. The mould session on the housekeeping course was very succinct and informative as to how mould spreads and how it can be cleaned away.

An unusual way of showing how a mould spore spreads, with a knitted mycelium and pipe cleaner fruiting spores!

Equipment used when removing mould, including nitrile gloves, masks and brushes

If you’ve been following our blog you’ll have seen how the housekeeping course covered specific topics that are concerned with country houses, yet the sessions were general enough to be relevant to every National Trust property, and indeed houses in general. The next blog post will see us having a sneaky peek inside Blickling Hall (where the housekeeping study course was held) when the house was closed over the winter period.

Ellie

Spotlight on: Pianos and Curtains

In the Top Hall we have a walnut concert grand piano by Erard, dated 1865. Visitors are welcome to play it when they come to Nostell Priory – so come along and tinkle the ivories!

Today it was the piano’s turn to get a thorough cleaning and inspection, as it is too large to do on a day-to-basis when the house is open to visitors. Here’s a photo account of how it was done:

Brush vaccing the keys – it was too hard to resist playing a melody, so I did!

Checking inside the piano for mould, pests, dust etc – the lid is surprisingly heavy!

Cleaning the pedals

An unusual angle – examining underneath the piano for rust

It’s very dusty under here! As cleaning under the piano will take a long time to do properly, we are leaving it during the winter clean and will do it in front of visitors as part of our ‘Conservation In Action’ programme for 2012.

Even the piano stool gets a turn

All finished! Ready to come out from under the dust cover when we open to the public in March

We also made a start on the Breakfast Room today, and our spotlight here is one of a pair of bright yellow brocade curtains. The curtains are replicas, replacing the originals which were destroyed in Nostell’s great fire in 1980. Most of the furniture managed to be saved, but the curtains and wallpaper needed to be replaced. Despite not being original to the collection, the curtains receive the same care and attention as every other object at Nostell. Here’s how we clean the curtains:

As not all of the curtains are cleaned every year, Angie takes a dust sample. A thin piece of muslin is placed over the nozzle of the vacuum to see what the dust level is like on the curtain.

The dust sample – there’s a fair amount of dust on it so this curtain will be cleaned. You can see the strand of red thread – this is a piece from a visitor’s clothing which has lodged itself high up in the curtain folds, and shows why it is important to dust and clean regularly.

Lower away, Angie!

The curtain fully down. Once cleaned, it will stay this way for four weeks to let it rest. Then we’ll put it up and bring down the other one to repeat the process!

When seen up close, the brocade patterns are really beautiful

The back of the curtains are white in colour – after all, if you are inside you only want to see the stunning colours and patterns, and if the pattern was on both sides the side facing the window would quickly fade.

Carefully vacuuming the curtain

This was the first of our ‘spotlight’ blog posts, focusing on one or two items in detail. As we move around Nostell during the winter clean, we hope to post more ‘spotlights’ so that you can see how we care for different types of objects in the collection. If there’s anything that you would really like to see on the blog (whether it’s textiles, ceramics, metals or anything else related to Nostell Priory) then please get in touch! (See our ‘Contact Us’ page for details).

Ellie