A bit of spit and polish

Unlike cleaning silver (which really smells), cleaning the rest of the metalwork at Nostell is much better, as the wax smells lovely and harks back to the days when housemaids would give a ‘bit of spit and polish’ to metal to clean it on a regular basis. Nowadays, we clean our metalwork once a year.

Poker with flambeau finial

Nostell has a very large collection of fire irons (pokers, tongs and coal shovels). We invited our volunteers along for a day to share with them the skills and techniques used to conserve our metalwork. Having the volunteers with us for a day was fantastic, as it meant we got all of the metalwork in the house cleaned!

In this blog post you’ll find out how we go about cleaning our metalwork. Steel, iron, brass, copper – you named it we cleaned it!

Blue nitrile gloves

Blue nitrile gloves are worn to protect the metal from the sweat, chemicals and grease that exist on our hands.

Metal brush (top) and hog’s hair brush (bottom)

Brushes we use include the metal brush (top) which is used to buff up larger items (particularly copper kitchen ware) and the hog’s hair brush (bottom), which is used to gently brush dust into the nozzle of a low-suction vacuum cleaner.

Low suction museum vacuum cleaner

Goliath lamp – an absolute essential when it’s winter and the house is dark!

Steel wire wool for getting rid of rust

We use the finest steel wool to gently rub away any rust that may have formed on the metalwork.

After the fire irons have been brush vacuumed and de-rusted, we can wax them using Renaissance wax and cotton wool.

Renaissance wax for the fire irons

Metalwork duster/buffer

Once an object has been waxed, we can buff it up using a blue duster (above). An important rule with metalwork is that ‘whatever you put on, you must take off!’ The aim is to buff away the wax residues.

Hard at work waxing the fire irons

Volunteers get to grips with a fender

Thanks to all of the volunteers who came on the metalwork conservation workshop – it was a really good day!

Cleaned and sorted fire irons. Hopefully they will go back into the right room!

We also had a big sort out and inventory of the fire irons, as over the years parts of sets have been moved and swapped to different rooms. After a lot of head scratching, ee managed to arrange them in their correct sets and put them back in their correct rooms. Job well done!

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!

Muniments Room Conservation

One of the most striking rooms inside Nostell is the Muniments Room. It was the main hub of the house and would be where the Estate Steward would have controlled the papers and documents that organised the running of the house and wider estate. ‘Muniments’ could be anything like maps, wage slips, receipts, notebooks, and archives of the Nostell estate. Nostell’s Muniments Room is noteworthy because of the surviving interior fittings and cupboards, which were made specially for the room.

Today it was time to give the Muniments Room a good clean and sort out, in order to open up the room to visitors. Previously, the room had been a ‘holding space’ for some furniture that is now in the Breakfast Room. Now the furniture is out and we looked forward to visitors being able to come into this room. It’s often the more functional rooms that servants would have used that people are interested in.

Drawers in the Muniments Room cupboards

When we began the winter clean for this room, we found mould growth in most of the drawers. We left them out on the floor for a few months to thoroughly dry out all of the mould to enable us to remove it. Dry, inactive mould is much easier to remove than moist, active mould.

Preparing the work space

We start by cleaning off the more obvious marks of dirt and substances that are in the cupboards

Occasionally we have birds which fly down the chimney and into the Muniments Room, like this jackdaw! We caught it with a combination of sheets and a basket, before letting it free into the parkland. We are looking into putting caps on the chimney to stop the birds inadvertantly coming in. We had two jackdaws in as many days!

An unfortunate addition to birds flying around in the Muniments Room…

…which is carefully wiped off with warm water. Some people have all the difficult jobs, sorry Angie!

Lots of debris had come down the fireplace and needed to be vacuumed up.

The drawers were put back in after we had taken off the mould growths.

One of the most beautiful cupboards lies behind this door. It’s behind the door to keep the room looking symmetrical, as there is a door at the opposite side of the room. Nostell was designed to be a symmetrical house.

Original labels survive on some of the shelf compartments…

…including some which are in French! These could date from when Sabine lived in the house (the Swiss wife of the 5th Baronet), or could be an indication of how French was a language for the educated and showed good taste and education.

Here is how the room looks for visitors completely empty so that they can wander around and look inside some of the cupboards.

A job well done!

The Muniments Room  is now ready for the public to go in and enjoy! Hopefully in the future we will recreate it as a ‘working’ muniments room, with replica documents and objects for visitors to look at.

Ellie