Done & Dusted Winter conservation in Wimpole Hall

House work

This has turned out to be a bumper issue web page. That wasn't my intention at the outset - it's a reflection of the work going on in the house at this time of year.

It might seem an odd thing to say, but I feel the house takes on a far more interesting look once the winter conservation work begins. The sight of the dust covers on the furniture and the light picking out the covers' folds and creases makes a great subject for photography. So, this photo story begins with pictures of rooms 'at rest'.

South Drawing Room
South Drawing Room
Ante Room
Ante Room
South Drawing Room
South Drawing Room

Extreme cleaning

The winter of 2016/17 will be the last one when the house is fully closed to the public at that time of year. Therefore, it's the only time that I will get to photograph what is one of the major annual tasks at Wimpole. The cleaning, dusting and covering up of the contents of each of the public rooms began in the late autumn.

My photography of the work continued in the New Year when staff and volunteers returned from the seasonal break. Hopefully, the images speak for themselves, so I've kept the commentary text to a minimum. I've also added a short caption to each picture to help interpret the scene.

Carrie in the Ante Room re-positioning the scaffold gantry.
Carrie in the Ante Room. The use of the bright lights is essential for seeing while working on poorly lit surfaces.
Lesley working in the South Drawing Room.
Before being covered, each ornament is carefully cleaned.
Barbara uses a soft brush to remove the dust which is collected in the vacuum hose.
Lesley and Barbara work methodically through every object in the South Drawing Room.
Cleaning the small table while it's placed on the trestle table makes the task easier and more comfortable.
Every surface of an ornament is dusted with care.

Mrs Bambridge's Bedroom

The first floor rooms had already been 'put to bed'. The fact that there wasn't any cleaning being done helped emphasise the stillness of Mrs Bambridge's bedroom. Alternatively, the Lord Chancellor's Bedroom evokes a different mood created by the light from its north aspect windows and dusky pink colour scheme.

.Mrs Bambridge's Bedroom
Mrs Bambridge's Bedroom
Lord Chancellor's Bedroom

Conservation work

Downstairs in the South Drawing Room the winter conservation work continues. Each ornamental object will have its condition inspected and recorded before it is cleaned. Once cleaned, an entry is made in the ring file for the room.

Lesley and Christine in the South Drawing Room. Lesley consults the ring file for the room.
Dust gets everywhere...even in the cabinets.
Christine dusting the cabinet.
Christine in the South Drawing Room.
There is a different type of brush and technique for each type of surface.
Attention to detail is the key to this kind of cleaning.

Long Gallery

During the winter cleaning, the Long Gallery takes on the appearance of a place where serious polishing gets done. This is also a room that has its floor used as a temporary area to place the cleaning equipment and sheets.

The 'work table' in the Long Gallery.
Looking to the north end of the Long Gallery.
Looking to the south end of the Long Gallery.
Long Gallery
Signs of work in the Long Gallery.
The south end of the Long Gallery.
Denise polishes the brass in the Long Gallery.
Denise works up a shine.
Like the other staff and volunteers, Denise makes sure she is well wrapped up for working in the chilly rooms.
Val consults the file that holds the inventory for the Long Gallery.
Lesley cleaning one of the chairs.
Val vacuums a window seat cushion through a fine mesh to ensure no damage occurs to the fabric.
Once vacuumed, Val wraps the cushion in tissue paper.
Carrie works her way around the Long Gallery cleaning the surfaces only accessible using the scaffold gantry.
Carrie brushing one of the picture frames.
The ornate plaster work attracts dust.
Before cleaning the chair, Lesley makes a note of its condition for the record.
The cleaning of the chair begins.
Lesley and Carrie have to move a cleaned and covered chair back into the room it came from.
Care is taken moving the furniture - both for the chair and the backs of Lesley and Carrie.

South Drawing Room

Work continues in the South Drawing Room. With so many ornate surfaces and drapes, this isn't quick work. The platform plays a vital role in being able to get up safely to the high level surfaces,

South Drawing Room
Val makes sure that hidden surfaces of the curtains are vacuumed
South Drawing Room
The curtains require time and patience to get properly cleaned of dust.
Carrie puts a shine on the window panes.
No surface is left un-cleaned.
Carrie uses a finer bristled brush to get at the intricate surfaces of the mirror frame.
The vacuum is designed so that it can be attached to the person while they are working.

To be continued

I'll be taking more photographs of winter conservation work in the house over the coming weeks. This will, hopefully, give me an opportunity to explore different ways to shoot this activity. In the meantime, if you have missed any of the previous 'photo stories', scroll down to find links to them.

The South Drawing Room done and dusted

Previous Photo Stories

See more photos on my website

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Photography by Mike Hodgson

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