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Closed season

In Uncategorized on November 17, 2012 at 8:36 pm

 This weekend was the first days I had worked during the house’s closed season; everything seemed a lot more chilled out and work commenced with a relaxed precision. Although the house is ‘closed’, the Trust run ‘sneak peek’ tours around a few of the downstairs show rooms, giving the public a glimpse into the history of Polesden Lacey. Three tours are run, one focusing on the life of mrs Greville, another on the house’s art and collection, and the last on how we care for and conserve the property. There’s also a family tour aimed for younger children which is lead by a costumed guide.Each tour is run by a volunteer and is supported by two ‘rovers’ who make sure nobody gets lost or left behind – I helped as a rover on a couple of mrs G tours and learnt a lot just from hanging around at the back! The great thing about having different volunteers lead the tours is that you get so many different perspectives on the house’s history – each person has their own opinions of Mrs G and how she lived her life, making no one tour the same. The volunteers (as I’m sure I’ve mentioned in previous posts) are so, so knowledgeable; when short of tour leaders the house team (including myself) ring round to find an available volunteer rather than doing it ourselves as their stories are so much more in depth!

Apart from running the tours, the house undergoes a deep clean and preparation for the winter season. Ben and I finished closing up the study on Saturday by using a variety of conservational brushes, hoovers (strapped to our backs) and dusters. Working from top to bottom on ladders and down to our knees we made sure all cobwebs etc were removed, as well as checking the condition of the interiors and the objects. Condition reports are taken and filed for every individual item, noting any changes to the structure and any damage or dirt. For example, on a gilded wood picture frame and print, we would note down if there were any losses from the gilding, if any holes or cracks had appeared, and if the print had any discolouration.

Colette cleaning the portrait minatures

Furthermore, every piece of furniture that is not needed for the tours and the Christmas period is wrapped in acid free tissue paper or covered in a dust sheet to protect it during the closed season and minimise the cleaning for when we open again. A lot of furniture moves about the house during this time for storage and protective reasons – the majority of tables and chairs that are usually in the hall are now packed and stored in the study. The hall looks rather bare at the moment, as we are waiting the arrival of the giant Christmas tree and decorations.

Christmas decoration has already begun at Polesden with scaffolding having been constructed to wrap ivy around the pillars on the edge of the balcony above the hall. Helen, Colette and I spent most of Friday morning deconstructing the scaffolding tower (hard hats, gloves and steel toe boots donned) – something I can’t say I’ve ever done before!

Whilst the house is closed, a lot of jobs that can’t be done when visitors are around take place; the wonderful world of mould removal on furniture in the basement has consumed much of the house teams’ time lately, with each member kitting up in a very flattering and stylish all-in-one white suite, accompanied with mask and goggles to protect them from the dangerous mould spores. By hoovering the pieces and then wrapping them in sealed polythene sheets we can prevent regrowth by limiting the oxygen reaching the furniture and controlling its relative humidity, creating a protective mini-atmosphere for each item.

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