About 25 years ago, we had the chance to be the location for a BBC film of John Masefield’s story, The Box of Delights. It was a very appropriate choice as Masefield was a Ledbury poet, and now local people in the Ledbury area will have the chance to see the film again – see the Ledbury Reporter.
It is fun having a film at Eastnor, but hard work. We are with the crews all the time they are on site, and they start early. The BBC crews in particular are used to working in historic houses and treat the contents with care. They usually have everything they want in the way of props, but occasionally we can help with more authentic items form the collection.
I will always remember the Box of Delights filming, because one night we arrived from London to see the North Wall of the house in flames. As we arrived in the Courtyard, our fears were further increased by seeing a number of fire engines parked there. But all was well. It was a special effects fire, created well away from the wall but not obviously so from a distance. The fire engines were there just in case – fact took over from fiction.
JH-B 20th November 2009
Our house keeper, Rosemary and her regular team, Sue, Ness and Emma who have been reinforced by Janet, who helps in the office, and Sue, who does our internal catering, have just about finished the spring cleaning of our rooms open to visitors.
Although these rooms get a thorough clean every week and some are cleaned daily, there is no substitute for the annual treatment they receive when the house is closed. Furniture and brass are polished, chandeliers are dismantled and cleaned, chimneys swept, carpets lifted and vacuumed and stone floors are scrubbed. It is hard work, but Rosemary says she welcomes the chance to do a really thorough job, and the results are evident, with everything looking bright, with a good smell of fresh polish permeating the atmosphere. Occasionally, when in doubt, Rosemary refers to the National Trust Manual of Housekeeping: which has most of the answers we need.
My job is to arrange to have a few things repaired. This year, we have had two lampshades relined, some door panels off a wardrobe re-lacquered, a chair re-caned and the two huge sofas in the Great Hall re covered with a material chosen by my wife Lucy, who luckily is an interior designer. We have also taken the chance to improve our emergency lighting in the public areas so the painters have been in, making good in the places where the electricians have been working.
It all looks very good, and I hope the visitors will come and appreciate when we open at Easter. JH-B
Eastnor is very much still a family home, so our visitors come across our pets as they wander about the house and grounds. I am fond of cats as we always had one here when I was a boy, so when Rosemary, our housekeeper, suggested it might be a good idea to get a couple of cats to patrol the cellars to keep the mice away, I readily agreed.
Here is an image of one of them, Nutkin, relaxing in the February sunshine on the bonnet of a car. She is very much not on duty, but I assume she is building up her energy to do so later. She is a good mouser, at least outside, and I fear the owls may be short of food as a result of her activities. Although we clearly understand why she was recruited to the house team, she often misses the point herself, bringing mice into the house rather than driving them out! We keep her away from the soft furnishings in the public rooms, otherwise she scratches the material as she stretches her claws, but she and her sister are very welcoming to our guests and enjoy their company.
In the winter, when the sun is not shining, which is most of the time, Nutkin likes to come into my office and sit on paper that we want to file or put her wet paw marks on letters we are about to send. When my back is turned, she will sit on the relatively-warm keyboard of my computer (if it is on), which is not conducive to productivity and modern working methods. Until I swapped my monitor for a flat screen, she would sit on that, her tail occasionally flashing across the screen. So far, she has left the mouse alone.