We reluctantly close for business for two weeks in February to allow our house keeping team to clean the parts not reached at other times of the year. As we still have open fires and plenty of weddings, day visitors and private parties, there is quite a bit to do.
Carpets are lifted and cleaned from both sides, books dusted and chairs and tables checked for wood worm and polished. Tapestries can be gently vacuum cleaned and picture frames dusted, stone floors scrubbed and wooden floors waxed. Our housekeeper, Rosemary, checks on the condition of curtains and other soft furnishings and then tells me, with rather a nervous look on her face, that something needs repair or replacement. I feel we can afford it, I then tell Lucy, my wife, and she gets it done; she works as an interior decorator and can resist the temptation to go for materials that are cheap (and so would lower the tone of the place).
I wonder if, 200 hundred years ago when the foundation stone was laid, if any thought was given to how the higher level windows might have been cleaned? Perhaps, in those pre-Health & Safety days, small boys were lowered from the roofs on ropes and told to do it, or, more likely, the window frames were removed from the inside and the replace once the windows had been cleaned.
Nowadays, we use a cherry picker for the job and for cleaning the higher levels of the Great Hall, which is nearly 60ft (17m) high. It all went well this year until the cherry picker’s engine ran out of fuel and stranded the cleaner at a great height and unable to return to earth. Luckily, he had mobile reception and could be rescued, just before the office closed. Something to bear in mind for next year’s risk assessment…
JH-B 12th March 2012
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