Cleaning and condition checking six historic carts in the evocative atmosphere of the stables at National Trust Godolphin was a magical experience in a very special place. Even applying woodworm treatment was enjoyable in that setting!
The carts had not been cleaned in detail for a long time – but it was too big a job for staff to undertake alongside all their other duties. They didn’t need to be pristine or shiny, as that wouldn’t have been in keeping with the spirit of place of Godolphin. However, the layers of dust, bird and bat droppings certainly did need removing, to prevent longer-term damage and enable the vehicles to be appreciated by visitors.
Even on these big robust, outdoor vehicles, many of the surfaces were unstable, with fragile layers of paint, so had to be left alone completely, or cleaned extremely carefully. There was evidence of earlier paint layers, and some of the pieces of dirt and debris trapped underneath could tell us something about previous use, so we wanted to preserve them.
As we cleaned them, colour started to emerge. In a very gentle way, and even after a very light touch, it really felt as if the carts were transformed. As we worked, we were keeping an eye out for active woodworm. It’s hardly surprising that there was quite a lot of it in a semi-outdoor setting like this, so treating it all was quite a mammoth task.
We really enjoyed meeting and working with the Godolphin staff and their volunteer archaeology team, as well as National Trust collections staff from other local properties – and having lunch in the gardens was unbelievably calming, surrounded by an almost tangible sense of the past. Then it was back to the office to write up condition reports so the property team have a good clear baseline for future monitoring.
An evocative and precious place, fascinating large objects, friendly people and a satisfying end result. What more could Hog and Fitch ask?
Main image and below from top: The carts in the historic and evocative stables at Godolphin; details of woodworm frass and bird droppings on the carts before cleaning (2 images); the carts were awkward to squeeze around, with more work underneath in awkward areas than on the more accessible surfaces (3 images); Fiona and Margaret carefully removing loose dust but taking care not to go too far (4 images); woodworming (2 images); condition reporting (2 images); the carts with more colour showing and the space cleaner - but not too pristine; a detail from one of the condition reports completed in the office
All images by Hog & Fitch, used with permission of National Trust