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Hog & Fitch have enjoyed every project we’ve been involved in at National Trust Lacock Abbey. This time, we were cleaning and listing books from their magnificent library. It’s an ongoing project, and just the sort of thing that we often find ourselves doing when there’s a busy team who just haven’t got the time to focus on a time-consuming project on top of all their other essentialwork.

In fact, that’s so often the reason that Hog & Fitch are called in. We can just work on steadily and independently, without the constant surprises and interruptions that are part of running a historic house. We know only too well what those surprises can be: birds, bats and squirrels; water ingress; blocked toilets and misbehaving drains; power cuts; wandering ruminants; lost dogs, children or articles of clothing etc. We just need to make sure someone tells us when they’re about to lock up, otherwise we’d probably just carry on all night.

The books at Lacock were a delight to work on. We were cleaning and checking them for mould and pest problems and making a basic check list. As always, we wished we had time to linger over every single fascinating volume, but we had a job to do and a deadline to meet. Of course we cleaned the bookcases before reshelving the books.

As books should be handled as little as possible, this was a chance to check and treat some minor outbreaks of woodworm that would otherwise be awkward to spot and deal with and would involve additional movement of fragile volumes. Documentation and the insertion of a layer of tissue paper behind the affected areas will make it easier for staff to monitor activity in future.

The project was in two parts and in two different seasons, with the life of the Abbey carrying on around us each time. In summer, we were serenaded by birds in the cloisters below; in winter, the strains of carol singing floated up from the courtyard and mercifully drowned out the whine of the museum vac. Down in the historic kitchen, Father Christmas was chortling away and delighting a long parade of small visitors. We even found him in our kitchen one day – snacking on a quick mince pie!

Images

All images by Hog and Fitch, reproduced with permission of National Trust