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Moving and reorganising the workshop at National Trust Lacock Abbey, June 2017

Big projects don’t happen without a lot of work behind the scenes. Creating the new tea room at Lacock Abbey was no exception. Hog & Fitch are often called in when busy staff need extra pairs of hands that they can trust. We just never know what’s coming next.

Our brief at Lacock was to pack up the contents of a workshop and reorganise them in order to protect them and create essential storage space for the new tearoom. The timescale was tight and the contents were a bizarre and utterly beguiling mix of materials, complete with all the smells, substances and surprises that should make up any decent workshop or shed!

It could have been daunting but, for us, packing up each shelf was like a mini adventure. You really didn’t know what would appear next. Unruly octopus-like coils of cable threatened to engulf fragile 1950s and 60s advertising materials. Gloopy tubs of oil nestled precariously against old tobacco and tea tins with who-knows-what inside. Endless plastic pots of screws and nails were a packing nightmare for us but any DIY enthusiast’s dream!

Packing this diverse (and often spiky or spongy) set of objects safely sometimes felt a bit like an iq test. Fitting them in to make best use of the boxes, distributing weight, and avoiding pressure points was challenging but oh so rewarding when it worked.

Good documentation was essential; everything had to be checked against the inventory and its new location noted. There was a strong incentive to get it right first time, too. Neither of us wanted to have to delve back down into the bottom of a carefully packed box to check whether there were 2 or 3 small metal nuts nestling down there.

We then listed and photographed additional items that weren’t on the inventory, so the Trust had basic records for future use. It was also part of our job to separate some of the less historic items from those that might be used later if the workshop were to be recreated in future.

Not everything needed cleaning, other than brushing off some of the more extreme deposits of sawdust. However, all the way through the packing up we’d been aware that we were being watched patiently by around 60 telephones – all waiting to be cleaned and packed away safely. Most were covered in gritty deposits and dust so this was perhaps one of the most satisfying cleaning jobs we’ve ever had.

The hours were long and we can’t pretend it was the cleanest job we’d ever done, but what a wonderful time we had working in the Abbey. And how much we appreciated the efficiency and foresight of House and Collections Manager, Sonia, and the warm welcome and fascinating tales from the volunteers.

IMAGES AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Main header image: telephones before cleaning

Images from top: boxes packed with box lists in place at the end of the project; the crammed and evocative workshop space at the beginning of the project (2 images); some of the objects seemed to have a life of their own; others were just really fragile; everything that would fit into boxes was packed in them and listed - it felt like a 3d iq test at times; we loved the design of the archival material; gradually the shelves began to look emptier; documentation was key and we were so glad of all the work that had already been done before we started packing; the telephones were a challenge and a delight to clean and pack away safely (9 images); as the packed boxes stacked up, we gained space to organise the rest of the workshop; everything packed, documented and organised and fitted into the allocated space; Hog & Fitch - tired but satisfied and delighted to have worked on this project.

All photos by Hog & Fitch, reproduced by permission of National Trust