Phase one of our work at National Trust Quarry Bank Mill was helping with the conservation clean of 13 Oak Cottages. The cottages were built by Samuel Greg for the Quarry Bank millworkers. They would have provided better conditions than those that the town-based industrial workforce endured but life in them must nevertheless have been cramped and basic.
No 13 is sometimes known as ‘the pickled cottage’ because it was closed up in the 1970s and maintained but otherwise left untouched. What a good decision that proved to be. Now the Trust are planning to open it again – and it sounds certain that visiting will be a genuinely thought-provoking and emotive experience.
Hog & Fitch were called in to help the busy National Trust team carry out a conservation clean after the completion of building works in preparation for the next stage of the project. It's exactly the sort of work we love doing.
The fragile wallpaper needed just the very gentlest of dust and cobweb removal with a soft brush, as did some of the flaking paintwork on the windows. We all spent a lot of time gently ‘conservation wiping’ the more robust painted surfaces and were rewarded with plenty of evidence of layers of grime, although we had to maintain the right level of historic dirt and avoid over-cleaning. We also removed grit and dust from floors ready for re-instatement of lino and carpet on the stairs.
There’s nothing like carrying buckets of water from the cellar up and down the narrow stairs to help you identify with the people that lived somewhere before you. Working in this small building was a real privilege and the experience will stay with us for a long time.
Image captions are at the bottom of the page.
Main header image: upstairs at no 13 Oak Cottages
Images from top: Angela fetching water from the cellar; exterior of Oak Cottages, built by Samuel Greg to house the millworkers at Quarry Bank; a mixture of surfaces inside that needed cleaning, including extremely fragile wallpaper, some flaking and some more robust painted surfaces and some awkward spaces (5 images); gently brushing the more robust areas of the wallpaper (2 images); 'conservation wiping' for the more robust areas of paintwork revealed quite a lot of grime (2 images); cleaning the narrow staircase ready for the new carpet to be laid (2 images)
All images by Hog & Fitch, reproduced with permission of National Trust