We've been working away a lot this year with more diverse projects. Work for National Trust this year has taken us back to Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire and on a return trip to Lindisfarne Castle on the North East coast. We're now at Penrhyn Castle, on our first visit to North Wales.
More follows soon but here's a quick summary of what we've been up to so far this year. You couldn't have three more contrasting projects.
At Lacock, we were documenting, rationalising and repacking the astonishingly diverse contents of the village shop. We came across everything, from string bags and stockings to plasticine Magic Roundabout kits to an air raid warden's notebook. Perhaps most challenging were the jars of brightly coloured rainbow sweets, some of them in surprisingly intact condition, while the boxes of pristine Christmas decorations and wrapping paper took us both straight back to childhood. We can't pretend that it was all mouthwatering, but there was never a dull moment and we just loved being involved with this eclectic and evocative collection. How gratifying it was to see things safely packed away and listed to make life easier for National Trust staff in planning the future of a fascinating bit of Lacock's social history.
In contrast to the picturesque charms of Lacock, Lindisfarne Castle was wild, windy and rugged - and full of builders. The Hog & Fitch journey to work was via the scaffolding - hold on to your hard hat! Those winds were quite something. We were cleaning up behind the builders, after a major project. A lot of our time was spent on our knees removing paint and plaster from skirting boards (a lot of it old - this was the chance to deal with old residues as well as more recent ones) and patiently working away at beams, steps, doors and floors. Other objects included portcullis mechanisms, a 1950s boiler and Lutyens furniture that was too large to move out of the castle when we helped empty the contents out in 2016. It was a privilege to be in these dramatic architectural spaces while they were empty and to work to the sound of the wind whistling down chimneys and around the scaffold outside.
We've also had music while we worked at Penrhyn - this time from the volunteers playing the piano in the vast cathedral-like space of the Grand Hall. We're carrying out a deep clean of the library and Lord Penrhyn's sitting room and valet's room, as well as helping the conservation team prepare areas of the keep for public access later in the year. Everything is on an enormous scale and literally every surface of the library is decorated. Those carvings certainly put up a fight before giving up their dust, and it seems fair to say that the designer did not exactly have conservation cleaners in mind when he put the scheme together. This building is extreme in every way; working in these spaces, you and your longest ladder feel tiny and it's easy to lose a colleague at the other end of a room. We simply love its size, its drama, its general sense of excess and we are very happy indeed to be spending time getting to know a small corner of this great big show-off of a building.
Header image: cleaning beams and steps in the Upper Gallery at Lindisfarne Castle
Images from top: working in the library at Penryhn Castle; assessing the collection of full sweet jars at Lacock High Street Shop; cleaning and checking the inside of the bacon settle in the Lindisfarne Castle kitchen
All images by Hog & Fitch, permission of National Trust