Good preventive conservation can greatly preserve the life of precious historic buildings, interiors and their contents. Stopping the damage happening in the first place is far better than having to deal with the results afterwards. That was the focus of our training sessions at Arley Hall in Cheshire.
It’s easy to see why Arley’s elegant historic interiors and stunning grounds attract so many weddings, film crews and events bookings every year. For these guests, it’s a truly memorable and unique way of feeling part of the Hall’s history, as well as the opportunity to enjoy a perfect backdrop for their big day.
But of course all that use brings significant challenges for the hard working and dedicated team that look after the fragile interiors at the Hall and make the guests welcome when they arrive.
Our morning session was about the sinister sounding ‘agents of deterioration’ that threaten historic collections – with a focus on the small steps that the team could take to reduce their impact.
That might just be a different way of picking up a chair, using different cleaning solutions, moving an object out of direct sunlight or providing increased protection for floors during events. Sometimes old fashioned traditional practice is best; sometimes modern conservation research has found a new solution. Often, it’s a mixture of the two that works best.
In the afternoon, we looked at some specific cleaning and protection methods for floors and furniture. Floors are a particular challenge at Arley because of the impact of events that have a big focus on food and drink.
We were delighted to be invited back a couple of weeks later to work with the team on cleaning, waxing and buffing the small dining room floor.
Now there’s nothing Hog & Fitch enjoy more than a bit of floor polishing, especially when our energy levels are restored by a slice of Arley cake (cinder road for Angela; olive oil and hazelnut for Margaret). We made a mental note to return as visitors to enjoy the gardens in summer and sample more cake options at leisure! The best reward, however, was seeing the floor well protected and knowing that the team are confident to continue with the other floors in the house.
So finally, here’s a toast (white wine only…) to all the conservation cleaning teams that work tirelessly behind the scenes to get just the right balance between protecting their historic interiors while enabling guests to enjoy them. That balance can be a difficult one and a lot of hard work - but we really care about getting it right.
Good feedback like this is always a pleasure to hear, too:
‘It was a fantastic introduction to conservation and gave us a brilliant general insight into all the areas that we need to bear in mind when caring for a historic house. It was all relevant and just the right level of detail to give us plenty of things to think about and how we can improve what we do, and yet not overwhelming. I think the whole team found it really interesting and relevant, and are inspired to try and implement your methods…We now have a very long wish list of equipment, but I think the best investment was having you both at Arley for the day, so thank you very much.’
Main header image: Angela talking to Arley staff about cleaning products (good and bad!) and equipment for conservation housekeeping
Main page from top: Angela talking about equipment and materials; Margaret demonstrating the effect of the agents of deterioration; Angela demonstrating equipment for cleaning furniture and panelling; Angela demonstrating floor care techniques (2 images); Margaret applying wax to one of the floors during a hands on session with the Arley team; the Arley team working together to apply wax to the small dining room floor - one of the areas that experiences a lot of wear; Angela demonstrating the importance of the correct floor buffing technique; the finished floor - we were all proud of it.
All images by Hog & Fitch, reproduced with kind permission of Arley Hall