Last week saw two new temporary additions to the conservation team at Knole. Abi and Chezzie, Conservation Assistants from Tyntesfield in Somerset joined us to find out more about the project and experience the day-to-day workings of a different property.
Tyntesfield has recently undergone major building works, spending around 2 years under an enormous scaffolding structure. Last season, we took a short trip to the Victorian mansion with the aim of meeting staff and finding out a little more about what we could expect as a team during a major conservation project and pick up any useful tips.
Abi and Chezzie got in contact and asked if they could spend some time with us to gain some first hand experience of life at another property. The collections at Knole are vastly different to what they are used to working with and therefore present a different set of challenges and care requirements.
The week was planned to make sure the girls got to experience and take part in a variety of tasks on both open and closed days. This included winding the clocks, cleaning textiles, waxing statues in Green Court, helping with the daily clean and opening the house to visitors. They also spent time with Helen and Siobhan, finding out more about Knole, its problems and how these will be dealt with during the project.
Here is a brief look at just a few of the things we got up to during the busy week.
Sarah demonstrates the weekly winding of Knole’s clocks. This is carried out every week by the same person, in our case, Sarah. By limiting the number of people winding the clocks, Sarah is able to notice any changes and gets to know the feel and idiosyncrasies of the clock mechanisms. This reduces the risk of accidental damage.
Later, we took advantage of the good weather and spent some time working on outdoor pieces from the collection. We cleaned the lead water cistern in Stone Court and the statues in Green Court.
The aim of cleaning the metal is not to remove layers of existing corrosion but to create a suitable surface on which to apply a protective wax. After removing any loose dirt and debris with a hogs hair brush, we gently washed the cistern with water and conservation grade detergent. As water is corrosive to metals, it is important to let the water dry thoroughly so as not to trap it below the wax layer.
The microcrystalline wax was then applied using a hogs hair brush. This ensures a thin, even layer which dries to provide the protective surface.
As well as working hard as part of the team, Abi and Chezzie spent time exploring the property, experiencing Knole from the point of view of a visitor in the showrooms and the Visitor Centre, as well as catching a glimpse of ‘hidden Knole’ in areas not usually open to the public. This included a behind the scenes look at the East Attics and the Retainers Gallery and taking in the fantastic views from the top of the tower.
The conservation team had a great time with our friends from Tyntesfield and hope they enjoyed their experiences at Knole. Thanks Abi and Chezzie!
Lucy, Sarah, Emily and Melinda