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An annual spring clean for stately home’s rooms

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: March 18, 2014

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A STATELY home near Ashbourne has recently undergone a major, annual spring clean in anticipation of increasing visitor numbers over the summer months.

Staff at Sudbury Hall have spent several weeks with the use of a cherry picker just to clean the windows, and are now in the middle of cleaning the high ceilings found throughout the hall.

Catherine MacCarthy, head of conservation at the National Trust in the Midlands, said: “With many of our places now open all year round, the traditional ‘spring clean’ that happened before the start of the season, takes place throughout the year.

“Much of the work to care for the incredible places we look after takes place while they’re open to visitors and we’ve found people are fascinated by what traditionally went on ‘behind-the-scenes’.

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“The notion of an annual spring clean comes from the time when many of the places that the Trust cares for were family homes.

“The spring clean happened in May, at the end of the season when open fires were lit and after the sweeping of the chimneys.

“Footmen were often absent with the family and so the housemaids and estate staff worked through the house from top to bottom.

“Many cleaning tips and tricks have been passed down through the centuries.

“For example, The Footman’s Directory and Butler’s Remembrancer of 1825 suggest finishing the cleaning of mirrors with a silk handkerchief. “Some methods are no longer used, such as cleaning carpets with damp tea leaves to remove dust and brighten colours, or using bread to clean curtains and bed hangings.

“However, some of the cleaning methods employed by the National Trust have been used for centuries, such as using a mixture of paraffin and vinegar on a duster for cleaning wooden floors and employing a variety of brushes: hogs-hair for wooden surfaces, dry sable or pony-hair for glass.”

Whatever the method, the notion of making furniture, paintings and other objects last longer through regular care is something that touches all aspects of the National Trust’s work, as Ms MacCarthy explains: “We can all make much-loved objects last from generation to generation. “In our own homes, it can be as simple as using special paper, such as silver safe, to store precious photographs or acid free tissue paper for storing textiles, and keeping pictures and fabrics out of direct sunlight wherever possible. An hour’s sunlight can add up to a year’s worth of damage.”

Further information is available online at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/newbeginnings

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