On Thursday afternoon the carpet was finally rolled, after a bit of a pipe related debacle. The pipe was used to roll the carpet on, to keep it stable during transport. We originally ordered a pipe which turned out to be too large, so an emergency order for a smaller diameter of pipe went in, due for delivery on Wednesday. Predictably it didn’t arrive so a member of the regional building team, Phil, was dispatched to a builders merchant in Gateshead who had what we needed in stock.
Once the pipe had arrived Ksynia, the carpet conservator, her assistant Amy and two members of our team, Katherine and Felicity, spent the afternoon cleaning the reverse side of the carpet, layering acid free tissue paper and wadding into it and rolling it tightly. Then the rest of the House team and some of the Ranger team was enlisted to help with rolling the last 3 metres, wrapping it in its outer coating of Tyvek (a breathable but waterproof and rip-proof fabric) and bubble wrap. We then used lifting straps to carry it down the corridor to the main entrance ready for collection on Friday morning.
On Friday the transport company arrived just after 9am and we wheeled the carpet on scaffold trolleys to the van. Little did we know that was the easy bit, the hard work of getting the House ready for visitors the following day was extremely stressful!
Once the carpet and underlay was up, we found a couple of areas of the floor which needed attention. The first being a loose floorboard, which the building team sorted out. The second was a pair of Victorian sockets hidden under a floorboard below where the round Capstan dining table was positioned. Ksynia took measurements and will check the carpet to see whether there were holes or a patch in the carpet to allow access to them.
The most time-consuming task was traffic waxing the Dining Room floor. Traffic wax is a protective coating for high traffic areas, which obviously the Dining Room has never had before because it had carpet. Before the wax could go on the floor had to be washed and then left to dry completely. After the wax went on, it then had to be buffed before we could even begin to move the furniture back in.
I won’t go into all the other small jobs that added to the pressure, but there were many! We couldn’t have gotten it all done without the help from Dick and Phil of the regional building team and our regional conservator, John.
Below is a gallery of images from Friday, to show the transformation:
We spent Monday morning emptying the Dining Room of it’s furniture in readiness for the removal of the carpet. The room looks enormous! The drugget, which is the sacrificial carpet that visitors walk on, was also lifted leaving only the original carpet in the room.
Ksynia, the conservator who will be working on the carpet when it goes away, arrived on Monday afternoon to begin cleaning the Dining Room carpet ready for it to be wrapped. The pile side of the carpet is being thoroughly (but very carefully!) vacuumed to remove as much dirt as possible before it is wrapped and when it arrives at the conservation studio the other side will also get a thorough clean before conservation work can begin.
The carpet is being transported by a specialist transport company called Constantine which is the first choice for National Trust collection items, as they deal specifically in fine art and antiques. They are due to collect it on Friday, so before then it has to have its clean and be rolled & wrapped.
That sounds simple -it’s not. The clean takes days, after which we need to roll it around a pipe for support and given that the carpet is 6m wide X 9m long, that is no mean feat. It’s made more difficult as it needs to be rolled pile side out so as not to crush the pile.
The roll will be something like half a metre or more in diameter and 6 metres long. There is much discussion on how we will actually move it! The options so far either involve a scaffold frame on wheels, or strapping it on to low trolleys. I dare say the method will evolve rapidly when we start to try things out. I’ll update you all next week with how it was eventually moved, and I’ll try to get some photos.
Every year we join the National Trusts property raffle. For us it’s quite a good deal in that they will fund match what we raise selling tickets and then the total amount stays here on the property for use in whichever project we chose at the start of the season.
This year we will raise money for new window coverings for the show rooms in the house to replace the white nets. The new mesh sunscreens have already been installed in the Library and while they still control the visible light level, they also offer fantastic views of the landscape. Take a look at the photos below – the first is a side on shot of the fabric, then the others show how inconspicuous they are, you almost can’t tell they are there!
In recent years we have raised money for larger projects and had to raise the money over multiple seasons. This year I was really keen to come up with something that would be affordable within a single season. Of course the other benefit of a smaller project like this is that we don’t get tied up in the red tape of planning consent etc. We raise the money then can spend it and complete the project early the following season.
Although our season does not officially start until Saturday 1st March, we do open for the February Half term and have done for the last 4 or so years.
So tomorrow we are open! The gates open at 11am, as do the Gift shop and Tea Room. The House doors will open at 12, with last entry at 3pm, ground floor only. I can’t tell you how pleased I am to get visitors back, the House feels dead and empty in the winter. It’s lovely to get visitors in and to be able to tell the story of the House. For me that’s the whole point of the work the trust does.
And did I mention it’s free entry to both the grounds and the House…
After a fairly quiet couple of weeks with nothing really to report, the House has become a hive of activity again this week. We have begun what is actually a fairly swift process to open the show rooms back up in readiness for the 2014 season.
Opening all of the show rooms (approx 33 rooms, some very large like the Drawing Room, but most of a more modest size) takes around 3 weeks. We started on Monday with some of the first ground floor rooms including the Butlers Pantry and Kitchen.
At half term, which for us in Northumberland is 15th-23rd February, almost the whole House will be uncovered, although only the Ground floor will be open. Usually we would still be working to open the House during Half term and up until the official start of the season in March. This year we’ve had to rocket through it a bit quicker as the 5 days between the end of half term and the beginning of the new season will be taken up with the removal of the Dining Room carpet as it goes away for 9 months of conservation work.
Tomorrow we will be opening up the Library. It’s a large room with many small objects, so it takes a bit of setting out. I’m going to try to take a photo every 30 seconds or so as we uncover it to make a quick slide show of the room getting back to normal.
The conservation team who are soon to take the Dining Room carpet away for its 9 month long, £78,000 restoration have a blog! Who knew?! Have a look at what they wrote in October just prior to appearing on ‘Inside the National Trust’ after being filmed taking a first look at the carpet.
Originally posted on Textile Conservation Studio:
Ksynia and Aimee appeared on National Television yesterday in ITV’s “Inside the National Trust”. A series in which Michael Buerk goes behind the scenes of the National Trust.
In February 2013 they spent a week up at Cragside House in Northumberland surveying the chenille carpet in the Dining room. Inspecting the damage and deterioration of 140 years and drawing up a plan of action for the conservation of this beautiful bespoke carpet.
Next year we hope to bring you more information of the conservation work of this beautiful object.
Check them out in episode 3, looking at this 19th century chenille carpet.
We came back on Monday for our first day back after a long Christmas break. The next few weeks will be spent catching up on the odd jobs and last bits of cleaning so that in a couple of weeks time we can begin to open up the rooms ready for the new season.
The first catch up job we did was a deep clean of the Scullery and Jigger Room, my least favourite rooms to clean. They are obviously part of the servants’ areas of the house and being functional rather than comfortable they have cold stone floors, tiled walls etc. They are cold and fairly unpleasant places to be.
We did have a little surprise when we were cleaning though. Felicity lifted a metal colander-type object and found a small piece of paper. On one side it had a printed picture of Lord Lucan and on the other, in blue biro, were the words “STILL missing Nov 74”.
This is very odd. Firstly, Cragside has no connection to Lord Lucan that I’m aware of and secondly it isn’t an old photograph, it has been printed on an inkjet printer and written on in blue biro. So, why was one of our visitors carrying this around? And why leave it under a colander? Much intrigue. If you are the visitor who left it for us we’d love to know why!