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Blog & Projects

Cleaning the Great Halls at Audley End & Eltham Palace

June 2014

Earlier this year we were asked to carry out a couple of cleaning projects at two of the south of England's most notable historic houses; Audley End in Essex and Eltham Palace in Greenwich. Both houses have wonderful Great Halls, which needed to be deep cleaned. 

AUDLEY END

Audley End is an magnificent historic house located just outside Saffron Walden. It is widely considered to be one of England's finest Jacobean houses (built between 1605 – 1614) and today contains the original furniture and paintings of the Braybooke family who lived there during the 1800s.

The Great Hall is notable for its finely carved original Jacobean wooden screen.

With cleaning like this, museum brush vacs and soft to medium density brushes are the most efficient and effective way of removing dust and dirt. Smoke sponges are also effective at removing loose dust from surfaces. Cleaning always starts at the top of the room and works downwards. 

 

 

ELTHAM PALACE

Eltham Palace is a unique and extraordinary historic property. It was a medieval royal residence from the 14th – 16th centuries and was then transformed in the 1930s into a luxurious private home by Stephen and Virginia Courthauld.

It is a wonderful and exciting mix of Art Deco interiors and medieval architecture – and the imposing Great Hall has the third largest timber hammerbeam roof in England.

As with Audley End, most cleaning was carried out with museum brush vacs and brushes.

 

 

 

 

 

More engrained dirt however sometimes required the use of microcrystalline wax. 

Both these houses are hugely enjoyable to visit, and at this time of year their gardens and grounds are at their most stunning. For details of summer events click here

English Heritage produce very informative notes for teachers about many of their Historic Houses, so if you would like to know more about the history of Audley End or Eltham Palace just click on these links.

 

Cleaning a Marble Statue of Dr Hunter

January 2014

We were very honoured recently to be asked to clean the statue of Dr Hunter at the Royal College of Surgeons in London. The statue is much loved, being of Dr John Hunter - the famous 18th century scientist and surgeon for whom the Hunterian Museum and the Hunterian Society are named.

   

 

 

 

 

 

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Helping to care for Kenwood House

November 2013

If you've ever had building works at your home, then you'll know that builders = dust. Of course, building dust occurs wherever works have been going on, including beautiful and historically significant properties which have been undergoing restoration work.

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Training Museum Volunteers

October 2013

We have recently started providing training in Preventive Conservation (conservation cleaning & housekeeping) for museum volunteers.

(This is Christopher training volunteers at Hall Place, near Bexleyheath.) 

 

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Decorative Plasterwork: Dust, Dirt & Stain Removal

July 2013

If you've ever cleaned the top of cupboard, or high bookshelf, you'll know that just because things are high off the ground, doesn't mean they don't get dirty. Anything with a surface horizontal enough to stop a particle of dust or pollution from falling, will, over time, build up a layer of dirt. Decorative plasterwork is a case in point. 

   

Beautiful mouldings in plaster have been used for centuries to decorate the interiors of rooms - particularly on high walls and ceilings - however just like surfaces closer to the ground, plasterwork needs to be cleaned to remain looking its best.

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Chandelier Cleaning

May 2013

Cleaning chandeliers is one of our very favourite things to do. We do not use sprays - which leave a residue and can be very damaging - but rather each crystal is very gently cleaned by hand. Although it is meticulous and often painstaking work the results are always so lovely and satisfying. A newly cleaned chandelier is not only utterly beautiful itself, but it also completely transforms the look of a whole room.

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Cleaning a Collection of Marble Busts

Feb 2013

No matter how smooth it's appearance, the thing about marble is that it is porous. And those tiny holes mean that dirt can easily become embedded in the stone. This causes discoloration overtime – like in the first photo – and cannot be removed with regular dusting.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of our recent projects was cleaning a collection of 18th & 19th century marble busts; so in this blog we thought we'd explain a little about how we went about it. 

There are various ways of cleaning marble. 'Wet' methods include the use of detergents, spirits, poultices and steam, but because the stone is porous these all carry risks and are invasive. The use of liquid Latex is also effective, however it widely considered overly invasive because the results often make the marble look too clean and new. 'Dry' cleaning is the least invasive method – and as you can see above the results can still be quite remarkable.

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The Hobbit & Caring for Rare Books revived....

Jan 2013

As the film The Hobbit continues to pack cinemas around the country, and attention is again focused on JRR Tolkien's extraordinary works, it seems like an apt time to revive one of our first blogs; Caring for Rare & Valuable Books.

 

In our original blog, we talked about a client of ours who wanted his collection of rare books cleaned and protected, and we explained how we went about this.


 

In an interesting aside, we actually recently cleaned and boxed a few additions to this client's collection, including two letters from Tolkien himself to a "Mr Jackson" regarding a stage production of The Hobbit. How cool is that! Maybe Peter Jackson would be pleased to know that a namesake and fellow "back-room boy of the drama" actually got to correspond with the great man.

 

More photos of the letters are on our Facebook page. 

 

Click here to read the original blog.

 

 

Cleaning & Protecting an Original London Underground Sign

Jan 2013

 

Ever wondered just how dirty a London Underground sign becomes after years of hanging on the side of a tunnel? Well let me tell you. Pretty darn dirty.

This original sign (recently purchased by our client at an auction and destined to be displayed outdoors in his garden) arrived looking fairly clean on its front side; but on the reverse– as you can see – there was extremely thick layer of original London Underground grime. (There is grime, and then there is proper Dickensian grime, and this – I can assure you – was proper grime.) Unsurprisingly therefore, our first task in preparing this sign was to clean it thoroughly; and as the sign was enamel, this task was pretty straightforward i.e. mild detergent, warm water and a soft cloth. It took a while – and considerable elbow grease - but it came up a treat!

 

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Why Humidity is so important to Antique Furniture

October 2012

 

We have mentioned this subject before on this blog; however as Autumn is now very much upon us - and therefore so is central heating – and knowing the terrible damage which can occur through neglect of this issue, it seems right to revisit it, and impress again on all you owners of antique furniture, the importance of humidity.

 

This lovely little antique satinwood table used to live in a period property; and did so, very happily, for many years. Last summer the owner moved to a modern house, and by April of this year this is what had happened. Basically, a combination of better building insulation and central heating conspired to parch the wood of moisture, and caused the warping and cracking you can see in these photographs.

 

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Helping to clean Eltham Palace: One of London's Greatest Architectural Treasures

September 2012

 

Built by the Courtauld family in the 1930s, Eltham Palace is not only an Art Deco architectural masterpiece, but it is built on the grounds of Henry VIII's childhood home, and as such combines original Tudor structures with stunning early 20th century design in a truely dramatic and beautiful mix of the Medieval and Modern.

 From the palace's stunning Rolf Engströmer designed entrance hall and Virginia Courtauld's gold plated bathroom, to the restored Tudor banqueting hall and original moat bridge, this extraordinary place is quite truly a 'one off' and a wonderful place to visit and experience.

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Conservation Cleaning at Down House; the Historic Home of Charles Darwin

August 2012 

      
 

 

 

Just like all homes, historic houses need regular cleaning; and because of the amount of visitors they have (the more foot traffic, the more dirt) keeping interiors and collections clean is a constant concern.

At English Heritage's Down House – Charles Darwin's remarkable Kent home – the challenge is even greater, because not only is it one of the most popular visitor attractions in the South East (i.e. lots of foot traffic), but the Darwins' personal belongings are displayed just as they would have been when the family lived there.

 

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Helping to care for the Werhner Collection (The Magnificent Decorative Art Collection of Julius Werhner - founding member of the De Beers's Diamond Company)

August 2012

Have you ever taken a tour around Ranger's House in Greenwich? This stunning 18th century Georgian Villa, and magnificent fine art collection - amassed by a founding member of the De Beer's Diamond Company -  is one of London's finest collections of European decorative arts, and a hidden jewell of South London. 

 

We were very pleased to recently assist in the conservation cleaning of this collection.

 

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Maintaining & Displaying Tapestries and Wall Hangings

July 2012 

All textiles are susceptible to environmental damage, and wall hangings and tapestries are particularly vulnerable because they are often displayed without protection. Pests, UV light and inappropriate hanging are three of the most important things to watch out for.

Pests are attracted to dust and dirt and will eat natural fibres, so keeping tapestries and wall hangings clean is a priority. The best way to clean textiles is with a museum brush vac (MBV) and textile netting, which allows dust and dirt to be gently sucked away without causing damage. Generally this type of conservation cleaning should be carried out every one to two years, depending on the location of the hanging. (If a hanging is located in a high foot traffic area then it should be cleaned more frequently.) Regularly check all tapestries and wall hangings for any signs of pests, and using a museum trap to monitor insect activity is advisable.

 

 

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Antique Tortoiseshell, Ivory, Bone & Mother of Pearl: Cleaning and Storing

June 2012

Although tortoiseshell, ivory and many types of bone, are rightly no-longer used in the manufacture of decorative items, for many centuries their beauty and malleability made them highly sought after materials for decorating everything from jewellery to furniture.

Ivory was used to make umbrella handles, piano keys and billiard balls, as well as being carved to make decorative figurines and used as inlays in furniture. Tortoiseshell was popular in the manufacture of hair combs and boxes, but was also more recently used to make guitar picks and glasses frames. Mother of pearl is still used to make jewellery and as an inlay, and some types of bone are still popular in the manufacture of knife handles and other decorative items.

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Interview with David Lilly: Founder of Simply Stained Glass

April 2012

David Lilly is a renowned restorer, designer and manufacturer of stained glass, and the founder of Simply Stained Glass www.simply-stained.co.uk. He is an expert in the care and restoration of both historic and modern stained glass, and in this interview provides some invaluable tips regarding conservation and maintenance, as well as discussing a few of his interesting projects. 

 

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Westminster Review Article

 We were recently featured in the Westmister Review. Please click the image below to read the full article. (Image courtesy of SketchNews.co.uk)

 

Caring for Silver: Do's and Don'ts

March 2012

Silver is a soft metal; it is easily dented, scratched or damaged. Always take care when handling it.

Touch your silver pieces as little as possible as fingerprints accelerate tarnishing.

All silver exposed to air will tarnish over time. Sulphur compounds - mainly hydrogen sulphide in the atmosphere – react with the metal and cause the surface to darken. Certain substances, however, cause tarnish to develop more quickly; these include wool, newspaper, rubber, paint, velvet, carpet padding and felt.

 

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Storing Vintage Clothing

February 2012

London Fashion Week is upon us, and over the coming days we will surely be wowed by the cutting-edge clothes on our capital's catwalks. This week is naturally about what's new in fashion; however, vintage clothing is also a passion for many people, and the desirability and collectability of vintage clothes has grown steadily over recent years.

 

Just like other fragile and delicate objects, clothing will deteriorate if not cared for properly, so below are a few tips on keeping vintage garments in good condition.

 

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Looking after Decorative Ceramics

February 2012

Ceramic Art 2012  and The Antique Ceramic and Glass Fair are both taking place at the end of the February. Here are our head conservation housekeeper's top three tips for looking after your decorative ceramics.

Firstly, in terms of display, try to avoid placing ceramics in high foot traffic areas, as this increases the likelihood of breakages. Displaying items behind glass will help keep them clean, and using museum wax to secure the base of a piece will stop it moving or sliding on a shelf.

 

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Antique Furniture and Central Heating

January 2012

When the weather is cold, we all naturally turn up our central heating. We humans may enjoy living in a toasty warm house, but unfortunately your antique furniture probably finds this time of year a bit of a challenge.

 

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Cleaning Antique Furniture: Dust Cementation

January 2012

Last week we were asked to clean a number of lovely Georgian antiques at a beautiful home in the Oxfordshire countryside. Well looked after, the pieces were in fine condition; however years of simple domestic dusting had allowed dirt to build up in the corners, carvings, and grooves of the pieces, and this had started to concern our client.

 

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Caring for Rare and Valuable Books

January 2012

We were recently asked to have a look at a collection of seven first edition Tolkein books for a client in London. The books were in good condition and were stored adequately well - behind glass and along an internal wall - however the owner was anxious about their exposure to UV light (which passes through ordinary glass) and the possiblity of damage from insects.

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