Monthly Archives: May 2012
Next on the list, I was volunteered to create a display we had been talking about setting up since the winter. A fantastic collection of old keys had been re-discovered and needed to be displayed. This I took great delight in doing as some of the key designs are wonderful. An unfortunate side effect was that due to my tendency to be a little ‘OCD-ish’, it took me a little longer than was necessary as I kept arranging and then re-arranging… They do make a great display and show how key designs have changed over the decades. Unfortunately, in favour of the simple and functional. One key we would love to include as it is the oldest, but is in constant use, is the key to the front door of Dyrham’s church. It’s a whoppa! (technical term)
Dyrham’s house manager Eilidh made a triumphant return from maternity leave this week and hit the ground running with a plan of action. In no time at all we had a tidy-(ish) office and a ‘jobs to do list’. After the house had a good clean, we had an opportunity to have a good look at a Dyrham treasure. ‘The Blathwayt Atlas’. Not only are they examples of the earliest maps of the British empire, but they also contain maps of areas of the world that little was know of in the early 1700’s. They must have been of fundamental importance to Mr. B, and is a fascinating insight into the concept of the world as it was. (Something that has changed so dramatically in comparison to the modern age…) Also this is an important link with the ‘Arts Council Collection – A World Away’ installation, to the collection here at Dyrham. The originals are at Brown University Providence and we have been looking for an excuse to proudly display our copies of them…
As we at Dyrham are a little short on storage space, there are some issues that get resolved with some very creative thinking. This was recently put to the test when we needed to pack up the curtains from one of our state beds, to be sent for conservation work. The problem was the box we needed to use was at the top of a staircase. Nicely sandwiched between three other boxes of a similar size. (I would like to point out at this point this is no ordinary box, or size…) logistics are a speciality too at Dyrham… So having chosen our receptacle we had to move the box at the top onto the floor to get to the one we wanted, then move the one we wanted down the stairs. Sounds simple enough, and although the box is made of a wood frame and Perspex sides it’s not the weight that’s the issue but it’s impressive 3300+ mm in length. As luck would have it our chief maintenance operative Paul was passing and lent an extra hand. (He dreads hearing the phrase ‘you got a minute?’ as it usually means he’s busy for an hour.) So, six flights of stairs, four landings and a few breathers later we had the box where we wanted it, against all odds a few laws of physics and lady gravity herself.
Next came the task of moving the curtains from the box to a shelf in the mystical ‘textile store’. (Cue creepy music and dry-ice) Making the most of the closed day as it’s next to the visitor route, we first had to move the box to the store. (Not an easy task if any one knows how ‘romantically snug’ some of our doorways can be.)
Next the main event. Carefully removing the curtains of our beloved Queen Ann bed
So the box can be used to transport yet more drapery. This I don’t mind saying reminded me a little of carrying items in our Delft-ware collection. Imagine moving something really heavy, priceless, fragile and unique and it only just fitting on the shelf!
With Acting House Manager Lin on training days and annual leave for two weeks I had the unique pleasure of running the house during her time away… If ever there was a ‘step up to the plate’ time it was now. With many a volunteer to manage and various duties I was kept very busy. When visiting the house on a rainy day we ask our visitors to wear ‘blue over-shoes’, (They’re all the rage in Paris and Milan don’t you know…) basically to protect our beloved 300 year old floors and carpets from damp and muddy feet. This system although not perfect is great for minimising visitor impact. The only downside being when they are deposited at the end of the visitor route they fill up the bins quicker than you can empty them! (A small price to pay in conservation terms.) Our room guides, as usual, proved invaluable. On a few occasions, we had less than the required guides to open the house, and I had to step in as room guide myself, and re-arrange the rota system (nicknamed ‘The Dainton System’ after Katy’s valiant efforts in drawing it up…) at the same time as tend to the usual house manager duties! After a hectic schedule in charge and with many a ‘couldn’t have done it without you moment for staff and vol’s alike I looked forward to a bit of R&R.
On my triumphant return to Dyrham towers I decided to bring a gift in the form of rain. Lots of rain. Unless you have been living under a particularly dry rock you’ll know what I mean. This unfortunately sent torrents of water to the courtyard which looked like a lake at one point, and right outside the stable block. It was decided we would close for health & safety reasons but it was the right call to make. When trying to assess the situation my ‘macho nature’ took a tumble when I needed to see Katie M and got a piggy-back from ‘Garden Queen Sarah’ across the flood, much to the delight of the outdoor team, just as I spotted a shallow bit… As the roof and cellar are not the most water tight areas of the property I was given the task of inspecting both, so I went armed with a torch & camera. The trip to roof void area is easy if you have the build of a Hobbit so by the time I had got up the ladder, crouched along through the various ‘Alice in Wonderland’ type doors and emptied the drip buckets, I was sure glad to stand upright…
A trip to the cellar is always welcome and has been ever since a colleague informed me a T.V. version of Dracula had been filmed down there. But Count C. has long since left the building and with no sign of excess water, Bats or anything sinister it was time to return to the surface-world…