As my time at Dyrham will soon be at an end, (trying not to think about it) an opportunity arose to do a bit of job shadowing. This was a stipulation of my training course and had been arranged a while ago so I was really looking forward to it. The idea is to experience conservation work in a different environment to compare and contrast with my training at Dyrham. The property I settled on was the magnificent Knole house. Without any money changing hands I bagged a place with the house team for two days to get a feel for the environment on open and closed days. Having arrived the day before, I decided to use the time wisely and visited nearby Ightham Mote. This is a stunning place, made all the more stunning by the warm sunshine.
My first of the two days started with a quick intro to the house staff, most of whom are whipped into shape, (not literally) by Knole’s House Steward, the lovely Emily.
My first task of the day was to dust the rump of a wrestler. Not a real one, a statue in the Orangery. Being a consummate professional I did not blush nor giggle. (Not out loud anyway…) They being sufficiently cleaned I then moved on to another statue and then on to ‘The Cartoon Gallery’ for a deep clean. This is basically an intensive clean of a room, focusing on anything from panelling to painting frames, from floors to furniture. This was shaping up to be a fascinating visit as not only was it a privilege to be working at Knole, it was also interesting to feel an automatic approach to cleaning a room and contents, kick in. It’s one thing to be familiar with a routine of cleaning, but another to apply the principles of conservation cleaning to an unfamiliar and completely different environment. Thankfully my training paid off.
Next on the agenda was a trip to the attic. As my time at Knole drew to an end, I was treated to a tour of the house including some ‘off-route’ areas. These included some attic spaces that show the extent of Knole’s need for serious conservation works, the planning of which is thankfully underway. While in the area I was treated to a look round a sneaky little storage room for a spot of condition checking. This clever use of space management, is part of ‘Knole in Flux’. This is a cheeky little visitor engagement project that instead of hiding major conservation work, celebrates it and engages the visitor. (Who doesn’t love a ‘behind the scenes’!) At the same time this protects items in the collection that are removed from display so the room in question can be accessed and the much needed work carried out.
Having bid a fond farewell to Knole I had a little time for some R&R and so made use of my staff membership while it lasts. Next on the NT tour, Quebec House. Childhood residence of James Wolfe, who’s Valliant struggle in the conquest of Canada ended in tragedy on the battle field. Although facts are scarce, it’s a point in history that’s inspired many a painting…
Last but not least, a trip to nearby Chartwell House beckoned! I had been looking forward to this one. A truly unique property presented beautifully. Chartwell for those who aren’t aware was the residence of a Mr. Winston Churchill. I can see from the first steps inside the complex why he was reported to be so fond of it. ‘A day away from Chartwell is a day wasted’… It’s easy to see how a resident of Chartwell could easily become so fond of it. A fantastic house and beautiful sweeping grounds must have been a perfect oasis of serenity in difficult times… T’was a pleasure to visit. I salute you Mr. C……..