Spring cleaning on a grand scale

Clock winding can take hours and hours of careful work © Paul Bailey

Clock winding can take hours and hours of careful work

Spring is in the air and many people might be turning their thoughts to the annual, super spring clean.

The houses, halls, mansions and castles we care for are no different, but here everyday tasks take on a whole new dimension: clock-winding can take hours, lawn-mowing days, and hedge-trimming or window-cleaning weeks, if not months.


Vacuuming the stone floors and steps of Tattershall Castle takes around four hours and involves a climb of 149 steps with a vacuum cleaner.

Four and a half hours are spent every day dusting (often with specialist brushes), cleaning and preparing Belton House for visitors, while winding the clock in the clock arch takes two hours, a delicate hand and a head for heights are certainly needed for this job.

Gunby Hall is home to twelve beautiful clocks, dating from 1699 to 1895, all of which are wound once a week, each with a slightly different knack and requiring a surprising amount of strength.


The team at Clumber Park cuts over 26 miles of grass verges every two weeks and strims around 2,000 lime trees. In the walled kitchen garden thousands of seeds and plants are being planted, including 500 potato seeds of over 20 varieties. From April onwards the team will also start “pulling” over 130 different types of rhubarb.

At nearby Mr Straw’s House, the team’s major task takes place indoors: it might be one of the National Trust’s smallest houses, but it has one of the biggest collections and archives (over 13,000 objects so far).

Over in Southwell, the team at The Workhouse list toilet cleaning as a year-round job, as it would have been for the paupers who had to move the night soil from the privies and scatter on the garden as fertilizer. This season’s loo lectures (on the back of toilet doors) reveal a new series of tales.


Cleaning the windows at Dudmaston Hall is a four person job and takes a whole day, while keeping the property’s two wood chip boilers fed is a year-round occupation.


A major weekly task at Greyfriars’ House and Garden is clock-winding: the property is hosting a clock day on 24 May 2014 to share with visitors the care and attention the clocks need.

At Hanbury Hall and Gardens, it takes 12 hours to complete an everyday dust and vacuum of the house, plus around four hours to mow the lawns once a week.


Mowing the 26 hectares at Lyveden New Bield takes seven volunteers one day each per week.


Lighting the fires at Moseley Old Hall is a major undertaking: the wood and kindling is collected from the gardens before at least 20 minutes of pumping bellows to get the fire going.

Hedge-cutting is a considerable task at other National Trust places in Staffordshire: at Wightwick Manor and Gardens it happens twice a year and takes months; while at Biddulph Grange Garden it takes all four gardeners six weeks to complete it all.


It takes several weeks and the use of a cherry picker to clean the windows at Sudbury Hall.

Mowing the lawns at Kedleston Hall is a full-time job for one of the gardeners, while vacuuming at Calke Abbey takes at least two hours every day (longer in bad weather).

At Eyam, simply changing a light bulb can take an hour because of the number of different bulbs and fuse boxes.


Winding the clocks at Croft Castle is quite an art: it takes two hours every Thursday afternoon.


Although not part of the spring clean, it takes approximately three months from August for two full-time gardeners to trim all of the one hundred yew trees in the garden at Packwood House, with weekly assistance from up to three garden volunteers throughout the year.

All this talk of chores tired you out? Discover spring walks, colour and wildlife near you to relax.