Wood fuel keeps Dyrham Park's collections cool

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Looking after a baroque mansion and looking after nature may not seem to go hand-in-hand, but at Dyrham Park in Gloucestershire, one new item is soon to bring the two together.

Many of the English tapestries and Dutch paintings inside Dyrham Park’s mansion have been resting in the same place for more than 300 years. Preserving their colours and materials is an art in itself, and a task that has been something of a challenge for the team there due to the building’s archaic heating system.

The Victorian system has been struggling to get the right balance of heating and humidity – this is bad news for the precious paintings and tapestries because it puts them at risk of mould and fading.

But now a special conservation heating system, which will be powered by wood, is set to be installed at Dyrham. The project is part of a £3.5m overhaul to save the spectacular mansion from crumbling away.

House and collections manager Eilidh Auckland said it was a huge relief to know plans were in place to protect the much-loved collection for future generations to enjoy.

‘The new heating system will be of huge benefit to the care of the collection. With the help of conservation volunteers we’ll be able to control the temperature and humidity in the mansion for the first time,’ she said.

Saving collections, and the environment
That’s great news for the paintings and tapestries at Dyrham Park. But how will this new heating system benefit the environment too?

The old, Victorian boiler at the property only heats half of the mansion, and goes through 8,000 litres of oil every two weeks. That's four per cent of all the oil used by the National Trust across the UK. The new system will be powered by a clean, green biomass boiler that will have the capacity to heat the whole house. Instead of relying on oil it will run off locally-sourced woodchip.

‘The woodchip is a by-product of woodland management in the local area. It will be brought in from the South Gloucestershire countryside, just north of Dyrham Park,’ Eilidh said.

Switching to locally grown, sustainable energy at Dyrham Park is part of our wider commitment to protect special places for the long-term. We’ve pledged to produce 50 per cent of our own energy using renewables by 2020.

What’s next?
The project is currently in the planning and design stage with construction work set to begin in spring of 2015. Future plans include the addition of a second biomass boiler to heat Dyrham Park’s tearoom and shop. This will mean green, conservation heating for the entire property.

We want to make sure that Dyrham Park’s beautiful house and grounds can be enjoyed by everyone, forever. We’re carrying out emergency conservation work on the mansion’s roof and higher-level stonework as well as making plans for the biomass boiler, but we need your support to make this happen.