The five agents of decay at Upton House
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The superb collections and decorative features at Upton House owe their condition and survival to many years of meticulous care and protection.
Our conservation team work year round to help conserve the contents of this special place and the building itself for you to enjoy. There are many factors that contribute to the deterioration of Upton.
1. Dust and dirt
Upton welcomes thousands of visitors each year, and with each pair of shoes (however clean) a little amount of dirt will get into the house. You just need to lift up the rug in the hall to realise the effects of this. Luckily most of the dirt will come off by the time people leave the hall. We've recently put down rugs in the hall to combat this and to protect our original flooring.
We dust daily, using specialist equipment to reduce abrasion and to prevent further decay.
2. Wear and tear
Constant touching of our collection, even just a light touch, can build up to cause deterioration. Gilding on porcelain is particularly vulnerable and so our conservation team takes particular care when dusting or handling the collection. As you’ll notice in other National Trust places, there are prickly teasels on some of the chairs, this is to prevent anyone from sitting on them. We have samples of the effects of wear and tear dotted around the house so you can take a look for yourself.
We monitor the humidity in the house to keep it at a consistent level. High humidity can encourage pests, mould, corrosion and swelling. If the humidity is too low shrinking and cracking can occur. To prevent this, we have humidistats throughout the house that monitor the humidity levels and automatically raise or lower the levels accordingly.
Have you ever wondered what the small card boxes are that are located in peculiar places in National Trust houses? They are insect traps to see what insects can be found in a certain area. Insects can cause a huge amount of damage to objects. Woodworms and moth are particularly unwelcome at Upton. They can destroy wood and eat through our delicate fabrics. In the past we've had problems with moths eating away at our chairs in the long gallery.
It's difficult to get the right balance of light in the house. We want to let the light in see Upton's beauty. But we need to make sure we don't speed up the deterioration of our fantastic art collection and delicate tapestries. In the dining room, our Stubbs paintings are particularly vulnerable.
To combat this, we use UV filters on our window panes. We also use blinds to reduce the amount of hours that natural light is let into the building and the level of exposure.
To find out more about our conservation routine, you can join our conservation taster tour.