Caring for Barrington Court

Barrington Court early autumn

It takes a lot of work to care for Barrington. Our resident conservation assistant is currently treating the house to its annual deep clean. This helps to control and delay the deterioration of the building and its contents.

But what is the purpose of conservation at a special place like Barrington, which doesn’t have a traditional furniture collection?

Simply put, conservation is the careful management of change. Change is inevitable, but there are many things we can do to slow the process. For example, we can reduce the risk of deterioration by creating the best possible environment for the long-term preservation of the house. Lyle’s collection of architectural salvage is what brought Barrington back to life after hundreds of years of neglect, and it needs care and attention to prevent it from declining once again. This involves monitoring the condition of the house to build a detailed picture of the nature of its spaces, and this in turn tells us how we need to improve conditions so ensure house survives. 

It also involves setting up procedures to combat dangers to the house. We call these ‘agents of deterioration’, and there are ten in total: fire, water, loss, physical (general wear and tear), chemical (pollutants or dust), biological (pests), incorrect relative humidity, incorrect temperature and disassociation (loss of context, provenance or significance). In a nutshell, conservation is ensuring the house isn’t exposed to any of these dangers by first detecting them, then blocking them, and finally responding to or treating any damage. In other words: looking after what we’ve got, for ever, for everyone.

Organic materials like wood are particularly vulnerable to deterioration because they’re sensitive to changes in relative humidity. Did you know 80% of dust is made up of skin cells? Removing dust is really important – not only because dust is abrasive and scratches surfaces, but also because skin contains moisture. A layer of dust on the surface of Barrington’s panelling could create a humid micro-environment, which could cause the wood to expand or attract nasty creatures like woodworm. 

It’s great to see the impact of regular, ongoing care here at Barrington; seeing the house look its best, but also enabling us to fully appreciate the craftsmanship of this very special place. Thanks to your support, we are able to continue caring for Lyle’s collection; simply by buying a raffle ticket during your visit, you are ensuring Barrington will be here for many years to come.