Winter cleaning in the house

Waking the house after winter at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire

When you come to explore the un-stately home, we can continue to preserve Calke's fascinating past. This winter, the house team have been busy with their winter cleaning and conservation while the house is closed. So what does that involve?

Winter cleaning

The main priority for the winter season is to clean and inspect every room on the visitor route. The house team carefully strip all the displays around the house and clean each individual part, from the objects themselves to the walls and carpets around them. Everything is then covered with dustsheets to keep it all clean and protected until the house opens.

Whilst we don't restore the collections to their former grandeur, it's important to keep them clean to prevent further damage and decay.

Cleaning the collection at Calke Abbey
Winter cleaning at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire

So far this winter, the house team and their volunteers have cleaned the Oak Bedroom, Sir Vauncey’s Bedroom, the Day and Night Nurseries, the School Room and the Yellow Room. The Boudoir and Library are next on our list.

The books in the Library have their own cleaning system which means the team won’t need to clean each book over winter. This is sometimes done when the house is open – if you're lucky, you might see the conservation team in action on your next visit.

Curtain conservation

Alongside routine winter cleaning we have specialist conservators working on items of the collection that need some attention – including the two pairs of curtains in the Saloon, which have become damaged over time.

Remedial work is underway to repair the curtains
Conserving the curtains at Calke Abbey in Derbyshire

We built a small scaffold in the Saloon for textile conservator Melanie Leach to access the curtains, which are now undergoing repairs in Melanie’s studio in Norfolk.

Getting rid of the woolly bears

At the end of autumn the house team discovered infestations of carpet beetle larvae (known as ‘woolly bears’) in three taxidermy cases and one cupboard of textiles. The textiles were cleaned and frozen to kill off any remaining critters, but the taxidermy cases were too big to go in the freezer!

The house team called in taxidermy specialist Simon Moore to eliminate the pests, repair any damage they’d caused and seal the holes and cracks in the cases. No more woolly bears for Calke’s stuffed animals…

Simon Moore evicting beetle larvae from Calke's taxidermy
A taxidermist working on the collection at Calke Abbey in Derbyshire

Coming up next…

In January, two of Calke’s carriages will be undergoing some remedial work by conservator Diane Britton. The carriages will be carried away on a low-loader for a short holiday in Shropshire, then will return to Calke when their repair work is complete.  

It's thanks to your continued support that we can continue to protect Calke and its unique collections.