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
Cleaning the collection at Calke Abbey

What’s been going on?

The house team have been busy since we closed the mansion doors at the end of October. They’ve cleaned the Oak Rooms, Gardner Wilkinson’s Library and the furniture in the Night Nursery, and Sir Vauncey’s bedroom has been cleared, ready for its deep clean.

In the Entrance Hall, tar was removed from the fireplace so that we’re able to light the fire ready for Christmas. Several pieces of taxidermy from the hall have also been cleaned, which helps to stop them from deteriorating over time.

Whilst the rest of the collection along the visitor route is cleaned during winter, we have a separate system for cleaning the books in the library (yes, we clean the books). 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 extra attention – last year, the two pairs of curtains in the Saloon were taken away by Melanie Leach, a textile conservator, to be restored in her workshop.

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

This year the curtains are set to return to the Saloon. To hang them safely, we’ll build a scaffold in the Saloon, which will also allow us to make any minor fixes when the curtains are back in position.

Rehanging wallpaper

A few years ago, the house team carefully removed the wallpaper in the Day Nursery to allow specialists to undertake some important fire protection work on the doors. When the wallpaper was removed, the team discovered what we believe to be 18th century wallpaper underneath, which has been displayed ever since.

This year, we’ll be rehanging the original wallpaper in the Day Nursery, so you can see what it was like when the National Trust took over Calke Abbey in 1985.

Calke’s carriages

Last year, two of Calke’s carriages were taken away for some remedial work by conservator Diane Britton. She’s now finished the work on these carriages, and they’ve been returned to Calke ready for you to come and see. 

The carriages require careful conservation work to keep them in good condition
The carriages undergoing conservation work at Calke Abbey in Derbyshire
The carriages require careful conservation work to keep them in good condition

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.