Why is the house closed at Charlecote during the winter?

A view our visitors never see - Charlecote's great hall from the top of the scaffold tower

Dust covers are over some of the furniture, but the house team are as busy as ever behing the scenes, carrying out essential cleaning and conservation work to look after our collection.

Let’s start with the fact that the house is really cold, and asking our lovely room guides to look after our visitors at these temperatures is just not on. The house team keeps warm with layers of National Trust fleeces and plenty of enthusiastic cleaning.

A head for heights

This is the only opportunity we have each year to erect the scaffolding in the Great Hall as well as on the Staircase. This means we can clean the paintings, panelling, armoury and taxidermy that we can’t usually reach when we’re open. If dust and webs accumulate for too long they become more difficult to remove and we need to ensure that we're looking after every single object in the house.

The house team are all trained to put up the scaffolding, every piece being brought in to the house and erected carefully to ensure that there's no damage to anything en route.

Follow one of the team up the ladders in this video for a very different view of the Great Hall.

We use our “tickling sticks” to clean the ceiling – long-handled microfibre dusters which can extend up to 9 or 10 metres. We don’t use real feather dusters as the feathers can snag on tiny gaps and damage things. Picture frames are cleaned with extra-soft squirrel-hair brushes. Layers of dust become increasingly difficult to remove if left for too long.

Checking for mould

We’ll be removing some of the smaller objects and furniture from the Drawing Room into the Billiard Room. Then we’ll be able to move out the big pieces of furniture and take down the paintings to check for mould behind them and on the silk wallpaper.

Ladders, scaffolding and the park team too - some of our work has to be done when the house is closed
Volunteers take down painting in Charlecote Park drawing room
Ladders, scaffolding and the park team too - some of our work has to be done when the house is closed

We’ll be in full head-to-toe PPE gear for removing the mould (the house team all have an annual lung health check because of the dangers of working in mouldy conditions). We use stiff hogs’ hair brushes to brush the mould into a special vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter. If it’s really severe we can use an ethanol/water mix – but never on textiles!

The book cleaning team will be continuing in the Library to complete the second phase of mould removal from our books and you can find out more about this project below.

Book conservators at work in library at Charlecote Park

Selling books to save books 

Funds raised in our secondhand bookshop stay at Charlecote and help to pay for vital conservation work on the precious books in our library.

See you in February

We love to see the house come to life again when we re-open. Every time you show your membership card (or if you join the National Trust here at Charlecote) you are generating the funds we need to continue caring for Charlecote.

We’re hoping that by the time the house re-opens on 17 February we’ll have cleaned the whole library. This is going to be a bit of a “painting the Forth Bridge” ongoing project until we have the budget to install special conservation heating.

Checking for mould and cleaning our books is a vital part of our work
The team are dressed to check for mould in the library books at Charlecote
Checking for mould and cleaning our books is a vital part of our work

Always busy

Once the house re-opens in February we’ll begin carrying out our annual Inventory Check in order to maintain our national Museum Accreditation status. Every single object in every room has to be checked against last year’s inventory. This enables us to check that nothing has been mislaid and that nothing has deteriorated in condition. Take a look around on your next visit - try counting the objects in just one room, and imagine how long this takes us!