Breaking out the scaffold and brushing off the cobwebs

Cleaning the Chapel at Clumber Park

Once a year, the historic gothic Chapel of Saint Mary the Virgin requires a good old deep clean. We caught up with the Chapel and Collections Officer, Ellie Ryan to find out more.

The Chapel of Saint Mary the Virgin, or Clumber Park’s ‘Cathedral in Miniature’ as it is also known, has stood proud on the Lakeside at Clumber for over 120 years. It the job of the National Trust to ensure it is still standing in all its glory for another 120 years to come, and then some.

Though the Chapel is cleaned daily the beautiful building needs to take some time out of the public spotlight for some extra TLC once a year, in order for the Collections Team to carry out the deep clean.

Exactly what is a 'deep clean'?

A deep clean involves reaching high and stretching low, into every nook and cranny of the Bodley designed Gothic Revival building, searching out all the cobwebs and dust bunnies for the Chapel to remain as impressive as the 7th Duke of Newcastle wished it to be.

As well as dusting from top to bottom, the team will check the condition of every single object in the chapel, and they will all get a delicate clean. This helps the Trust to know how our objects are faring year on year, and highlights any potential problems so they can be tackled.

Smaller objects will be cleaned and stored while the scaffold tower is moved around the walls of the vestry, so each stone ledge and piece of statutory will get its turn for some TLC. The walls will be dusted down, floors scrubbed, chairs buffed, metal waxed and polished and textiles cleaned, all in the space of just over two months!

What do you use to clean the Chapel and it's objects?

The Trust use very few chemicals in their preventative conservation cleaning, instead using a range of brushes to remove dust from objects, and dusters to buff them up. Soft pony hair paint brushes are used on delicate surfaces like the shiny metals and dust is gently brushed off into a handy backpack hoover. A protective layer of Renaissance Wax is then added to the metal and buffed until it shines. The wax will then protect the metal from any moisture in the air and help stave off any corrosion.

Hardier pieces like wooden objects can be cleaned with a hog’s hair paint brush, whose stiffer bristles help flick dust out of intricately carved surfaces, like the elaborate baptismal font designed by Revd. Geldart.

Certain objects can only be cleaned once a year, cleaning them more often would cause more damage than leaving them be. Particularly items like textiles where cleaning risks removing fibres from the textile which would eventually cause it to wear away.

Each object requires special care and attention but with a small team of dedicated staff and volunteers working hard over the next few weeks the Chapel will get its winter break and be ready to receive visitors again in the middle of March.

We look forward to welcoming you back then!

" We use very few chemicals in the preventative conservation cleaning process. Instead, we use a range of brushes to remove dust from objects, and dusters to buff them up. "
- Ellen Ryan, Chapel and Collections Officer