Conservation work at Ham House

Tools for conservation work

Ham House has stood the test of time for the last 400 years. Keeping it in tip top condition is the task of our conservation team.

Throughout the year every intricate detail of Ham House needs to be inspected, cleaned and conserved. The conservation team have a huge amount of knowledge about the collection and the specialist skills needed to care for it.

One day it might be up high working on a scaffold to inspect the moulded ceilings, with its fine cornicing and gilding.  The next day might be spent working on intricate objects analysing their condition, or polishing the marquetry floors walked on by centuries of past inhabitants and modern visitors alike.

From 6-10 January 2020 we will be required to part-close the house to allow essential conservation treatment in some of our busiest showrooms, so that they are protected and look their best for years to come.

This will include treating the historic floors, which see the greatest number of visitors each day, as well as intensive conservation treatment of the Great Hall and the Great Stairs. We look forward to sharing the refreshed house with you from Saturday 11 January. During this time admission prices will be reduced by 50%.

Inspection of a lacquer box by conservators
Inspection of a lacquer box by conservators
Inspection of a lacquer box by conservators

When working on an object or piece of furniture, the conservation team use specialist tools and techniques to carry out their work. Find out about different brushes, or how long it takes one person to wax the Great Stairs. Some of our tools are adapted to our specialist needs, such as low suction hoovers which remove dirt without damaging objects. Whatever work the conservation team does is carefully logged and catalogued as part of the ongoing history and care of Ham House.

Much of the work of the conservation team is to prevent damage happening in the first place, be it due to light, humidity or pest damage. Walk around the house and see the subtle ways we monitor the gradual process of time, monitor humidity, and record and prevent any creepy crawlies that like to nibble away at the collection we’re always working hard to protect at Ham House.

This year we have a special project monitoring the light Ham House receives. Light is one of the main causes of damage to objects - fading colours in fabrics and tapestries in particular. We’ve set up exterior and interior light monitors to check exactly how much light we are getting. The results of this will inform how we display our collection so that it can both be protected and still show its delights to all our visitors.

Laser scanned map of Ham House

It takes your support

Looking after our collection and the fabric of Ham House and Garden is a time consuming and costly business. Your membership & admission fees, purchases in the restaurant, shop, second hand bookshop and generous donations, all help support our vital conservation work. This year we’re raising money for the repair of our Orangery café, which is currently under scaffolding.

Thank you for your support.