Conservation in the Manor

We're hard at work this January at Hughenden making sure Benjamin Disraeli's home is looking its best. We'll be touching up the staircase, replica carpets will be sent off for their annual wash, paintings surveyed and floors will be waxed.

What's happening behind closed doors?

It is fantastic that we get to share Hughenden with as many as 150,000 visitors over 363 days of the year. But with this many people through Benjamin Disraeli’s home, it’s no wonder that some of the interiors have begun to look a little tired. This is particularly true of the staircase walls, which is fair to say, are looking a little scuffed and faded. With this in mind, Hughenden decided to close its manor doors to the public between Saturday 6 January and Sunday 21 January for a fortnight of essential (and very exciting!) conservation work to repaint the staircase.

As soon as the Alice in Wonderland themed Christmas decorations are down, the House Team (Rob, Charlotte, Katarina and Becky) and Hughenden’s conservator Rebecca will begin by removing the 15 paintings of Dizzy’s friends and political allies, which give the staircase its nickname ‘The Gallery of Affection’. As the portraits are very rarely off the wall, Hughenden has commissioned a Paintings Conservator to carry out a survey of the portraits. This includes a condition check, keeping a careful eye out for any deterioration such as losses of gilt frames, split backing seals as well as any signs of mould or pest damage. The conservator will give the paintings a special ‘rating’, which defines their stability as well as their need for conservation treatment.

Conservation in action
Conservation in action

Once the portraits are safely stowed away, Hughenden’s Direct Labour Team will erect a scaffold to allow painters to reach Hughenden’s high staircase walls. The painters can then work to carefully match the matt red colour in consultation with Hughenden’s curator Laura to make sure it is just right! The painters will begin by prepping the walls by filling in any losses and dents, and will then apply a bright buttercup yellow undercoat, following the historic recipe. Once two more coats of matt red have been applied and the paintwork is complete, the portraits will be rehung and the staircase will be thoroughly cleaned.

And if this wasn’t enough to keep the Hughenden team busy, the house team will also take this opportunity to carry out a deep clean of some of the areas that are more difficult to work in while the manor is open to visitors. This includes spaces such as the Entrance Hall, Inner Hall, Garden Hall and Staircase Corridor. Rooms will be cleaned from top to bottom as well as every object in between, replica carpets will be sent off for their annual wash, and floors will be waxed.

Conservation at Hughenden
Conservation at Hughenden

If you visit Hughenden during this time, why not have a peek through the manor’s arcade windows to see if you can spot some of this fascinating work being carried out? Or visit the manor at the end of January to see the staircase in its renewed splendour.

The cafe, shop, gardens and countryside will all be open as normal for you to explore.