Winter conservation at Ightham Mote

The Housekeeper's room in Ightham Mote with the furniture covered in dust sheets.

Opening the house exposes its interior and furnishing to damage, principally from light, dust, wear and tear. During the main season (March – October) we carry out a daily clean; vacuuming and polishing the floors and dusting the furniture. However, during the winter season the house becomes a ghostly sight. Here’s a peek at what’s happening behind closed doors at Ightham Mote.

To help protect the house and its contents we follow the traditional eighteenth and nineteenth century practice of shutting up the house up. But unlike those historic periods where the family went away leaving only a skeleton staff, this is the busiest time of the year for the conservation team.

Putting the house to bed

At the beginning of November we close the upstairs rooms and start putting the house to bed. It’s not a case of just closing the curtains and throwing a dust sheet over, but it’s an extensive deep clean. We dust every part of the room from the ceiling to the floor, even using special brushes to help get into the difficult areas. Furniture is thoroughly dusted inside and out, and given its annual polish. We then cover it with a specially made dust cover. Smaller items such as china, are carefully washed, and if not displayed in a cupboard, will receive an acid-free tissue paper ‘hat’.

Rugs are hoovered thoroughly, in each direction then turned over so we can hoover the back. Acid-free tissue paper is then placed over the rug, and we use a ‘form’ to help roll the carpet. The rug is then encased in more acid-free tissue paper and put aside.

rolling, rolling, rolling...
Conservation team rolling up a rug covered with acid-free tissue paper.
rolling, rolling, rolling...

This year it is still possible to see inside some of the groundfloor of the house on weekday tours about Servants' Life at Ightham Mote. These tours should be pre-booked online to ensure you get a place if you particularly want to see some of the inside.

The groundfloor is open to visitors throughout Christmas at Ightham, and the house fully reopens to visitors from the beginning of March.