Lanhydrock in winter
Lanhydrock house is closed during the winter months so the conservation team can carry out deep cleaning and remedial conservation work on the many thousand items on display throughout the year. But there is also plenty of work to be done in the garden and on the estate.
There are over 20,000 items on display in Lanhydrock House and every one needs to be thoroughly cleaned and condition checked. To do this without damaging the collection we use a wide range of tools. Museum vacuum cleaners are used for the rugs, carpets and some furniture, while hogs' hair and pony hair brushes remove dirt and dust from more delicate items. Every room is cleaned from top to bottom - starting from the highest point on the ceiling and continuing right down to the floor. As part of the conservation clean we check for pests and take action to clear infestations if they occur.
Winter is the ideal time for some larger projects to take place as well. This year was the turn of our 17th-century oak front door, carved with the heraldic devices of the 1st Baron Robartes. Funds raised from the sale of our Special Places raffle tickets in 2018 meant that we were able to hire a specialist conservator to strip the door of old varnish and carry out essential repairs. The door will be treated with several applications of linseed oil to ensure it is protected from the elements.
Textile Conservator Doris Hewitt has visited Lanhydrock to perform treatments on some of carpets, particularly the bespoke carpet made for the family’s billiard table; a tapestry rug in Lord Robartes’ bedroom that was still in use by the family when the house was gifted to the National Trust in 1953; and the carpet in the Drawing Room, which is a rare example of a chenille carpet and is very fragile.Work has continued on producing a comprehensive inventory of the historic book collections, with Trust book cataloguer Elizabeth Grass and Rachel Diston adding as many as possible to our collections database.
Despite the cold, Lanhydrock’s garden and countryside teams are also hard at work carrying out essential maintenance to keep the outdoors as beautiful as the house.
The flower beds in the formal garden have been re-planted ready for a fresh burst of colour in spring. An extensive project to install metal edging to the garden paths is underway. This will help with the high standards of presentation the garden team work hard to maintain.
Nearer to the house, several mature rhododendrons will be cut back, involving the use of a crane. Due to the very dry weather in the summer of 2018, the surrounding soil dried out and became unable to support the weight of the mature shrubs. The rhododendrons will be able to regenerate but in the meantime their removal will open up some seldom-seen views of the house from the Higher garden.
Out on the estate, the ranger team have also been taking part in some essential tree felling, removing sycamore to encourage regeneration of the oak in the woodland. Sycamore grows faster than oak and does not support as rich and diverse a range of wildlife. Oaks form an ‘open canopy’ woodland, which lets in a great deal of light at all times and supports a more diverse woodland flora. A healthy understorey in the woodlands not only enhances the walks but also supports a whole host of woodland wildlife; from pollinating insects to rare birds and bats. Some of the timber has been left on the ground to provide excellent habitat for deadwood invertebrates and fungi.