'Putting the house to bed' - Winter Clean 2015

Waxing floors as part of conservation cleaning at Lyme, Cheshire

Each winter, the house closes to visitors so that much need conservation and cleaning can be carried out. The winter clean is an important time in the Lyme calendar, when the house and the collections are carefully cleaned from top to bottom!

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15 Jan 16

O what a feeling, painting on the ceiling!

This year, the Dining Room ceiling suffered from damp, causing dark patches to appear in the central roundel. Now that the house is closed, we can repaint the affected areas, protecting and restoring the surface. Repainting the central roundel and its octagonal surround will take around three days to complete. Only the affected areas are redecorated, to minimise the risk of damaging other areas. We use a traditional ‘soft distemper’, a widely used interior paint that dates back to the 17th century. It is very simple – made of only water, chalk and binder – but its resistance to strong alkali makes it ideal for coating lime plaster. This work is carried with thanks to David from Albert W. Wynne & Sons, a specialist decorator who has worked on may projects with us at Lyme.

Specialist painter touches up the ceiling in Dining Room at Lyme, Cheshire

13 Jan 16

Cleaning a portrait or two

Today the conservation team have been carrying out preventive conservation work on the paintings in the Long Gallery. This ‘in situ’ work is designed to ensure that paintings remain stable, preventing deterioration whilst they are in Lyme's care. During the Winter Clean, we take down each of our paintings and dust them, front and back. This removes not only dust, but any loose dirt, mould and even dead insects. Different brushes are used for each section of the painting, depending on the fragility of the material and to prevent cross-contamination. Here, the surface of the painting is brushed carefully with a pony hair brush. The loose dirt is then directed towards the vacuum cleaner nozzle, held near to – but not touching – the surface of the painting.

Lyme conservation team carefully clean paintings in the Long Gallery

04 Jan 16

Preventative conservation - The Saloon

Once the rooms have been cleared, they are cleaned from top to bottom. Everything, from the ceiling to the carpet, is tackled. Most of the ceilings at Lyme have a small amount of decorative plasterwork; some, such as the Saloon, have a much more extensive design. Although these are made to resemble hard stone carvings, they can be very fragile, due to both age and the delicate modelling. Handling is the most common reason for damage to the moulding, so our conservators have to take great care when carrying out cleaning. In the Saloon there are many intricate wood carvings which have to be carefully cleaned. Surfaces are dusted with a hogshair brush; on any gilding or painted work, the softer pony hair brush is used as in this picture.

Conservation cleaner working in the Saloon at Lyme, Cheshire