Reopening Mompesson House

Setting the dining room table

As the doors reopen at Mompesson House for the start of the season, we look behind the quiet facade to see what’s involved in getting the house ready for the public.

The winter clean is over and it’s time to uncover and reset the house. As I write this, we open in a fortnight and for the first time we are open seven days a week all the way until 5 November. This has meant we have had to employ another conservation assistant. Clare is joining our team this week and will help me with all the resetting and uncovering that needs to be done. The new exhibition room is having the final tweaks and clean before the glass fronts go onto the cabinets. From the outside of the house with the shutters down we are closed and quiet. The reality inside the house is quite a different matter. The new shop is opening in the courtyard and work is well under way for it to open up on the same day as the house. There are electricians, painters, gardeners, conservators and sign writers on site and equipment, shop stock, phone lines and cabling going in. The house is a hive of activity in every corner.

Clare uncovering the Barbara Townsend paintings in the south west bedroom
Clare uncovering the Barbara Townsend paintings in the south west bedroom

The house and collection have been comprehensively cleaned during the winter and are now ready to be unveiled in all their glory. Dust covers are being taken off and the ceramics and silverware, which have been put away in cupboards, are being returned to their positions. Floors are being polished and windows are being cleaned. Rugs are being put down. The stage is being set and we are getting ready to welcome the public again.

Ceramics ready to be put on display
Ceramics ready to be put on display

Moving the collection from its place of darkened storage, back on display, is a task that has to be done slowly. Each piece has to be moved separately. So if you have a hot chocolate cup to move, the cup, the lid and the saucer are all moved one at a time. This is done in quiet concentration and is a time consuming job. We don’t lift anything by its handles but securely under the bottom of the item. If it is made of metal, latex gloves are worn, this applies to ceramics that are highly gilded too.

A week to go

The bed hangings that were taken away earlier this year by textile conservators to be cleaned are being rehung. The fabric in places has been affected by mould over the years and is discoloured but in other areas the colour and details of the rose print have come alive. This 19th-century chintz was originally from Hasely Court in Oxfordshire.

Newly cleaned bed hangings in the south east bedroom
Newly cleaned bed hangings in the south east bedroom

The final day

It’s the final day before we reopen the doors to the public. Everywhere has been hoovered and the collection is back out on display. The volunteer flower arrangers are in and bringing spring into all the rooms. The clocks are being wound. All the rooms are being photographed so we have an archive of what the house looks like for this season. The amount of effort that is involved by all the team and volunteers to get the house ready has been huge this year and I hope you will come along and see Mompesson very soon.