The winter clean at Mottisfont

A conservation assistant dusting a clock at Mottisfont

Want to know our housekeeping secrets? We clean and protect the collection here daily, but our house team also carries out a 'deep clean' every winter. With the house open almost every day of the year, you can see some of this preventive conservation work in action up until the end of March. You can pick up tips and advice for your own home too.

Each room gets a thorough annual clean, from ceilings and cornices down to floors and skirtings. Look out for the team using an array of interesting equipment to tackle age-old household problems such as pests and dust, as well as general wear and tear.

Preventive measures

An 18th-century building with an ancient priory at its heart, Mottisfont was transformed into a comfortable, neo-classical home in the 1930s. We work to conserve hints of medieval history alongside murals painted by Rex Whistler, a collection of 20th-century art, and marble fireplaces. 

There are a variety of environmental factors which can cause deterioration in the house, such as temperature, light, mould and insect pest damage. We use preventive conservation techniques to control and monitor these, combining the best traditional housekeeping knowledge with modern conservation science. 

We look after a wide range of objects and materials, from paintings and paper to ceramics and stone – all of which require different techniques. We use pony- and hog’s-hair brushes for careful dusting and stockinette for waxing brass doorknobs. You might see us on top of scaffolding as we reach into high corners.

We need scaffolding to carry out some of our cleaning tasks
A conservation assistant standing on scaffolding to clean the ceiling in the Whistler Room at Mottisfont
We need scaffolding to carry out some of our cleaning tasks

Pesky pests

Mild winters have increased the risk of pest infestation.  Sources of pest infestation may be bird nests in chimneys and under eaves, and they’re often found in dirty textiles - especially costume and carpets. 

The main insect pests found at Mottisfont are:

  • Carpet beetles and the brown house moth: their larva will eat and damage textiles
  • Furniture beetles (commonly known as woodworm) and deathwatch beetles, both of which are wood borers
  • Booklice and silverfish, which can eat and damage paper and books

We detect pests through regular careful inspection of carpet edges, curtain folds, and bare wood surfaces of cupboards and drawers. We also use pest traps to monitor the insect population. Eggs are laid in dark corners, where the hatched larvae can develop and feed undisturbed.

Good housekeeping is the main prevention of problems caused by insect pests. However, if our investigations indicate that there’s a concern, we might try some extra measures. Lures such as pheromones or attractants can be added to traps to decrease the population, or conservation-grade constrain insecticide can be sprayed to affected areas and window frames to prevent entrance.