Behind closed doors

The cottage at Stoneywell in snow

Stoneywell may be closing its doors to visitors over the winter, but the place will still be a hive of activity as the team carry out essential conservation work to the cottage and its collection.

This December and January it's all hands on deck as the team of dedicated volunteers, supported by the property's Assistant House and Collections Manager Paula, deep clean the collection, monitor the condition of individual items and record them on the Trust's collection management system.

Conservation work happens throughout the year, from regular cleaning to frequent monitoring for 'agents of deterioration' including light, humidity and pests. However, some of the work can only happen when the cottage is closed over winter, as it would otherwise restrict access to parts of the house.

" It's an opportunity to really look at the collection and give it some TLC after a busy season."
- Paula Nichols, Assistant House and Collections Manager at Stoneywell

Once the cottage has been cleaned from top to bottom, much of the furniture will be covered with muslin covers, which have been individually made to fit each specific item within the collection. Some objects are covered with acid-free paper if they are small or an unusual shape.

Muslin covers on the ladderback chairs in the dining room at Stoneywell
Ladderback chairs in the dining room at Stoneywell covered in muslin covers

Black-out material will be added to the William Morris patterned curtains to protect the cottage interiors from light damage. The dosimeters will also be replaced in each room - you may have spotted these rectangular cards framing blue fabric on your visit to Stoneywell and other National Trust properties, as these are essential in enabling conservation staff to monitor the fading effects light has in specific places around the cottage.

This will only be Stoneywell's second closed season, so it also provides the team with a great opportunity to continue the ongoing work of cataloguing the entire collection and discreetly marking each item with a unique inventory number - be that the hand-carved walnut coffer in the master bedroom or one of hundreds of books that line the walls of the sitting room.

Some of the conservation work at Stoneywell is rather unique - or quirky, even. No more so than the cleaning of the slate floor in the dining room, which is cleaned by hand every year, using olive oil and balls of cotton wool!