During the cold winter months Stoneywell is closed to visitors but remains a hive of activity; the gardening team are hard at work maintaining the grass paths and making sure everything is ready for Spring, working in the woodland and, of course, feeding the birds so that they keep coming back to visit! The stonewalling team have also been busy re-building and maintaining the dry stone walls in the car park and stable yard, with plenty of tea breaks to warm their hands up again!
The cottage is bustling with activity as the Conservation team enter to deep clean the entire collection, building and take advantage of all that extra space to do the jobs that cannot be done while the property is open to visitors.
Each room will have a general check to make sure there has been no damage and that no insects and no mould have moved in during the season. They are then ‘bottomed’, which means all rooms must be scrubbed from top to bottom, all beds vacuumed, blankets shaken and crevices dusted. The floors are all scrubbed, oiled and polished – all by volunteers on their hands and knees!
The team work by a close set of guidelines, so only certain tools, products and techniques are applied to ensure that our collection and the building is cared for as best we can. As a group they spend one day on each room, and this can take a few hours or all day, depending on the contents, size and amount of dust to be found! The biggest challenge is the Dining Room, as much of the furniture can’t be moved due to its weight, and the floor needs to be oiled and left for a few days so it can safely dry out.
Even the areas visitors don’t see will receive a good clean – the storage area in Olympus has received love and attention, and perhaps one day there might be a chance to take a peek into these as yet unseen spaces in the cottage!
Repairs have been made where necessary and the walls have received another 5 coats of lime wash to see us through another season – make sure you don’t brush up against them or your jacket will receive the same attention! The chimneys have been swept, gutters cleared and everything is as ready as we can make it for February 1st when the doors are opened and Stoneywell will have to wait ten months until it gets a rest.
While all of this is being done the House and Collections Manager is also looking at new ways of displaying objects in the cottage, how interpretation can be presented and tell visitors stories without needing to be explained. The aim of presenting the house as the Gimson’s would have lived in it during the 1950’s, and give the impression that they could arrive home at any time, is part of ensuring Stoneywell remains a living history and can spark an emotional connection in visitors – some of whom may remember living in similar times, some who may have no idea but are transported back into the world of their grand, or even great-grandparents.