Caring for Sutton House

Ann, our conservation cleaner, cleaning our Linenfold panels

Sutton House is the oldest house in East London, so we have a team of conservation assistants and volunteers who work hard to look after the house and its collection.

It’s a bit different than looking after a normal house! The work we do here is called preventive conservation – basically we monitor the house to slow down or stop the rate of change before it happens.  So to protect the collection we monitor agents of deterioration such as light, relative humidity and biological problems such as pests.

Have you ever noticed the little black floor traps around Sutton House? We use those to observe our pest activity as they alert us to when there are too many insects which like to nibble on our collection.  You might also have seen little blue squares of fabric within a cardboard border in various places. These record the amount of light which falls on certain objects each year. Light is a big worry for us as it causes colours in organic materials such as wood, textiles and paper to fade.

Relative humidity is the amount of moisture in the air, and if doesn’t remain stable then objects can shrink or crack. That’s why we routinely measure RH levels and use a dehumidifier to control the RH in the cellar which is very damp.

We hoover the floors and dust the flat surfaces every day, but when we are closed to visitors in January we ‘put the house to bed’.  Each room is cleaned from top to bottom, including every single object! We do all of our cleaning very carefully, using brushes made of pony or hogs hair to remove dust from the smallest of crevices, as if it isn’t removed regularly then it can stick to objects.  We also make sure to condition report everything as we go along so we check for any changes.

Every penny you spend at Sutton House goes towards supporting our conservation work. Thank you for helping us to care for the oldest house in East London!