Five of the agents of decay at Upton House and Gardens

Cleaning and winding a clock in our collection

The superb collections and decorative features at Upton House owe their condition and survival to many years of meticulous care and protection. Our conservation team work year-round to help conserve this special place and its contents, for you to enjoy them.

1. Dust and dirt

Upton welcomes thousands of visitors each year; every person brings in dust and dirt on their shoes and clothes, including staff and volunteers.

Did you know that most of the dust in National Trust houses is made up of clothing fibres? 
We combat the dirt and grit on shoes by using grills, mats and floor coverings as you enter the house. The covering we use in the hall protects the original stone flooring, where the highest level of dirt occurs.
Dust will settle on all surfaces around the house, but those which are particularly at risk are within 1m of our visitor route and are horizontal. We dust robust surfaces daily with specialist equipment to reduce abrasion and have a cycle of deep cleaning year-round to remove dust from more delicate surfaces, and those out of easy reach. 

2. Wear and tear

Constant touching of our collection, even light touch, can build up, causing deterioration. We want everyone to feel welcome and ‘at home’ at Upton, but sometimes we have to protect our collection by removing the temptation to touch.

You will notice there are prickly teasels on some of the chairs, this is to prevent anyone from sitting on them. Sometimes we may have to add a gentle reminder not to touch. We have samples of the effects of wear and tear dotted around the house so you can see the effects for yourself. 

When we are taking care of the collection, we must be careful too! Gilding on porcelain is particularly vulnerable, and our conservation team takes particular care when dusting or handling the collection to prevent damage.

3. Humidity

We monitor the humidity in the house to keep it between recommended levels. 

High humidity can encourage pests, mould, corrosion and swelling.

If the humidity is too low, shrinking and cracking can occur. To prevent this, we have humidistats throughout the house that monitor the humidity levels, and automatically raise or lower the levels accordingly. 

We’re sorry if that can make it cold sometimes, but by bearing with us, and wrapping up warm, you can help to ensure the collection is here for generations to come.

4. Insects

Have you ever wondered what the flat black boxes are around the house? They are usually located in peculiar places such as fireplaces and in corners of rooms. They are insect blunder traps, which we use to gather samples of the insects in each room or area.

 Insects can cause a huge amount of damage to objects and to the fabric of the building. At Upton we face a challenge controlling woodworm and clothes moth: the moth larvae will munch their way through most textiles including tapestries and carpets. Woodworm are partial to some of our furniture and have even caused damage to painting frames. 

Quarterly monitoring of our pest traps means we can keep on top of any outbreaks and hopefully prevent further damage.

5. Light

It's difficult to get the right balance of light in the house. We want to let the light in so that you can see Upton's beauty. But we need to make sure we are protecting our collection from the negative effects of light. If we don’t, colour in textile will fade and the fabric will deteriorate, and some of our paintings are particularly vulnerable to damage from light.

To combat this damage, we use blinds and shutters to completely cut out light while the house is closed. We also apply thin film to our windowpanes, which cuts out ultraviolet (UV) light - the most damaging of light waves - and you may see us adjusting blinds during the day to protect objects from direct sunlight.