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Our work at Anglesey Abbey

Conservation volunteer looking at the collection at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire
Conservation in action at Anglesey Abbey | © National Trust Images/Claire Sargent

Every day important conservation work takes place throughout Anglesey Abbey, in the house, gardens and Lode Mill. Take a look at what this involves and why we need your support to look after this special place.

Our work in the house

There are over 10,000 items in Lord Fairhaven's collection, and they require a lot of attention to keep them in good condition and prevent deterioration. The work done is known as preventative conservation, meaning that we monitor the environment to try to stop change before it happens.

Each day before the house opens it gets a good vacuuming, and the team dust and de-cobweb to prepare the house for visitors. In the winter months and early spring, the house and collection have a full deep clean. Behind the scenes, inventory auditing, light monitoring, humidity and temperature checks and pest control take place. All of the 36 clocks on display must be wound weekly to keep them ticket and throughout the year, every object in the collection must be monitored and deep cleaned.

The cost of our work

Looking after the collection and keeping the agents of deterioration at bay is a time consuming and costly business. We have a team of four Collections Assistants, supported by a dedicated team of volunteers. The equipment they use is very specialised, with backpack vacuum cleaners costing £250, and specialised cleaning brushes costing £5 for a hog-s-hair brush, up to £50 for a squirrel's-hair brush.

In total we spend around £200,000 per annum looking after Lord Fairhaven's collection. We simply couldn't do this without your support. Your membership and admission fees, purchases in the restaurant, shop, second-hand bookshop and generous donations, all help support our vital conservation work.

Conservation cleaning the Dining Room chairs at Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire
Lots of work is needed to care for the objects in the house | © National Trust Images/Alana Wright

Our work in the garden

With 114 acres of gardens to care for, our team of eight staff and over 25 volunteer gardeners are kept busy throughout the year. Every year, the team work to ensure the seasonal gardens are kept to Lord Fairhaven’s exacting standards, planting hyacinths and dahlias in the Formal Garden, and perfecting the curved dahlia display.

The Rose Garden and Herbaceous Borders require maintenance, pruning and replanting throughout the year so they are at their best. Our garden team propagate many of their own plants for the gardens, working in the purpose built nursery garden. Alongside this work goes regular tree surveying, weeding, mowing and leaf collection.

A close-up of a staff member's hands trimming a leaf from a small potted plant in the hydropod at the Plant Conservation Centre
Caring for the plants throughout the year | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Improving the lawn in the dahlia garden

Famed for its amazing display of late summer and early autumn colour, the Dahlia Garden with over 70 varieties of dahlia is unsurprisingly one of the most visited areas of the gardens. This heavy footfall led had to excessive wear and tear on the lawn, together with compaction of the soil, which means the garden was frequently forced to close due to flooding after periods of heavy rainfall.

In 2019, the existing lawn and top layer of soil was removed, and replaced by a thick layer of sharp sand, upon which a new Hero Hybrid lawn has been laid. The new lawn is a mixture of real grass sown into artificial grass, making it stronger and more durable – in fact, it’s the same surface used by Wembley, Twickenham and a number of Premier League football clubs.

Our work at Lode Mill

Day-to-day work in the mill

Our volunteer milling team undertake daily conservation tasks to ensure the smooth running of the machinery within the mill. These include monitoring of the equipment, oiling and greasing of the bearings and assisting with remedial repairs like replacing teeth on the pit wheel.

For larger conservation tasks including significant repairs to the mill’s machinery, we’re supported by historic restorations firm Dorothea.

Recent restoration work

A few years ago, with work being completed at the end of 2018, vital restoration work took place on Lode Mill. The waterwheel is 150 years old – it was installed in 1868 and several of the buckets, which catch the water to drive the waterwheel around, had become severely rusted and were close to falling apart. In addition to the damage to the buckets, a number of cogs on the Great Spur Wheel and Pit Wheel needed to be replaced because of wear and tear from prolonged use.

All of the 54 wrought iron buckets encircling the wheel were replaced with mild steel replicas. Wrought iron is hard to source these days, so mild steel is the closest modern equivalent. They will develop surface rust quite quickly so the appearance will be the same as the originals.

In addition to the wheel works a number of the cogs (teeth) on the great spur wheel and the pit wheel were replaced. The teeth on the pit wheel will be oak whilst the teeth on the spur wheel will be beech, just like the originals.

More recently, at the start of 2022, significant works on the mill to redress the mill stones, replace the grain hoist and repair the main shaft took place. These restorative works provide a great opportunity for us to learn and understand more about the inner workings of the mill and how we can best look after this machinery to ensure that the mill continues to run smoothly and safely for years to come. We look forward to providing further updates once the mill is up and running again.

Thank you

With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.

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