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Winter cleaning in the house at Chartwell

Close-up of an old book being cleaned with a conservation brush in the library at Chartwell, Kent
A volunteer removing dust from a book at Chartwell, Kent | © National Trust Images/Sam Milling

Closing the house over winter gives us full, unrestricted access to each of the rooms, allowing us to go through each in the depth and detail that they need. Read about the conservation work that’s carried out during this time.

Why is the house closed over winter?

Maintaining the Churchill family’s home as they wished it to be seen is a balancing act between sharing the stories of the house that the Churchill family loved, whilst maintaining museum-level care of the objects and interiors within it.

How long does it take to clean each room?

The house team spend roughly a week in each room of the house over this period, going through it from top to bottom. This means a full deep clean and condition checks of every single item in the house, from skirting boards to chandeliers. A full inventory check of the whole house is also completed as part of this process.

Environmental control

Keeping environmental conditions stable is vital to safeguard the collection against everything from cracks in furniture to management of pests. During closure, humidity and temperature levels can be managed throughout the house as we keep the doors and windows closed. We can also black-out rooms, only lighting the spaces we need to access, which helps us to prevent light damage.

Sending items away

Closure also gives us the time to assess whether to send certain items off site for necessary conservation work or loans to other museums and institutions around the world.

Repairs and maintenance

A lot of the general checks and maintenance can happen in the winter too dealing with minor building repairs, maintaining decoration and servicing systems in the house that would not be safe to do whilst open.

Two conservators carefully inspect books in the library at Chartwell, Kent
Conservators inspecting and cleaning books in the library at Chartwell, Kent | © National Trust Images / Sam Milling

Dust like you mean it

Dust can be destructive; not only does it make our collections dirty, but dust can speed up the chemical processes that lead to deterioration in our items.

During our winter deep clean the team gets deep into all the hard-to-reach nooks and crannies to eliminate the dust built up by opening the house to visitors each year. It's a time-consuming process, but a vital one.

Book and textile cleaning

One area that gets special attention is the library where over 4,000 books are taken out and dusted individually.

The same care and attention is also shown to the textiles with a hoover carefully held under the brush to catch any dust before it settles.

Careful chandelier cleaning

Cleaning the many chandeliers hanging at Chartwell is no mean feat. Each chandelier is carefully taken down and taken apart piece by piece so that each crystal and link can be individually cleaned to perfection.

A cotton bud is gently swiped across each piece to ensure that no dust remains in any nook or crevice.

A pair of handle-less wooden hairbrushes with Winston Churchill's initials inscribed on them on a wooden counter top at Chartwell in Kent

Chartwell's collections

Explore the objects and works of art we care for at Chartwell on the National Trust Collections website.

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