Our work at Mr Straw's House
The small team at Mr Straw’s House work extremely hard to look after this extraordinary home and its collection of over 30,000 objects. With a collection that varies from bowler hats and raincoats to sweet tins and coal bags, and all squeezed into such a small space, it gives the team quite a challenge. Find out what goes on behind closed doors to care for the house and collection.
Every morning before opening, our House team are in early to prepare the house for the day’s visitors. This covers everything necessary to keep the house presentable, from vacuuming carpets to dusting surfaces, as well as performing important conservation tasks, such as monitoring temperatures and levels of humidity, looking at pest traps or even winding clocks to make sure they continue to chime together.
Regular conservation work
Conservation work takes place continuously, from systematically working through archival information to transcribing the family diaries.
In the conservation studio, the team continue to work on photographing, cleaning and inspecting objects in the collection and archive. There is also work to be done editing the Collections Management System and working with the Visitor Operations & Experience Manager on collections management documentation, Museum Accreditation or planning new events and activities.
Collections Management System
The Collections Management System is a digital inventory of all the items in the collections across the National Trust. At Mr Straw’s House there are a team of volunteers dedicated to cataloguing, recording and photographing the 30,000 objects in the collection in order to keep this inventory up to date. This information feeds into the National Trust’s Collections website, making it accessible to visitors online.
From the end of October Mr Straw’s House closes for four months to allow the team to undertake the vital annual conservation clean. Behind closed doors every room has to be emptied of its contents, each item cleaned and assessed, and condition reports written when they are needed. Each room is cleaned from top to bottom; from wallpaper and ceilings to waxing floors and tamping carpets.
Caring for the collection
With over 30,000 items to clean and check for signs of deterioration, it’s all hands on deck as staff and volunteers work to care for the vast range of objects the Straws squirreled away over the years, from jars of jam to photographs and clothing.
Working in tight spaces
Working in the confines of a semi-detached house makes this work all the more challenging, as furniture is carefully rearranged to make room to get at the collection and set up space to work in.
In order to create space, both sides of the property are commandeered with the collection spread out in both No.5 and No.7. Dozens of photographs are taken every year and the original acquisition photos from the 1990s are also used to ensure everything is returned to its rightful place, just as the Straw family left it.
Alongside the daily and annual cleaning, larger conservation projects have also taken place over the years to help protect and care for Mr Straw’s House, including:
woodworm treatments throughout the house and collection
rebuilding of the greenhouse
patching to Walter's bedspread
conservation of bookcase drapes in William's bedroom
conservation of the clock in the dining room
The stabilisation of the fabric on William's armchair
In 2022, work was carried out on the plaster under the windows in both William's bedroom and on the landing
With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.
Find out about the great outdoors both near and far through the Straws’ love of cacti and homegrown produce, and their interest in walking through town and the local rights of way.
Discover more about some of the collection highlights from Mr Straw’s House, a house frozen in time and containing a mix of treasured possessions and ordinary domestic items.
Find out more about this unassuming red-brick semi which, once inside, reveals a house frozen in time filled with a treasure chest of objects and memories from inter-war Britain.
Read about our strategy 'For everyone, for ever' here at the National Trust, which will take the organisation through to 2025.