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Our work at Basildon Park

Close up photo of a book being cleaned using conservation techniques at Llanerchaeron, Wales. The book is resting open on a cushion while a conservation assistant gently brushes dust into a vacuum nozzle.
Conservation assistant carefully cleaning a book | © National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

The team of staff and volunteers at Basildon Park are always busy behind the scenes caring for every aspect of this special place, from the careful cleaning and monitoring of objects to bringing parts of its collection back to life.

Caring for the collection at Basildon Park

When the house is closed for a longer period of time, it is ‘put to bed’. This involves putting dust sheets and acid-free tissue paper over most of the collection to stop large amounts of dust gathering on it. Anything that is not covered gets checked and dusted every couple of weeks so that we know it’s being properly looked after.

We constantly monitor levels of relative humidity, the temperature and light levels within the house to make sure that none of these are getting too high or too low, particularly when we’re experiencing any extreme weather, as these changes can have a huge impact on collection items.

We also monitor the insect traps dotted around the house. These are checked regularly to make sure that we know what types of insects are getting in and the impact they might have on the collection if they were to go unchecked.

Deep cleaning

When we deep clean each of the rooms in the house we also clean and carefully check each object in the collection for signs of damage.

Different brushes are used depending on what the item in question is made from; a soft brush made from pony hair is used for ceramics, a slightly firmer brush made from hog’s hair for wooden items and a frame with muslin stretched across it and a low-suction hoover to clean textiles.

Oriental decorated coromandel screen with figures in a landscape, at Basildon Park in Berkshire.
Part of the coromandel screen at Basildon Park | © National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Restoring Basildon Park’s Coromandel screen

When Lord and Lady Iliffe bought Basildon Park, the mansion was derelict and empty. Over a few years they restored it to its former glory and filled it with antiques and treasures from all over the world.

One of these objects was a 17th century Chinese Coromandel screen, a beautiful piece of artwork featuring lacquerwork – a popular form of decoration in ancient China that involved covering objects with a liquid of melted resin flakes dissolved in alcohol, which formed a hard coating.

The condition of the screen had deteriorated in storage, with paint peeling off and the hinges and feet unstable.

Following specialist conservation work by Tankerdale UK, the panels have been cleaned and restored and the screen, in all its glory, can be seen once again in the library at Basildon Park.

The screen’s history

The Coromandel screen was bought by Lady Iliffe at an auction. It had previously been split in two and was now only half the full size of a traditional Coromandel screen, which usually has 12 panels. The location of the second half is unknown.

We were originally under the impression that the Basildon Park panels made up the second half of the screen, but it’s since been discovered that we have the first half; the panels show the beginning of the screen’s narrative story depicting a young man’s journey to financial success.

Thank you

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

Visitors walking in the grounds in autumn at Basildon Park, Berkshire


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