Our work in the house at Baddesley Clinton
The conservation team at Baddesley Clinton fight a daily battle against dust, light and pests to care for and protect the house and its unique collection. Much of this work takes place when the house is open giving you the chance to see conservation in action and find out more about what it takes to care for the house and its unique collection.
Caring for the collection
Looking after Baddesley Clinton and its collection and conserving it for future generations is a very important task for the house and collections team. They fight a daily battle against dust, light and pests with the help of specialised conservators, curators and conservationists.
As well as the daily morning clean which takes place before opening, the collections team also complete an annual deep clean, taking a room at a time and going from ceiling to floor cleaning and inspecting everything.
Historically this deep clean would have taken place each winter when the property was closed. As Baddesley is now open 363 days a year a new method was devised to ensure the house and collections still received their annual deep clean while also opening the doors to visitors almost every day of the year.
This deep clean now takes place in the mornings before the house is open and often the team carry on once opened. This ‘conservation in action’ is a great way for you to see first-hand how the team clean the collection and what’s involved in caring for a historic house.
‘Conservation in action is a great way of demonstrating to our visitors what the conservation team traditionally did behind the scenes. It also means that visitors can see how their support, whether it be through membership or simply by buying a scone in the restaurant, is allowing us to keep Baddesley going for future generations to enjoy.’
- Fiona White, Collections & House Officer
While cleaning the team will use specific brushes to remove the dust from items with a vacuum to collect the dust. Items are also closely inspected to check for any damage or deterioration such as cracks, splits, wear and tear, fading, mould and pests.
Light causes a lot of damage to interiors, bleaching the colour from fabrics and wallcoverings, and causing the structural components of items to break down, such as silk which would turn to dust. This is why you will often find the blinds pulled down in certain rooms in the house.
To try to combat this the windows of the house are covered with a special type of Perspex which cuts the harmful UV light by up to 70%. The light that does come through will still cause damage, but at a much slower rate.
The team also create a light plan to measure and calculate the light falling onto different areas and items in a room during a range of sunny and cloudy days with the blackout and sun blinds at differing levels. The light plan then determines what levels the blinds need to be pulled to for all levels of sunlight to ensure no items or rooms are overexposed to light.
Integrated pest management
The team must monitor the presence of pests in the house as many can be harmful to the collection. In order to do this, blunder traps, small clear boxes, are placed around the house in discreet corners.
The Integrated Pest Management system then involves collecting all these traps every quarter and recording all the pests found which are harmful to the collection.
A pest regularly found is silverfish, which eats paper and damp wood and thrives in warm and humid conditions. These tiny nocturnal wingless insects, though only 13-25 millimetres long, can cause significant damage to collection items, particularly books.
The team constantly monitor the heating and humidity conditions within the house, particularly during the cold winter months. Insufficient heating or dehumidification of collections and storage areas leads to damp conditions, promoting mould growth and wood-boring insect activity. This could cause irreparable damage to the collection and fabric of the building.
However, excessive heating can damage historic objects such as furniture, panelling, tapestries and paintings which were designed and made for use in indoor environments that were colder than twenty-first century comfort expectations.
Uncontrolled winter heating to modern comfort temperatures inside Baddesley causes relative humidity to fall to very low levels, leading to drying and shrinkage of organic materials. This in turn causes cracking of paintings on wood and canvas and damage to furniture and panelling such as cracking and buckling and lifting of veneer.
The team constantly monitor the humidity in the house in order to try to keep it down as much as possible. You may spot the monitors around the house as you visit – they look like walkie-talkies.
Caring for Baddesley’s books
The collection at Baddesley contains over 3000 books, some dating back to 1547. Looking after them is very important if they are going to remain in good condition.
Risks of damage
One of the main issues is dust, and during the annual deep clean each book is carefully cleaned using a soft brush and a low-powered vacuum cleaner.
Another issue is pests such as silverfish. They eat sugars that are found in paper, glues used in book bindings, and even the paste used to hang wallpaper! They thrive in humid atmospheres, so an ancient, moated manor house is ideal habitat for them.
As well as keeping the books clean and the humidity at the right level, storage is also important. The Library at Baddesley is not large enough to display all the books in the collection and so many are stored in another room behind the scenes.
The more fragile books are kept in custom-made grey cardboard boxes to keep them safe from dust, light – and silverfish!
Alongside the daily and annual cleaning and conservation of the house and collection at Baddesley, larger conservation projects are also taking place to help protect and restore the buildings and items within. These vital conservation projects are made possible due to the support of our visitors.
In 2016 Baddesley began its two-year conservation project which included the large task of re-wiring the rooms, fitting new fire alarms and replacing some parts of the plumbing. This work had last been carried out when the Trust acquired Baddesley in 1980 and by upgrading this work it improved the security, safety and environmental conditions of the house and collections. The work cost around £270,000 – equivalent to selling 540,000 postcards or 150,000 cups of tea!
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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