Our work caring for the manor house at Brockhampton
There are many different aspects of caring for a 600-year-old manor house. A dedicated team of staff and volunteers work year-round to conserve and maintain the condition of the house and keep it preserved for future generations. From daily checks to big repair projects, find out more about how we care for the manor house and its collection at Brockhampton.
On a daily basis, the house is kept as clean and dust-free as possible. A 600-year-old house means there's a lot of dust, so the team do daily dust sweeps and floor checks to keep on top of the manor's cleanliness.
Other cleaning duties such as cleaning and auditing paintings take place at less regular intervals, usually seasonally. It's really important that the team check regularly for woodworm and moths too as infestations can cause irreversible damage, very quickly.
Every part of the manor house must be scrutinised and checked regularly. The team fill in log sheets when they clean and then report any potential problems as soon as they arise.
Surveys and monitoring are carried out regularly. Surveys might look at structural features, such as the roof, or monitor smaller activities such as recording light levels; all take an active role in securing the future of the manor, keeping it preserved as it is and avoiding any deterioration.
The team always restore items and features in such a way to keep them as close to the original as possible. This involves following traditional methods and techniques and ultimately avoiding the use of modern materials where possible, which could affect the authenticity and look of the house.
Co-habiting with bats
Several species of bat use the manor house at Brockhampton as a roosting site.
All bat species, their breeding sites and resting places are fully protected by law. Like the vulnerable historic artefacts in the collection, bats are also under threat, so the team must take great care not to disturb them.
Protecting collection items
The team take additional measures to protect the collection items by covering them with Tyvek covers. This is because bat guano and urine have a high concentration of uric and other acids, meaning that they are extremely corrosive. When there is repeated contact with surfaces such as metals and wood over an extended period, bat urine can cause deterioration.
The mystery of the falling hatchment
The impact of co-habiting with bats was particularly brought to the team’s attention in September 2020 when a hatchment fell off the wall in the Great Hall. Having been rehung some months before with extra strong chain it was initially a mystery as to what had caused the chain to fail.
The cause of the damage
On closer inspection with a raking light, the back of the painting and surrounding wall were covered in bat urine (despite the use of covers). The broken brass chain had cracks in multiple places, with green spotting displaying evidence of damage and disfiguration to the brass.
Bat urine was thought to be the most likely cause. It contains 70% urea, which dries to form ammonia. This strongly alkaline substance is chemically aggressive and can lead to staining and damage, hence why the brass chain failed.
The importance of deep cleaning
This underpins the need for the house team to carry out their annual in-depth checks and deep clean, looking for any signs of wear and tear and physical degradation. Working with specialist conservators they constantly work hard to look after our special places and artefacts so they can be enjoyed for years to come.
Repairing the roof
As part of the team’s building maintenance programme the roof at the front of the manor house was checked and repaired in 2019. It was the first time the area had been re-roofed since 1948.
Re-using exisiting roof tiles
Contractors checked all the roof timbers and tiles and replaced where needed. The work was carried out in line with the National Trust’s conservation principles which means re-using as many of the existing roof tiles as possible.
The roofing contractors had to take special care during the work in order to protect the bats which live in the roof space.
With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.
Find out more about the work the team are doing to care for wildlife at Brockhampton, including a project to create a new home for a family of badgers.
At the heart of the estate lies Lower Brockhampton Manor house, a late 14th century timber-framed house, surrounded by a moat and entered via a timber-framed gatehouse.
Uncover 600 years of history inside this timber framed manor house and learn how it evolved to meet the different needs of different generations who lived there.
Find out more about the orchards at Brockhampton and the ‘Reimagining’ the lost orchards project.
Find out more about volunteering at Brockhampton and how you can play your part in looking after and sharing the love of this medieval manor house and estate.