What goes on behind the scenes at Standen House, an Arts & Crafts family home


Unwanted Guests

Pest Trap

Pest Trap

One of our annual jobs in early summer time is to check our pest traps. This gives us an idea of what insects and pests we have in the house so we can take steps to get rid of them.

There is usually 1 pest trap to a room, with the biggest rooms having 2 or 3. There are usually placed out of sight, though you might be able to spot 1 or 2 next time you visit. We place them along walls as this is where pests tend to move around, as it is more protected.

Some pests are more dangerous to have in a historic house than others, but in general we try to discourage them by regular hoovering, dusting and cobwebbing. The pests that are not dangerous to the collections tend to attract larger pest like mice and rats, which can cause more damage in the short-term.



One of the most frequent unwanted pests at Standen is silverfish. Silverfish graze on the microscopic moulds that grow on books and leather. As they graze, they quite often take layers off with them, completely destroying the item. Silverfish also eat some of the wall papers here at Standen, which is something we monitor closely.


Pests ...

Pests …

Silverfish are not the only thing we need to worry about. What is alarming is that we are finding the larvae of varied carpet beetles, otherwise known as woolly bears. They eat wool, fur, feathers, silk and skins – here we mostly find evidence of them on the carpets and the curtains. They will eat the material down to its backing, obliterating any trace of its patterns and colours.

One of the things that we found on a lot of the pest traps were millipedes and centipedes. They typically love damp conditions, which due to rains over the winter and spring this year, has caused some issues with damp walls. So maybe is not as surprising as we originally thought! They are completely harmless to the collections but they do attract other more carnivorous pests and animals.

Leave a comment

Learning at Work Day …

On the 19th June, the house team at Standen, including myself, went on a Learning at Work Day. This basically means we got to snoop around two places to see how they interpret and present their collections!

This was just before I started so it was a nice opportunity to meet the team outside of an interview situation. It definitely made my first day the week after less daunting!

Sutton House

Sutton House

  The first place we visited was Sutton House, which is a beautiful Tudor house in the middle of London. It is a  classic medieval property with dark wood panelling and huge fireplaces dominating every room.

It was built-in 1535 for Sir Ralph Sadlier, a high-profile noble during the reign of Henry VIII. The house has had a wide variety of uses prior to becoming open to the public; from a family home to a school ( both as a boys school and then a girls school, from a fire station during World War 2 to a club house for Edwardian clergy. At one point the building was left abandoned and lived in by squatters who painted the walls with beautiful designs:


Graffiti at Sutton House

After a morning wandering around – it is amazing how much time you can spend in a small property – we then went onto the Geffrye Museum of the Home. It is a series of narrow almshouses that have been converted into a museum that shows the development of urban living rooms and how style, fashion, taste and society have influenced how we use rooms today.

The Geffrye Museum of the Home

The Geffrye Museum of the Home

By this point we were very hungry so had a wonderful lunch at the cafe there, though they did struggle to get the food out quickly as we were quite a big group!

The Geffrye Museum is very long and narrow – only as wide as a small room. It was very enjoyable though and interesting looking at how room designs and uses have changed over the last few hundred years. Over of course, we had to have the obligatory cake break as well.

Overall, we had a lovely day out and it gave us all loads of ideas of how  to present our collection here at Standen, especially about using today’s technology like iPads and mobile phones.

Hopefully over the next few years, a few of these ideas will start to appear here.

I thought I would leave you with a picture  of my favourite room of the whole day, which is a drawing-room at the Geffrye Museum set up for 1830. I really love all the different blues:

Drawing room 1830

Drawing room 1830


Leave a comment

Introducing Me ….

Hi I am Lizzie, the new Conservation and Interpretation Assistant here at Standen. I am Hannah’s successor to the role and, like her, will be here for the next year.

I have spent the last few weeks learning my way around Standen and meeting all of our lovely volunteers and staff members, all of whom have been very welcoming and friendly. It has been very busy – I am pretty sure I spent the first week in a haze of new impressions and names!

Prior to starting here, I was a Conservation intern at another National Trust property for 4 months. This introduced me to some of the routines and basic skills that are needed to help preserve historic houses. I am really excited about this role here at Standen as it gives me the opportunity to learn more about what it means to be a Conservation and Interpretation Assistant and more about the intricacies of running a historic house within the National Trust.

Like Hannah, I will be writing posts about the things that we get up to behind the scenes here at Standen and also about my experiences of the next year. I am also open to including posts written by and about our volunteers and their experiences of Standen.

Larkspur Bedroom

Larkspur Bedroom

As this is my first post, I thought that I would talk about my favourite room here at Standen – the Larkspur bedroom. Part of the reason I like it is that it is a warm, calming and comfortable room. I also like it because it feels the most alive of all the rooms in the house – I am always half expecting Amy Beale to come around the corner!

So what is your favourite room here at Standen and why?


Saying goodbye…

We’re rapidly approaching the end of June, which should hopefully mean the sunny weather is here to stay. For me, it also means the end of my training post here at Standen.

My year here has gone incredibly quickly, and it’s strange to think that this time last year I was fresh out of university and very nervous about starting my first role within the heritage sector. It really does seem like only yesterday!

I’ve learnt a tremendous amount here at Standen, and have loved every minute of it: working with such dedicated staff and volunteers has been a privilege. I will shortly be starting as Assistant House Steward at Stourhead in Wiltshire, and it really is down to my time at Standen – and the support I have been given – that I am able to confidently take the next step in my career.  

I’ve really enjoyed writing this blog, and sharing with you ‘behind the scenes’ at Standen – I hope you’ve enjoyed reading. I’d also like to take this opportunity to introduce the next trainee Conservation and Interpretation Assistant, Lizzie, who will shortly be writing on the blog.

Standen © NTPL

I’m going to sign off with a picture of Dobbin, the lovely rocking horse in the Billiard Room. For me, he symbolises what Standen is all about: a family home full of beautiful things.


Object in Focus: Arts and Crafts clock

Standen © NTPL

The clock in the Morning Room

I am almost at the end of my training post here at Standen, and I have been looking around the house with fresh eyes; taking in the unique range of beautiful and interesting objects we have in our collection. This week, I thought I’d focus on one of my favourite objects in the collection: the small metal-cased clock in the Morning Room.

Clocks are one of my favourite types of object: I don’t know much about them, but there’s something fascinating about how they work, and the sheer number of different designs and styles that they are produced in.

I’ve chosen the clock in the Morning Room because the room itself is a favourite of mine – it’s a very tranquil room; with books, beautiful ceramics, and lovely views across the garden. I always think of the clock in the Morning Room as being rather mischievous: it doesn’t keep particularly good time, and there has been many a morning – when cleaning and getting the house ready for visitors – that it has convinced me that I’m running half an hour behind schedule!

This clock was designed by Lewis Foreman Day, an English designer involved in the Arts and Crafts movement. It was made in about 1880 by a well-respected London-based clockmakers called J.W. Benson. The clock has an 8 day French striking mechanism, and the case is quite unusual; it’s made from bronze, with blue and white tiling to the front.

Standen © National Trust / Jane Mucklow

The clock in the Hall: one of the oldest objects in our collection 

We maintain our clocks by winding them weekly, and their gentle, steady ticking and chiming of the hours contributes to the cosy, lived-in atmosphere of the house. We also have an horologist (an expert in caring for and making clocks and watches) who visits once a year to service the clocks.

A number of the clocks at Standen are amongst the oldest objects in our collection – the long-case clock in the Hall has a case dating back to the 1690s!

Leave a comment

Emergency salvage training at Polesden Lacey

Many historic places or buildings housing historic collections have a salvage plan to help deal with the aftermath of an incident such as fire or flood. In May I attended a salvage training exercise at Polesden Lacey; a full-scale incident which even involved local fire crew!

Fire crew arrive

Fire crew arriving at Polesden Lacey (image: Eddie Hyde)

Salvage plans are designed to safely move and protect objects after a major incident, and National Trust salvage plans are tailored to the individual needs of each property. Much was learned by the Trust in the wake of the devastating fire at Uppark in 1989, and the lessons learned then continue to inform the Trust’s approach to salvage and conservation (see here for an interesting piece about the Uppark fire).

At Standen I am a member of the property salvage team, which also includes staff from different departments across the site. I have attended regular refresher training on the salvage process, but have never taken part in a full-scale training exercise – when I was offered the chance to attend Polesden Lacey’s training session, I jumped at it!

Roles are allocated...

First things first: roles are allocated (image: Eddie Hyde)

The training at Polesden took place after the property had closed for the day, and was attended by colleagues from local museums and Trust properties. The fire alarm rang to signal the start of the exercise, and we were allocated our roles. I was a member of the Salvage Team, and would be going into the building to remove important historic objects. However, first stop was the emergency store to get various pieces of equipment: room plans, personal protection equipment, and materials to prepare an area for objects immediately after they had been retrieved from the building.

Salvage Team

The Salvage Team prepare an area for temporary storage of salvaged objects (image: Eddie Hyde)

Shortly after this the fire service arrived, and they investigated whether the building was safe for us to enter. Once we had the ok from them, we began to enter the house in pairs, along with members of the fire service, to retrieve objects from the showrooms.

Salvage Team - going into mansion

The Salvage Team in the mansion, on the way to retrieve objects from the showrooms (image: Eddie Hyde)

While we were busy retrieving, the Recovery Team had set up a Safe Area for objects that been salvaged. Objects were checked against inventory lists, and a triage operation was set up to give attention to those items most in need of it.

Recovery Team

The Recovery Team transforming the cafe into a Safe Area for salvaged objects (image: Eddie Hyde)

Part-way through the evening, we had a break to rest and grab some refreshments, and then swapped roles with those that had been on the Recovery Team, so that we had experience of as many different aspects of the exercise as possible.

The exercise ended as darkness fell, so we gathered together and reflected on the evening. We all agreed that we’d learned a great deal: although regular refresher training at our individual properties is very useful, being able to take part in an event such as this gives you an idea of how a salvage operation really works.

Polesden and fire engine

(Image: Eddie Hyde)







Read a blog post about the salvage training by Claire, Polesden Lacey Conservation Assistant

Leave a comment

Work on Wallpaper

Larkspur wallpaper damage

Damage to the wallpaper in the Larkspur Bedroom (before conservation work)

At the start of this year, I wrote about how strong driving winds and rains had caused old damp patches and leaks to reappear in some of the south facing rooms in the house.

In the Larkspur Bedroom and the South Spare exhibition room, the damage was particularly bad. Both rooms have a history of leaks and damp, and this time they had developed leaks above the fireplaces. The water ingress had badly stained the Morris & Co. wallpaper, and – despite the use of fans and a dehumidifier to circulate the air and stablise the humidity levels – the damp conditions led to mould forming directly on the paper.

The water had come in under the flashing around the chimney, so the first thing we did was to renew the flashing and pointing in this area. Then it was the turn of the wallpaper; and so a conservator recently came and worked on the affected areas.

South Spare wallpaper damage

Staining on the wallpaper in the South Spare exhibition room (before conservation work)

He was able to remove much of the unsightly mould from the Larkspur wallpaper. The mould was very noticeable, and had begun to detract from the charm of this room. Although the wallpaper is still stained, it looks much better. Once the area has thoroughly dried out, the conservator will be able to come back to carry out work to remove the staining.

In the South Spare exhibition room, the wallpaper was carefully removed by the conservator, who has taken it away to begin a treatment to wash out the staining. It is quite a long process – not only does the delicate work on the wallpaper need to be carried out, but we also need to wait for the wall itself to dry out properly before rehanging the paper. This can take months, so it’s likely that the wallpaper will be back at Standen early next year.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,967 other followers