Standen

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


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There is no “I” in Team, but there is “U” in Volunteer

Lat week, Kate, our Volunteering Development Officer, and I went along to Sackville School to talk to some of the sixth formers’ about volunteering for the National Trust and Standen.

There are many roles across the property here from the garden to the house to the wider estate to admin – within each domain, there are varying roles from people giving just one hour a week to people who give several days – it is all dependent on how much time you wish to give. For me, it was interesting to hear about some of the roles that fall outside of the house, like garden stewards, who are not so much involved in the garden but are more involved in being around to talk to visitors.

Talking to 16, 17, 18 year olds sixth formers  made me think about what angle would get younger people interested and enthusiastic about volunteering, especially as it would mean giving up their time after school or on the weekend when they could be out with mates, having part-time jobs or even completing school work. I found that talking about the fact that volunteering looks good on your CV and that it can make your application for University stand out, got them thinking about what would suit them.

Visiting this school also made me realize what opportunities there are out there for everyone, not just  for younger people but also those who are looking to increase their skill set or even as something to do once you retire. The key is letting people know, which was the point of visiting the school but also about this blog.

So if you would like to get involved or if you know someone who like to learn something new and different then please contact us.


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Clearing the Conservatory…

What the Conservatory looked like before

What the Conservatory looked like before

If you have visited recently, you may have noticed that our conservatory is looking a little empty. As you will all know, the summer has been beautifully warm and sunny but unfortunately  this took its toll on the plants inside, especially the conservatory. One of our gardeners, Nick, tried to bring in better ventilation and keep the blinds down but temperatures still reached over 40 degrees centigrade daily.

The emptied Conservatory

The emptied Conservatory

High temperatures causes stress in plants as well as increasing the need to water more frequently as well as encouraging pests to thrive and spread. Unfortunately this is what has happened to the conservatory’s plants. There were lots of different infestations which caused the plants to look bedraggled and forlorn but the worst culprits were Aphids, Mealy Worm, Red Spider Mites, Scale Insect, Vine Weevil and White fly. The infested plants were cleared and put outside, waiting for the cooler weather and the whole of the Conservatory was scrubbed. The plants will be put back eventually, with biological controls in place to help prevent further large scale infestations.

One of the good things to come out of this clearance was that a beautiful Gloriosa ‘Rothschildiana’, a type of lily, has been planted.  It climbs up the wall, using little hooks at the end of each leaf to grab onto support wires, after which it starts to produce some beautiful yellow and orange lilies. They are a summer flowering plant so it is coming to the end of its season but it is still interesting to see how the plants hook onto support wires.

The Lily

The Lily

The Gloriosa 'Rothschildiana'

The Gloriosa ‘Rothschildiana’


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Object of the Month: Utrecht Velvet

Easy Chair in the Drawing Room

Easy Chair in the Drawing Room

Utrecht velvet is a strong, thick plush velvet that is most commonly used in upholstery. Here, it has been used to upholster three easy chairs that were designed and built by Morris & Co.

The pattern is stamped onto the velvet making it appear darker and slightly raised.

The Dutch Suite, Titanic, in First Class Image Courtsey of CyArk

The Dutch Suite, Titanic, in First Class
Image Courtsey of CyArk

Utrecht velvet was first produced in the Low Countries of Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. Morris adapted this idea and sold it from 1871.

It was manufactured through Heaton & Co in Manchester, who were later employed by White Star Line to decorate the interiors of the Titanic. Utrecht velvet was used for the walls of the Dutch Suite, which was part of the first class accommodation in the Titanic.

 


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Cosmetic Work…

Scaffolding in the Courtyard

Scaffolding in the Courtyard

Every 7 years, the house has a face lift to repair the paint and wood work around the windows. This year is the turn of the north side of the house in the main courtyard.

The Conservatory as the Main Entrance

The Conservatory as the Main Entrance

Scaffolding has been put up this week so we have not been able to use the main entrance, and have instead opened up the conservatory as the entrance to the house. This is only temporary for the next few days and will go back to normal later this week. However, having the porch closed off has given us the opportunity to repaint the ceiling and to wax the floors.

Having the Conservatory as the main entrance has opened up parts of the house that are sometimes missed such as Helen’s little room. Helen was the youngest daughter of the Beales and only around 7 years old when Standen was being built. She approached Phillip Webb, the architect, and asked him to create a little space that she could call her own – with 6 older brothers and sisters, this is not very surprising! Webb said yes, but she had to pay him sixpence for it. Not only Helen used though, her nieces and nephews used it as their Wendy house and secret meeting space too.

Helen's Little Room from the inside

Helen’s Little Room from the inside

Helen's Little Room from the outside

Helen’s Little Room from the outside


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Good Clean Fun….

One of our annual tasks in the house, is to deep clean all of the rooms. Recently, I have been helping to finish off the Dining room before its goes to a night-time scene at the end of this month.

Brush dusting the sideboard in the Dining room

Brush dusting the sideboard in the Dining room

Every morning we will dust flat surfaces and vacuum the visitor route but the deep clean takes it to the next level. It means moving most of the objects off any surfaces, dusting and inspecting both, checking for any damage. IT also means crawling under tables and chairs to get rid of cobwebs and dust as well as inspecting the carpets for insect activity like carpet beetle and clothes moth. This happens in every single room and corridor in the house that is open to the public.

In the past, the majority of this deep clean took place in the winter months when the house was closed. But this year it has been different. We are now open for 363 days of the year, leading to interesting debates on the effect this may have (or may not have) on the collection. So the deep clean is now being carried out whilst we are open and in front of volunteers and visitors.

As we are open longer, we have already noticed an increase in our work so trying to fit in deep cleaning can be difficult. Our Assistant House Steward always tries her best to plan days where at least one person can do the deep clean but it is the nature of heritage that things pop up.

The Dining room has taken us 5 days over a 1 month period to complete and there is a noticeable difference to the room. A lot of the plates that look like they are cream are actually an off white colour, whilst the dust on the tablecloth also made it look yellow but it is now a lovely snowy white.

Now that the Dining room is complete, it is off to start the next one – the Drawing room. This is by far one of the more complex rooms to deep clean as there is so many objects and pieces of furniture. I got to clean the Mosque lamp this morning, which matches the one in the Conservatory and were both bought during Mr and Mrs Beale’s world tour in 1906.

Cleaning the Mosque lamp in the Drawing room

Cleaning the Mosque lamp in the Drawing room


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Bats and Towers …

One of the things that I got up over the weekend was assisting one of our volunteers in carrying out the Tower tours. These run Thursday and Sundays over September and October as well as February to May.

The Water Tower from the Courtyard

The Water Tower from the Courtyard

You may be wondering why there is a three month gap in the summer – from June to August – this is because we have brown long-eared bats that use the attics in the tower to roost and raise their young. Only the females and their teenage babies will roost here, whilst the 1 male in the colony will roost elsewhere. With around 20 females in the colony, each one has a single baby. So you can imagine it is quite busy up there!

The Slate Tanks

The Slate Tanks

Today was the first chance that I got to up the water tower since I started here, nearly 3 months ago (time just flies by!)  and I would definitely recommend a visit. As you can tell by its name, the water tower, it was used to filter all of the water that the Beales’, and their servants, used, from washing to drinking. It is a rather complex system using vast tanks hidden underneath the ground to collect rain water, which is then pumped up to the water tower using slate tanks and lead lined pipes (surprisingly all of the Beales lived to ripe old ages!) .

The Kitchen Garden from the top of the Tower

The Kitchen Garden from the top of the Tower

At the top is a viewing platform, that has beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and the Weir Wood reservoir. It also shows how much land that the Beales owned and most of the 12 acres of gardens. As well as being used as a viewing platform, Maggie and Helen (the 2 unwed daughters) used to sleep up there on hot nights under the stars.

Weir Wood Reservoir and surrounding countryside

Weir Wood Reservoir and surrounding countryside


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A Day in 1925…

The Kitchen Gardeners

The Kitchen Gardeners

Last weekend, we had our big Day in the Life day. The house is set up for a weekend in 1925, when Amy, the eldest daughter of the Beales, is coming to visit along with her husband and three of her children. Hence why as you go around you might spot a bag that has not quite been unpacked, the table is laid for dinner and then when you go upstairs, Amy is having breakfast in bed and Maggie is writing her diary before coming downstairs.

All of this has been gearing up to last Saturday where we took the Day in the Life story to the extreme! It was especially  exciting and fun to share the house with the visitors (not that it is not usually)  but this took that feeling to the next level. This was something that united the property as loads of volunteers and staff dressed up and pitched in.

The Cafe Staff

The Cafe Staff

There was loads of activities going on throughout the house with some of our volunteers playing billiards and draughts. We also had napkin folding demonstrations and writing in the Visitors book with pen and ink. We also had some cooking on the range with produce from the Kitchen Garden at Standen, where people could try roasted pumpkin, red cabbage and fresh bread.

Draughts and Puzzles in the Drawing Room

Draughts and Puzzles in the Drawing Room

It was a thoroughly enjoyable day but not one without its tensions! The main one happened just before we opened – we had filled the bath in the Green Bathroom upstairs and filled it with bubbles so it looked like someone was just about to have a bath. Now the taps are no longer connected so we had to fill it by hand with buckets. The next thing we knew water was coming through the ceiling in the Victorian Gentlemen’s Lavatories! So we had to quickly empty it, again by hand, using buckets!

I was dressed up as  a maid and got the chance to spend the day in the house talking to everyone and partaking in some of the activities. Here is one of me in action:

Gretting Guests as they arrive..

Greeting Guests as they arrive..

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