Standen

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


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Deceptive dust…

One of the monthly jobs that we carry out is to dust the Billiards table. The dust is quite deceptive (hence the title) in that the table often looks okay after a month until we move the balls and cues!

A very dusty table

A very dusty table

Usually, all of the flat surfaces in the house will be dusted with a chamois every day so that the dust does not stick and cause problems. Dust mostly consists of lightweight organic materials like skin and clothing fibers along with carbon based products like soot and silica.

The Big Brush

The Big Brush

If dust is left too long, the dust starts to bind itself to the surface  causing a greenish grayish hue to appear on objects. This dust takes a lot of effort to remove and as such could damage the object. One example of this would be if there was a layer of dust embedded on a gilded picture frame – removing the dust could potential take any gilding off with it and just leave a bare wooden frame. So by dusting everyday and by deep cleaning every object once a year we hope to prevent this happening.

The first step with dusting the billiards table is to use a big brush to brush the dust from the edges of the table in the center – the bristle are longer on the two ends so that the bristles reach underneath the lip of the sides. This is when we start to see exactly how dusty the table is

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Dirt Devil and Square Mesh

We then place a square piece of mesh onto the edge and run a dirt devil vacuum lightly over the mesh. We use the mesh so that any loose baize or threads are not sucked in, avoiding any potential for damaging the baize. The mesh square is about 30cm by 30cm so this task can take some time. Once the whole table has been vacuumed, we check the table manually, picking up any larger bits of fluff or dirt that was not picked up by the dirt devil.

Once the baize has been cleaned, we run a chamois over the polished wooden edging of the table to give it a little bit of a shine. It is always a satisfying job to do seeing the table all nice and dust free (although it never remains that way for long!).


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Object of the Month: May – Burmantofts Vase

Burmantofts Vase in the Billiard Room

Burmantofts Vase in the Billiard Room

These Burmantofts vases found in the Billiard Room and in Maggie’s studio were bought to Standen by Arthur Grogan, the first caretaker of Standen after Helen Beale’s death.

Burmantofts vases as they are known today were only known under this name for a short time during the company’s 99 year stint as a working pottery.

The original company was set up in Burmantoft, Leeds by John Lassey and William Wilcox in 1845. They originally started a coal mine but when they hit clay in 1858, started producing assorted building materials, like bricks. And pipes. By the time that 1879 rolled around neither of the original founders were alive and the company had passed onto James Holroyd. He started producing decorative items like vases and jardinières in the 1880s.

This move into ceramics bought more fortune to the company enabling them to open a London showroom under the name of the Burmantofts Company. However, this was short lived, soon after Burmantofts merged with five other Leeds based  ceramic companies and became the Leeds Fireclay Company. Production finally stopped in 1957.

 


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And the loser is …

When I was talking to the volunteers about their favorite wallpapers, it caused quite a bit of discussion and eventually talk turned to the wallpapers that they did not like quite as much. This was less divisive then picking a favourite. There was one clear loser though in this discussion and it was:

Bachelor's Button

Bachelor’s Button

Bachelor’s Button was designed in 1892, one of the last wallpaper designs by William Morris. This wallpaper consists of a series of cornflowers with acanthus leaves. Bachelor’s button was a common name for cornflowers as they were typically worn by young men in love.

Bachelor’s button could be printed in a variety of colours, however it was most popular as a monotone, with the pattern being printed in a light cream colour on a darker background, such as navy blue or teal. This yellowy/orange tone was quite unusual.

This wallpaper is one of the few original wallpapers left in the house. Most of the wallpapers were replaced in the 1960 due to fading and general deterioration but were as closely matched to the originals as possible. The reason Bachelor’s Button was left untouched was because Margaret Beale had it varnished in 1906. By this point her children were having their own children and Margaret wanted to protect the wallpaper from as much damage as possible from sticky little fingers … This is also why its colour is remarkably unfaded – the colour you see today is very much the colour the Beales’ would have seen.

The reason that a lot of the volunteers disliked this wallpaper was because of its colour and that it was fairly  garish and overwhelming.

Powdered wallpaper

Powdered wallpaper

The second least liked wallpaper was Powdered. This is interesting in that it was also picked as the most liked wallpaper and a couple of weeks ago. Also the opposite reasons were chosen as to why people did not like it as they felt it was too regimented and boring – it does not look natural.

 

 


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Object of the Month: April – Chinese Ewer

Chinese Ewer from the Dining Room

Chinese Ewer from the Dining Room

This blue and white china ewer found in the Dining Room was made in the mid to second half of the 16th century during the Ming  Dynasty in China. The Ming dynasty was a period of advancement in technology and techniques used in ceramic making.

Ceramicists explored  different colours and showed a preference for painted designs as well as  taking inspiration from foreign styles.

However, blue and white ceramics are some of the most well-known pieces from the Ming Dynasty. The blue colour and shades became clearer and more defined.

There was also a shift in the  economy with emphasis put on producing ceramics and goods to sell overseas across the world. Plates and vases were particularly sought after.

This Chinese ewer is decorated with the ‘magic fountain’ design, a fairly common theme in blue and white Chinese ceramics. It was a theme that evoked the idea of extending life, of living forever. By drinking the liquid from this jug, you could potentially extend your life.

This theme is carried on it’s makers mark, which means ‘Forever preserve late spring’. A wish for longevity, not a date sign.

 


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And the Winner is …

Following on from my rather mammoth post on how we look after and clean wallpapers, I decided to ask our volunteers what wallpapers they really liked and what one they did not like.

Now with 8 different wallpapers to choose from, picking a favorite one proved to be quite difficult. All eight were chosen by at least one volunteer with very different reasons given as to why. It made an interesting read.

Now the winner is ….

Larkspur Wallpaper

Larkspur Wallpaper

This proved to be by far the most popular of the eight.

Larkspur was designed by William Morris and was first produced in 1872. However, it looked a bit different to what we see now. Originally, Morris designed Larkspur as a monotone, with the pattern being printed in a dark colour, like navy blue and black, on a white background. Fast forward to 1875 and Morris decided to redesign Larkspur to give the pattern more depth and colour. This redesigning meant that it now took 12 blocks to print a square meter of wallpaper. Similar to all Morris wallpapers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, everything was hand printed. These blocks were incredibly heavy though!

Original Larkspur design

Original Larkspur design

Morris had originally started designing wallpapers in the early 1860s, around the same time as he founded Morris & Co. It was around this time that wallpapers started to be mass-produced. However these mass-produced designs tended to be simple repeating patterns with little depth. Morris’ designs, although expensive, filled this gap in the market providing rich, colourful patterns that drew inspiration from nature and the world around him, a recurring theme in all his work.

The volunteers gave a variety of reasons for choosing Larkspur as their favourite. Most of them loved the soft colours and how pretty and dainty the design was. They all agreed that it is perfect for a bedroom setting with one volunteer remarking that ‘it reminds me of my parents bedroom’ and the lovely memories that seeing the wallpaper triggers.

Powdered wallpaper

Powdered wallpaper

Powdered was a close contender for the title, with similar reasons. They liked how delicate and soft the design and colours are as well as it naturalism.

What is your favourite wallpaper here at Standen?


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Object of the Month March: Webb Table

This oval mahogany table is one of our House Steward’s favorite pieces in the house. Designed by Phillip Webb, the table is supported by 7 legs —a central thick leg and 6 thinner legs with  rounded bulb like decoration. The thinner outer legs have thin bamboo like side stretchers or connections halfway down  whilst similar stretchers connect the central leg to the 6 outer legs. All in all, it is an incredibly well-balanced table with all the legs touching the floor.

Webb Table

Webb Table

Phillip Webb was both a designer of furniture and an architect. It was him who  designed Standen right down to the littlest of details, like the picture hooks.

Phillip Webb

Phillip Webb

Webb trained as an architect in Reading and Oxford. Whilst he was training under G.E. Street in Oxford, he was put in charge of a new apprentice, William Morris, and thus began a life long friendship. Morris soon changed his direction and became a designer. Webb was one of the original founders of Morris’s company, Morris & Co, and soon started producing furniture designs for the firm. Even after Webb resigned, he continued to recommend Morris & Co to his clients, as he did with the Beales at Standen.


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Scrubbing Churchill …

Chartwell

Chartwell

Recently I went to Chartwell for a day to shadow Flick and Sophie, the 2 assistant house stewards there.

Chartwell has a diverse history. it was originally a farmhouse that was builtin the 16th century, under the name of Well Street. Apparently, Henry VII stayed there during his courtship of Anne Boleyn, who was raised at nearby Hever Castle. During the 19th century, the farmhouse was significantly, enlarged and modified into the red brick Victorian building you see today complete with tile hung gables and oriel windows – bay windows on higher levels so they do not reach the ground.

Churchill comes into play around about 1922, when him and his wife, Clementine, bought it as their

The Garden Studio

The Garden Studio

principal home. Chuchill hired an architect by the name of Phillip Tilden to modernize the house, especially with regards to bringing more light as oriel windows were notoriously poky and small. Tilden followed the thoughts of Edward Lutyens, who disregarded the fashionable Tudor revival style and instead made each house part of its landscape. The gardens were also refurbished at the same time and a series of lakes created to house Churchill’s precious fish. The gardens provided much inspiration for Churchill’s paintings, many of which he painted in his garden studio.

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill

However, financial struggle struck in 1938 and Churchill put Chartwell up for sale. With the advent of World War 2 and with Churchill’s rising position in government, Chartwell was deemed unsafe for Churchill and his wife to live in due to its proximity to the English Channel and to the main road. Instead Churchill and his wife spent their weekdays in London and weekends in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

After World War 2, with strained finances, Churchill put Chartwell back on the market. However, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. To thank Churchill for his efforts during the war, a group of business men got together and bought Chartwell. They charged him minimal rent on the condition that once both him and Clementine had passed on, Chartwell would be given to the National Trust. Upon Churchill’s death in 1965, Clementine decided to pass the house to the National Trust straight away. Clementine did, however, specify the route that the visitors would follow and still do today.

Churchill's Study

Churchill’s Study

One of the things that Churchill loved and this was untreated pine. to this end, as part of the modifications that Churchill made, large parts of the wood used was pine. As it is untreated it has to be treated quite differently then polished or varnished wood. This was one of the things that I helped Sophie and Flick with. The oldest part of Chartwell is the study and Churchill’s bedroom, both of which date back to medieval times. To this end it is decorated with darkened pine. The stair case that leads down from the study to the dining room is a great example of natural pine. So that it doesn’t splinter or  wear to quickly, twice a year a mixture of vinegar, sensitive soap and warm water are used to scrub the tread of the stairs as well as the top of the pine banister. After a short period of time clean warm water is scrubbed onto to reduce any stickiness. This mixture solidifies so that the stairs are non slippery as well as protected from the thousands of feet that climb up and down them over the year.

The banister, once the mixture of vinegar, sensitive soap and warm water is applied is then waxed with Harrell’s wax, giving a little more grip for the visitors, staff and volunteers.

I also got to help them with the deep clean of Churchill’s bedroom, which is not normally on display. It is a small room, simply furnished  as well as with photographs of his family and his favorite books. It also has an en suite bathroom with a sunken bath so that he could better enjoy the view.

All in all, it was a really interesting day and I learnt quite a bit about Churchill and his lifestyle, as well as more about deep cleaning. I also got to meet a couple of Chartwell’s cats including Jock – Churchill left quite specific instructions about there always being a Jock the Cat at Chartwell, including what he should look like!

Jock

Jock

 

 

 

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