Standen

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


Leave a comment

Focus on – the drawing room

My favourite room (along with all my other favourite rooms…)!

Drawing Room.JPG

The drawing room (before the Vine Hanging was moved!) (NT)

The drawing room is one of the biggest rooms of the house and one you would only see as a guest of the Beales’ if you were a friend rather than a social acquaintance.

Many servants wouldn’t see any of the principle rooms of the house, only the housemaid who was responsible for clearing the grate and laying the fire and making sure the room was clean and dusted. If you were the kitchen maid, for instance, you wouldn’t have seen any of the family rooms.

As with all our rooms the drawing room is a combination of Beale family items and later additions, mostly from Arthur and Helen Grogan, the first custodians who brought their Arts and Crafts collection to Standen to furnish it.

Drawing Room.jpg

An old photo of the drawing room (NT)

The current layout of the drawing room was inspired by this historic photo. You can see it shows a curtain at the end of the sofa to create a cosy nook. We also know that Mrs Beale’s chair and light were always in this spot, with her workbag (which is a modern creation!) hanging from it.

My favourite things in this room include the Vine Hanging, which was embroidered by Mrs Beale – unsurprisingly taking her around 6 years; the De Morgan bowl which was a 25th wedding anniversary present to the Beales from their children – which also inspired the Grogans to collect more De Morgan pieces for the house; and the magnificent Morris & Co. Merton Abbey Mills carpet. The latter you can appreciate even more now thanks to our Eyemat.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 


Leave a comment

Freezing them out: how we deal with pests…

Here we have a blog by our newest conservation assistant Rachel. She’s previously worked at Scotney Castle and has been covering a role here at Standen since July. It’s hard to believe she’s only been here since then as she’s a great part of the team!

With only 3 months left as a Conservation Assistant at Standen, it’s pretty shameful that I haven’t contributed to the blog but my excuse is that it’s been a busy 6 months.

To prove this, I thought I’d explain one of the tasks that I have done to assist the House Team in order to protect Standen’s collection. I’ve chosen one that I’d never done before this week because I enjoyed it and think it’s pretty interesting: freezing objects to destroy insect pests.

A few weeks ago, Kay, Standen’s Facilities Assistant, and I were asked to inspect and clean the display cabinet in the Butler’s Pantry and its contents. The cabinet is rarely opened so you might think it would be unnecessary to clean inside. However, although the doors are kept shut, they are not air tight so a bit of dust had got in but more significantly so had a certain kind of pest – carpet beetle and their larvae, woolly bears.

rachel-blog-post-1

The Butler’s Pantry cupboards (NT/Rachel Finch)

Woolly bears sound cute but they’re actually the larvae stage of carpet beetles and eat keratin found in natural fibres so are a real threat to our collection, especially textiles, at Standen. The larvae shed old skins as they grow and it is usually these, along with the damage they cause, that indicate an infestation.

Have a look at them here

During our survey of the cabinet, Kay and I found enough woolly bear cases (plus one fully grown carpet beetle) to require action beyond a thorough vacuum.

Carpet beetles cannot survive below a certain temperature so an effective method of killing both the larvae and adult beetle is to freeze the items on which they have been found. The length of time it is recommended to freeze objects depends on the temperature of the freezer: 3 days at -30, or 14 days at -18 then 48 hours to defrost followed by another 14 days exposure. We use the latter method at Standen due to the temperature of our freezer.

This week, Fiona and I prepared the objects for freezing treatment. Carpet beetles target textiles in particular and although we had not found evidence of the pests on all of the textile items in the cabinet, we decided to freeze them all to be on the safe side.

To freeze the items we removed them from the display and wrapped them in acid free tissue followed by polythene.  It was important at this stage to remove as much air as possible from the packages before sealing them with tape to prevent any water ingress which could lead to dye leakage. For awkwardly shaped items a hoover can be used to suck the air out; we used this method for the chauffeur’s hat.

Once the items were all sealed in polythene with their identifying details and the date clearly marked on the outside, we took them to the chest freezer in the Stable Yard to be frozen.

rachel-blog-post-5

Fiona in the chest freezer (NT/Rachel Finch)

We placed the smaller items in hanging trays and raised the rest above the bottom of the freezer to allow air circulation.

rachel-blog-post-6

Everything packed and ready to be frozen (NT/Rachel Finch)

At the end of 2 weeks we will carefully remove the items and allow them to defrost for 48 hours before refreezing them for a further 2 weeks.  After this we will un-wrap them and hopefully find nothing, meaning they were pest free when they were placed in the freezer, or some dead woolly bears/carpet beetles.

In the mean time we will remove the remaining items from the display case and spray it with a water-based insecticide to kill off any insect pests left inside.


Leave a comment

How we use blue fabric to monitor light

You might have seen these around the house. They’re called blue wool dosimeters and we use them for keeping an eye on how much light exposure the house gets over a year. In February we have to collect them in and send them off to be analysed.

20170209_124555

A blue wool dosimeter in situ in the north bedroom (NT/Victoria Witty)

They are rather low tech, but very clever. They are made of picture mount and pieces of specially dyed (blue!) wool, the latter which is known to fade at a certain rate when exposed to light.

We use them to see how much light falls on certain objects or rooms over a whole year. As a registered museum we need to try to keep to museum standards of light exposure to our collection:

  • highly light sensitive rooms/objects = 150,000 lux hours
  • moderately sensitive rooms/objects = 600,000 lux hours

Blue wool dosimeters allow us to see how much cumulative light the house and collection has been exposed to over the year and if we need to adjust how we show the house.

BWDresults

Results of the blue wool dosimeters from around the house 2015-6 (NT/VW)

bwd_reverse

The back of a blue wool dosimeter – important information for when they are analysed (NT/VW)

You can see below that the aperture is smaller than the piece of fabric so when they are analysed there is something to compare the faded area against. We need to make sure that the dosimeters aren’t moved to make sure they give the most accurate information they can.

20170208_152637

This is what it looks like after a whole year out, just before we send it off to be analysed (NT/VW)

Sometimes, as they are wool, they get munched by pests – wool is a favourite food of carpet beetles and their larvae, woolly bears…

20170208_152319.jpg

We try not to let this happen! (NT/VW)


Leave a comment

What goes on in January?

The house opens differently in January for lots of reasons! We’re not as busy as usual so we take the opportunity to open in other ways.

20170117_083233

Opening up in the morning (NT/Victoria Witty)

We run special Behind Closed Doors Tours which go into not usually seen parts of the house. You get to go down to the cellar and up to the water tower and we have some extra time in the main part of the house to get some of the deep clean done in awkward areas.

20170117_145019

At work in the Billiard Room (NT/Victoria Witty)

We also use January opening to get any building or decorating work done – this year we had the painters in to decorate the Morning Room Corridor.

20170116_121235

Painters in the morning room corridor (NT/Victoria Witty)

We use special water based paint and the colour is mixed specially for us by our specialist decorators. The colour comes from investigations into original paint colours

20170119_163230

Samples of paint mixed specially for us to match the paint colours in the house (NT/Victoria Witty)

This year, following the success of our Winter Tree and exhibition round the house we also have a special Kaffe Fassett exhibition. It’s in the house in our exhibition rooms, open from 12 to 2.30pm (last entry at 2pm).

Come along and see what we are up to!

 


1 Comment

Happy New Year! To-morrow is another day…

Happy New Year! We hope you’ve all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year. It’s probably been our best Christmas ever, with over 7000 visitors coming over the two weeks either side of the big day.

We’re now in 2017 and I thought that an embroidered fire screen that we have upstairs in the house would be appropriate for the first blog post of the year.

sta0545

May Morris fire screen c. National Trust/Jane Mucklow

It was embroidered by May Morris who was the second daughter of William and Jane Morris. She was born in 1862 at Red House in Bexleyheath and learnt to embroider from her mother Jane and aunt Bessie Burden.

She studied embroidery at the precursor of the Royal College of Art, the National Art Training School. Unusually for the time she took part in her father’s business with his encouragement and ran the Morris & Co. embroidery department, starting when she was only 23.

If you wanted, you could buy embroidery kits from Morris & Co.,  with the pattern printed on a linen ground and silks provided to embroider it yourself. The V&A even have a half finished kit in their collection.

She combined Jane and Bessie’s skill for embroidery with her father’s design abilities, producing beautiful embroideries and designs. Later May was involved with the Royal School of Art Needlework – now the Royal School of Needlework.

Best wishes for 2017 and hope to see you here soon!


Leave a comment

Twilight Christmas

For the first time this year we are opening the downstairs of the house into the evening just before Christmas.

20161221_170604

The staircase hall

It’s an opportunity to see the house in the dark, with the electric lights just as the Beale family would have known it, along with all our cheerful seasonal decorations.

20161221_170642

We try to get the hall fire lit!

We’re open into the twilight tonight and tomorrow if you’ve not yet been! Our very own Standen Choir will also be singing.

20161221_170627

Mrs Beale getting into the festive spirit


Leave a comment

Christmas 2016

20161208_095511

The cottage

We’re well into Christmas at Standen, so if you haven’t already been to visit us here are a few photos to whet your appetite!

Don’t forget we have some wonderful tapestries and knitting by Kaffe Fassett around the house, and he also designed our Winter Tree in the courtyard.

You can also see we’ve been yarnbombing round the place – all crocheted by our volunteers.

And finally, just because it is Christmas doesn’t mean we are letting our standards drop…

20161207_113509

Sarah dusting the turkey