Standen

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


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Saving Energy

boilers 003This week we thought we’d share some of the measures we’ve introduced in our boiler room to save energy, which is a really important part of the work we do.

The first thing we did was to switch our boiler fuel to kerosene, which is cheaper (saving approx. £2,000 pa) and cleaner, from a maintenance point of view. Ultimately we want to get off oil, but in the mean time to fix a broken burner we replaced the two Avon boilers with cleaner burning units with duel output heads, thus saving money when a low heat is required. A poorly fitting inspection door was also repaired and the boilers re‐lagged with more efficient modern lagging.

Two non‐serviceable heat pumps were replaced and these, together with the four hot‐water pumps, were fitted with sensors and controls to allow adjustment of the running speed (previously they had all run at a constant speed). The 25% reduction in running speed will equate to a significant saving of 48% power.

Redundant piping and unused towel rails were removed from the heating system.

An indirect heat exchanger was installed next to the current hot water cylinder which heats the water much more quickly and efficiently than before.

We’ve seen an impact on our energy use already, and hope that over a full year we will see a real reduction!


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Emergency salvage training

As you might guess, emergency planning is high on our list of priorities, even more so after the recent tragedy at Clandon. We have regular training sessions for our emergency salvage team, who are made up from staff and volunteers across the property.

Coincidently, a week after the fire, we had scheduled a training session. Rather than do our planned session we felt that it would be important to have a kind of debrief around the events – as far as we knew them – at Clandon. We’re just an hour away and our former House Steward here had moved to Clandon, only leaving last summer.

We looked at historic fires in NT properties as well as Clandon and talked about the experiences of staff that had gone over to help at the property post fire. It was important to let people talk about the events – we are all very aware that this is something that could potentially happen in our property. A disaster like this makes the Trust, a big organisation, feel like a very small place.

We are also planning to run a practice exercise in September where we get our team to run a scenario so they have more of an idea of what to expect – keep an eye out for that on the blog…

Dunsland House – 1967

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Dunsland House just after the fire

Poor Dunsland house caught fire only three days before it opened to the public. It was so badly damaged that it was decided that it couldn’t be rebuilt so the walls were demolished and used to backfill the cellars. Now all that remains is the park and a plaque where the house was.

The guidebook can be found on our website here: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dunsland/

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What’s left of Dunsland House now.

Uppark – 1989

At Uppark the fire started in the attics when building work was going on – that’s why there is scaffolding up on the house.

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Uppark ablaze

The number of bins in the picture below show just how much debris came out of the house in the salvage operations. All of what we learnt at Uppark will be put into use at Clandon, along with experiences from other historic buildings – for instance Historic Royal Palaces sent a team to help.

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Uppark during the clear up operation

Clandon 2015

Staff from Standen went to help with some of the contents that had been salvaged and by making sure the site was secure. These are some of our House Manager Ben’s photos.

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Behind the scenes at the salvage operation

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Looking through the door to daylight

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Windows


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A Fond Adieu…

Yesterday was the 21st June, the summer solstice and the longest day of the year. It is really the turning point of the year, with summer holidays fast approaching and before we know it will be Christmas! It is also the turning point for me as I near the end of my contract as a Conservation and Interpretation Assistant – this year has just flown by. It feels like it was only yesterday that I started on one of the hottest days of 2014 (fyi – avoid long trousers and a jumper in the future).

I have learnt so much from the house team as well as from the volunteers and the visitors. Standen is one of those properties where you can see the results of a strong team in the atmosphere and the high level of detail that is apparent in everything they do, one which I am lucky to have been a part of. Also one that I look forward to continuing working with in the future.

So last year my predecessor, Hannah, left to be Assistant House Steward at Stourhead. I am not so much leaving as changing role. So from this week, I shall be the Conservation and Engagement Assistant here in the house. This blog through which I have shared my experiences, will become more of a collaboration between the house team and will give you more of an in-depth insight into Standen. Vicky, our House Steward, will be taking over and ensuring that we share some of the stories and tasks that are involved in the day-to-day running of the house.

Although the blog may be a little more sporadic, this will not be the last that you hear from me. In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger: ‘I’ll be back

On that note, I will leave you with an image of one of my favourite objects here at Standen:

The Grand Piano in the Hall

The Grand Piano in the Hall

 

 

Time Passing

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This week, I thought that I would bring you the blog in a slightly different format then normal – via a video. Earlier this year, the Larkspur bedroom and dressing room went through a little bit of a makeover and was repainted in Standen White (do not worry the wallpaper is still there!) In order for the rooms to be painted, all of the furniture, paintings, ceramics and fixtures had to be removed  in order to protect them. The video below is a time lapse video that was taken over the 4 days it took the house team to empty both rooms. To add a bit of humor it is set to Tchaikovsky’s Trepak Russian Dance so make sure that you have the volume turned up:


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Preserving Plastic

There was an interesting article in the Guardian recently about the difficulties that the V&A Museum are facing when it comes to preserving plastic objects: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/may/19/va-conservators-race-to-preserve-art-and-design-classics-in-plastic

The Blow Chair

The Blow Chair Image Courtesy of The Guardian

The rise in technology has led to the creation of new materials which are used to create art and objects, both decorative and every-day. However, we know very little about the longevity and the process as to how these materials will change. This has become apparent with some of the plastics in the V&A’s collection. Objects such as the Blow chair, designed in 1969, and the Stephen Willats Mini dress, also designed in the 1960s, are starting to degrade to the point beyond repair, and the only way to protect them to keep them in dark, temperature controlled stores.

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Stephen Willats Mini dress Image Courtesy of The Guardian

The common assumption with plastics are that they are a stable substance, when in actual fact they are very brittle. The reason plastic is brittle is because plasticers are used in the process to make it malleable. Unfortunately, plasticers have a habit of leaking, making the object sticky, attracting dust and dirt. This stickiness also makes it very difficult to clean as brushes and water only further damage the object. Plastics are also susceptible to changes in temperature, humidity and light, which can lead to discolouration, decaying to a powder, warping, cracking and shrinking – all the things that we try to prevent happening to our collections as a whole.

As plastic is still a relatively new material we do not know as much as we would like in order to prevent damage to it. This is why the V&A has partnered with Imperial College London to try to see how we can prevent further damage as well as its causes. With most other materials that can be found in historic house, there is a history of research that has gone into how we can best look after them.

Light damage to the Sofa turning it from Pink to Green

Light damage to the Sofa turning it from Pink to Green

Temperature, light and relative humidity are monitored both weekly and biannually. This ensures that we keep an eye on things that might be in danger of deteriorating and we can then assess how best to limit any damage. Humidity causes objects to shrink and grow that leads to stress fractures and cracks as can be seen on the cabinet at the Top of the Stairs. Light not only causes objects to fade but also causes threads to fray and eventually tear. Light also causes a chemical reaction whereas the object will actually change colour – like in the drawing-room where the rose-pink sofa has faded to a murky green colour.

Deep Cleaning the Mosque lamp in the Drawing room

Deep Cleaning the Mosque lamp in the Drawing room

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, (https://standennt.wordpress.com/2015/05/19/deceptive-dust/) dust is another factor that damages the collection as it discolours objects but also forms a hard surface which not only attracts more dust but is also very difficult to clean off without damaging the object.

This is why knowledge and a good cleaning routine are so important. We dust and vacuum the house once a day plus every object gets an annual deep clean every year. It is also why the house may seem cold or dark as we try to preserve it for the future.


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Object of the Month – June: Voysey Linen Press

Linen Press designed by C.F.A Vosey

Linen Press designed by C.F.A Vosey

This linen press in the North Spare Dressing Room was designed by C.F.A Voysey, a renowned architect and furniture designer during the Arts and Crafts period.

A linen press is similar to what we know as a linen or laundry cupboard. They were built to hold sheets, napkins, clothing and other textiles.

Voysey was not only a furniture designer but also an architect and wallpaper designer. He started his own architect practise in 1881 and used furniture and wallpaper design to supplement his income.

One of the common features used to identify Voysey’s work is a simplistic design with clean horizontal and vertical lines. He strongly believe in letting the high quality materials speak for themselves and preferred using unfinished and unpolished materials, especially wood.

Simplicity, sincerity, repose, directness and frankness are moral qualities as essential to good architecture as to good men”. (C.F.A Voysey)

 

 

 

 

 


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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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