Standen

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


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Bug Alert! Adventures in the Protection Store

At the top of what was once the servant’s staircase are a number of light, airy rooms. Some of the rooms were used by the family, and others formed the servant’s quarters.

Unfortunately these rooms aren’t part of our visitor route, but they still require care and inspection from time to time (though not the same level of care given to our showrooms), because some of them are used to store objects from our collection.

One such room is the Protection Store. In here we store all sorts of things: large rolls of original carpets, a Liberty & Co. bedroom furniture set that belonged to Helen Beale (the last family member to live at Standen), and a number of pieces of rather rare early William Morris lino – of a type called corticene – which is unfortunately too fragile to display.

We’d been closely monitoring this room, as we suspected it might have a carpet beetle problem. We also knew that the storage methods used in the room needed improvement – the Morris lino was stored underneath a type of platform, which had enabled other objects to be safely stacked on top, but meant that the lino itself was stored directly on the floor, which wasn’t ideal. With the added risk of bug damage, we decided to overhaul the room in order to create a safer, more effective storage area.

Bug infested carpet

A section of the infested carpet, showing carpet beetle larvae and their casings

We emptied the room of most of its contents, and then evaluated the carpet beetle issue. We found that one area of the room’s modern fitted carpet was completely infested: ‘woolly bears’, the larvae of the carpet beetle, had been slowly eating their way through the carpet, and in that one part of the room, they were everywhere!

It is rather unusual for a modern carpet to be so heavily infested with carpet beetle – modern carpets are often in rooms and buildings that are well used, and so carpet beetles and their larvae don’t often settle there. But this particular insect can be a real problem in historic houses, which are full of all sorts of carpets, tapestries and hangings – both historic and modern – in areas that are little used, which gives bugs a good chance to settle in and cause significant damage before they’re discovered, which is why it’s so important for us to closely monitor all of our showrooms and storage areas.

Carrying out a hygiene clean of the Protection Store

Carrying out a hygiene clean of the Protection Store

We started to conduct a hygiene clean of the room; sweeping away cobwebs, wiping down the paintwork and fire surround, getting rid of some harmless (but pesky) cluster flies, and trying to clean the infested carpet.

After a while, we decided the fitted carpet was too risky to keep – by simply cleaning it, we wouldn’t be able to ensure that we’d eradicated all the bugs, and since it wasn’t an historic carpet, it was decided that we should dispose of it. Luckily the man that looks after our carpets was able to come the same evening, cut the carpet into pieces (as it was too big to remove in one go) and take it away with him.

Protection Store

The carpet is removed bit by bit, revealing green stained floorboards underneath

Having got rid of the infested carpet, we checked the historic carpets that had been stored in the room. They appeared untouched by the infestation, which is probably because they had been very well sealed in protective packaging; however a couple of the carpets were frozen as a precaution – this would help kill off any bugs that had been able to get inside the packaging.

Protection Store fireplace

Once the room was empty, its original Arts & Crafts features were revealed

Protection Store cupboard

We’re not sure if this fitted shelving unit is a later addition, but we were pleasantly surprised to find it hidden behind rolls of carpets!

With the room clean, empty, and bug free, the next step was to adapt the storage solutions to make them more effective…more on this next week!