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

Leave a comment

Snapshots of Standen

Standen reopened last month, and as you may have read in previous blog posts, the House Team spent the weeks before opening performing a deep clean of the house. This gave us all a chance to get up close and personal with the many and varied objects in our collection, and I couldn’t resist snapping a photograph here and there when something caught my eye – here are just a few…

Corner armchair

Old woodworm damage in an antique armchair belonging to the Beale family

Dining Room

When the Drawing Room was redecorated, other showrooms were used as temporary storage – here, the Dining Room is being used to house De Morgan lustreware

Cantagalli ceramic

Cleaning the Cantagalli ceramic depicting The Journey of the Magi – the detail in this piece is stunning

Clock from Drawing Room

Standen has a number of clocks – this one is in the Drawing Room and is one of the oldest in the house


De Morgan in the Dining Room!

Cigar box

This old cigar box still smells faintly of cigars…

Knives from picnic set

The picnic set displayed in the Kitchen has many items which needed to be cleaned, including this set of knives

Metalwork detail

While cleaning this glass and metal basket, I was particularly taken with the eye catching metalwork

Detail from clock

Detail from one of the clocks in the house

Detail from glassware

This piece of glassware has a striking and unusual finish, which I hadn’t properly noticed until I started cleaning it!

Blacking the range

Blacking the range: a rather messy job!

Objects from the picnic set

More objects from the picnic set

Liberty & Co.

There are a number of pieces of furniture in the house that were sourced from Liberty, as they were well known for stocking Arts and Crafts pieces

Leave a comment

Rolling the Drawing Room carpet

Yesterday I wrote about how we’ve been spending the last few days getting the Drawing Room ready for the decorators. The final stage was to roll the huge William Morris carpet, which we did this morning. It can be a little tricky to roll carpets (especially a carpet of this size), and it often takes several tries before the carpet is successfully rolled. I thought I’d share a few photos of the process, and a shot of the Drawing Room now that its (finally!) ready for the decorators.

Rolling the Drawing Room carpet

The carpet is initially rolled on to a length of plastic piping, and layers of tissue paper are added to protect each roll of the carpet

Drawing Room carpet

Now the carpet is completely covered in a tissue layer, it’s time to start rolling!


Drawing Room carpet

Plenty of hands on deck makes the whole process much easier!

Drawing Room carpet

Rolling the carpet is a slow process – it needs to be rolled as tightly on to the plastic pipe as possible

Drawing Room

Once we’ve covered the objects in the centre with dust sheets, the room will be ready for the decorators to begin

Leave a comment

November: a month of cleaning, decorating and learning

Standen was closed during weekdays in November, but far from being idle, it was an incredibly busy month for the House Team – in fact, it was possibly the busiest 4 weeks I’ve experienced since starting here!

The first part of the month was spent on our annual deep clean, where we inspect and clean the house and its contents from top to bottom. The last week of the month was spent decorating the house for Christmas (you might have seen a preview of this in my post last week). The three days spent decorating were fun, but rather tiring – but it was all worth it in the end, as the house looks fantastic!

The House Team also spent time in November taking part in regional training days. Standen was hosting three of these training sessions (so we didn’t have far to travel!), and staff from other properties in the London and South East region would also be attending. For some of us, it was a chance to refresh previous training, but for others (like me!) it was a new experience all together. I was excited about taking part in my first training sessions, and was also looking forward to meeting people from other properties.

Here’s a little more about the first of the training days…

Caring for photographic materials

Slide from training day about photos

Learning about photo processing in the 19th century

The first training day hosted at Standen was with the National Trust’s Adviser on Photographic Materials, Sarah Allen. We have a small collection of photographs at Standen, but didn’t know much about how we should be caring for them, so we were looking forward to the training.

Sarah told us that the conservation definition of a photograph is ‘an image produced by light reacting with a chemically sensitive surface’. The very nature of a photograph means that they are amongst some of the most sensitive objects in National Trust collections: they are complex, multi-layered and are affected by almost everything, including light, temperature, humidity, biological factors (such as mould or insects), pollutants and…us!

Examples of 19th century photos

Some examples of 19th and early 20th century photographs

The National Trust preserves the objects in its collections through preventive conservation – carefully managing change in order to delay further deterioration. In the case of photographs, this means controlling the temperature and relative humidity levels, using high quality storage materials, and – if possible – limiting access to photographic collections by allowing access in other ways, such as digitising collections.

But before we can plan how to care for a photograph, we need to know what it is, and how it was produced. This sounds fairly simple, but as Sarah told us, there are over 1500 photographic processes (!), and establishing what type of photograph you have in front of you is often a matter of elimination. A magnifier can help us see what the image is made up of (such as dots, lines and squiggles), which can be a good indicator of the processes used to produce the photo.

Practical exercise

Practical exercise: matching up the photographs with the correct label. Everyone is wearing gloves, as the oily residues from our fingers can cause photos to deteriorate

We did a practical exercise to match up photos with a label stating the type of photo or process used to produce it – this proved rather tricky! Sarah pointed out that we should be considering the photo as an object, and not get distracted by the image itself, as this can often be misleading. It took a while, but as a team, we got most of the photos matched correctly, though we did need to refer back to our notes rather a lot!

It was a very interesting day – Sarah was a really engaging speaker, and we all learned a tremendous amount. Although Standen’s photographs are in relatively good condition, individuals from properties with larger collections commented that they were going away with lots to think about and put into action.

Slide from photos talk

I couldn’t resist sharing the final slide from Sarah’s presentation…!