‘…(Un) Happily ever after…’

A new exhibition has just been launched here at Arlington.
It takes a look at the darker side of Victorian life and childhood.
A fascinating yet melancholic subject, we discovered some sobering facts about food, drink, travel and life in general. Depending on how wealthy your family was, would also have a dramatic effect on your life expectancy…

Simple products like bread and milk would need to be as cheaply produced as possible to meet the high demand of an ever growing population in the nineteenth century.
Unfortunately, this led to less than ideal additives being put in, to make the product go further. This included chalk and plaster in flour, and boracic acid in milk that was though to purify it.

This was the age of invention, but it came at a high cost. New ‘cures’ for teething for example, were found to be opiate based and a new wonder product from America for teething and troublesome infants, was found to contain around 65% Morphine.
No wonder children were seen and not heard. Toys were often painted with products that contained lead, that if consumed would be extremely hazardous. Even high quality wallpaper paint, contained lead. We have a fantastic example in the Morning room of the house!

If you were unlucky enough to be born into a poor family, you could expect to be put out to work at a factory, mill or farm from as young as 5 years old. You could expect to work eight to twelve hours a day, six days a week. This would have been a dangerous environment and as there were few regulations to protect workers until the end of the century.
Unfortunately, a young workforce could easily be exploited. Some factory machines could only be operated by children due their small size. Illness would also be a common occurrence, as diseases like small pox and scarlet fever would spread quickly in poor living conditions.

Mortality, came to call on all and the rich were not spared. Carriage travel, seen as a status symbol, was often hazardous. As the population increase was at a significant rate in the eighteen hundreds, more and more vehicles were using the same streets.
The most common incident would be a frightened horse that would often gallop away with the carriage in tow, with or without its occupants. In 1866, four people per week were killed in London, from horse and carriage related accidents.

Where did Rosalie Chichester fit into this picture?
The last of her branch of the family, she was the only daughter of the estate owners and had a life of relative luxury. Schooled at home and looked after by a governess, she was encouraged in her leisure pursuits such as painting and photography, giving us a record of her passion and interests.
The exhibition runs until the end of October.

The plan for Clandon

…good to know its future is in safe hands…

Treasure Hunt

The Marble Hall, 1, photo James Dobson-National Trust Images The Marble Hall at Clandon, following the removal of the debris and the stabilisation of the remaining wall surfaces. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

An announcement was made yesterday about the plans to bring Clandon Park back to life following the devastating fire last April.

Crates with salavaged items from the Saloon, photo James Dobson-National Trust Images Crates with salvaged fragments in the Saloon. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

Over the last nine months, the colleagues involved with Clandon have reviewed a number of options, ranging from leaving it as a ruin to a full restoration. They considered the architectural significance of what had survived the fire, the items salvaged from the building and what was technically possible within it.

Cleaning the leg of a marble topped table in the Marble Hall, photo James Dobson-National Trust Images Conservator cleaning the remains of a side table in the Marble Hall. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

The criteria guiding the decision-making process reflect the National Trust’s core purpose. They include making sure that Clandon remains open to the public, considering Clandon’s historic and cultural…

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‘…You’re the pest thing…’

It’s pest time again at the carriage museum. This is where we collect up all of our sticky blunder traps to see what and how many creepy crawlies are trying to eat the collection. They are called blunder traps as the wandering insects literally blunder on to the sticky pad of the trap and stay there.

We have around 100 traps to check, so this does take quite a while to collect, analyse, record and put back. The main reason sticky traps are used is to have evidence of which species we have, so we can act accordingly. It’s also to keep a record of numbers, to note any increase or change. Even the less trouble some ones like spiders can give us an indication of an environmental change, albeit a slight one.

It does help to have a fairly strong stomach for these tasks though, as when at the analysing stage, the traps do niff a little bit due to the fact you have a box full of dead and decaying insects under your nose!
To record the findings, we use an NT standard spreadsheet so we can detail each species, trap and its location. The most common culprits at the carriage museum are brown house moths. The larvae do love to try to munch on our textiles. Silverfish also graze on our collection and love damp environments, so an increase in them is a bit of a warning. Carriage interiors contain organic products over 100 years old (silk, wool, carpets, leather and horse hair) To avoid the interiors getting dusty during the open season, the doors are closed to protect the insides. This however, does mean that there are some nice dark undisturbed areas where the moths like to hang out.

As well as pest week every 3 months, we regularly check the collection and have a strict cleaning plan. This helps to keep them at bay as much as possible.
Unfortunately this process is not perfect and we do get the odd extra visitor that we would rather not catch in a trap, so every effort is made to stop this from happening. The sides of the traps in certain areas are taped up to prevent anything larger than a beetle stumbling in.

Once recorded, the contents are each given a blob of correction fluid, to note which specimen has been recorded. They then get put back into their locations and replaced with new ones if they are full. (yuk!) Ready for next time.

‘… Getting wound up…’

Thanks to a bit of networking at a recent training course, an opportunity to do a spot of job shadowing presented itself and Snowshill Manor looked a perfect place to do this. The Snowshill was donated to the National Trust in 1951 by Charles Paget Wade. Mr. Wade had bought the property when he left the Army in 1919 and soon started restoration work. The Manor house of Snowshill dates back to the 16th century when it was first built using glorious Cotswold stone. It was restored in the 17th and 18th centuries, but was in need of more repairs when Mr. Wade saw it advertised in a magazine, and undertook a labour of love. An Architect by trade, Mr. Wade had an eye for collecting. He amassed an astonishing array of artefacts that range from Japanned cabinets, to musical instruments, to Samurai Armour, to bicycles, to toys, to children’s carriages to masks, too many to mention. All of them the finest examples of craftsman-ship. Over the years his collection grew so much he chose to live in a small cottage next to the manor house where he repaired and restored his collection.

I was keen to see how collections management works at another property, and what the house team get up to behind the scenes. The plan was for me to spend two days, one closed, one open, job shadowing the acting House Steward Vicki. As luck would have it, the first day was integrated pest management day and I do like my bugs. All the sticky pest traps are collected, inspected and recorded on a spreadsheet to monitor numbers and act accordingly if they increase. This is a museum and NT standard procedure of monitoring which little beasties are attempting to use the collection as a walk-in buffet. As there were quite a few traps to inspect, it did sound as if we were playing a conservation version of bingo. ’… Woodlouse, silverfish, Death Watch beetle… ‘ then silence. Woodworm, clothes moth and furniture beetle are the worst culprits but there’s a variety of different species of each to look out for.

For the second day, after a spot of conservation cleaning, for the full Snowshill experience, Vicki suggested I could do the daily briefing for the volunteers. Although a little in at the deep end, this was a great way of meeting a completely different team of volunteers. But first there was one job that had been set aside for me. Winding the 18thcentury turret clock. This is a challenging task due to it being on the visitor route, over a doorway and you need to bolt a ladder to the floor get to it! This was probably the oldest and largest exposed clock mechanism I had seen this up close and personal. The large winding handle does present a slight issue when shifting your weight at the top of the ladder, but thankfully the risk assessment had already been discussed. Made by Thomas Mears II, the clock has a handless time keeping design painted on the wall underneath. It’s even more impressive when it’s working!

A good 2 day’s work I think!

Robin Hancock – Assistant House Steward