Nostell Priory: sleeping beauty

Last year the BBC did a series called ‘The Big Spring Clean‘, which followed the cleaning process at the National Trust’s Petworth House over the winter while it was closed.

In January 2012, the conservation department at Nostell Priory started a conservation blog, chronicling their cleaning progress.

Similar blogs have also recently been started at Attingham Park, Dryham Park (nr Bath) and Knole, charting their conservation progress.

It will be interested to see how these blogs develop once the houses reopen to the public and the conservation assistants (typically young and/or in one of their first roles on their Historic House career path) who currently contribute to the blog move on to new roles.

The Nostell Priory blog advertised a behind the scenes tour highlighting the conservation and cleaning that takes place each year, and so we decided to see first hand some of what we had seen on The Big Spring Clean.  NP does after all boast Robert Adam interiors and plenty of fine furniture, as well as being one of the few National Trust houses within easy reach of our Yorkshire base.

Reason to visit: to see a massive collection of Chippendale furniture.

Welcome to the gloom that is an historic house out of season, a quiet sleeping beauty.

This visit was not therefore a usual trip, something rather special, which I very much enjoyed.  Less typical of the NT’s attempts to make itself more accessible (which often, I find, dumb things down), and more academic.  Bravo NP for being brave and taking us in during your down-time, even if D did mutter a bit about having to use torches (D is a fan of shutters/curtains open-type visiting; me I understand the need to low light levels wherever possible).

Here are my photos on the first really sunny day of 2012 that I had encountered (and in Yorkshire of all places!).

Can’t keep the light out here!

The view from the first floor

This child’s chair with the unusual use of keyholes on the legs is my second favourite thing at Nostell Priory.

And these pagoda wall lanterns (to take candles and usually on the stairwell) are my favourite.

The back of the shutters.

And then we took a walk around the lake

I wouldn’t say Nostell Priory really has a garden; it is more so a house that sits in its landscape, as Harewood House would have been before Charles Barry added the terrace.

As for me, I don’t think I’d make it as a conservationist, dusting with paint brushes and making sure I got rid of the mould in the ‘National Trust way’.  I love my own interiors greatly and am obsessive about cleaning, retouching, dusting and vacuuming, but in my family I take the role of ‘director of strategic operations’ (involving making many long and well thought-out decisions that result in me being able to live with what I create for years (e.g. it took me two years to find the perfect kitchen bin)), rather than someone who gets bogged down with cleaning, which frankly just has to be done (and in the best way for whatever I’m cleaning).   However, I will be buying some sticky bug-catching pads to put around at home, after seeing them at Nostell Priory.

I’m too much of a perfectionist but also a little impatient about delay and I think the red-tape involved with working in a NT house would get me down; where I would want to simply varnish a door, I fear it would be six months before I got permission to do so.  However, I’m also definitely of the camp that says ‘put another jumper on’ rather than ‘turn up the heating’ so while D moaned about how chilly it was in the Billiard Room, I was nice and toasty as I had arrived prepared dressed top to toe in a base layer of thermals.

Now, give me a County House Rescue house and that I could get into ship-shape.  I’d love to get my hands on Kelly House.   Ruth Watson: she’s a woman I agree with.

When visited: February 2012

House * out of 5 (when closed): ***

Website: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/nostell-priory/

Theme tune: Ghostbusters (because of all those white dust sheets)

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4 thoughts on “Nostell Priory: sleeping beauty

  1. I’m researching for an exhibition to be held at Nostell in 2015, which will be a part of the NT’s objective for making things accessible. Perhaps you could share your thoughts on what and what not to do in this instance, as Nostell has a fascinating social history too.

    i thought you might like to see this http://secretlivesofobjects.blogspot.co.uk/ for Leeds Museums and Galleries. Check out the conservators Ian Fraser and Jenny Hack.

    1. Thanks for the link Julie. I’ll check it out.
      What type of exhibition? I’m happy to oblige on what I think would make accessbilty better for Joe Bloggs and the geek like me at the same time (you’ll see in my forthcoming post on East Riddleston Hall that we had great fun making pipecleaner animals so we’re not JUST geeks) but if there’s anything in particular let me know. I really like Emile’s suggestion on nttreasurehunt.wordpress.com (see his post on the picture of NP) to have a screen that shows the history of Nostell Priory’s room decoration through the ages so you can see what the Georgians, Victorians etc did to RA’s original colourscheme…

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