The winter clean has begun at the National Trust country house and a specialist team of volunteers is busy removing dust and corrosion from over 9,000 artefacts and furniture to preserve them for future generations.
Gunby Estate was the family home of the Massingberd family from 1700 until 1967. The estate comprises the 42-room Gunby Hall, listed Grade I, a clocktower, listed Grade II* and a carriage house and stable block which are listed Grade II.
The house, its contents and around 610 ha (1,500 acres) of land, park and gardens, were given to the National Trust by the family in 1944.
An important collection of furniture, portraits, porcelain, silver and other artefacts are featured which, along with natural deterioration, face wear and tear caused by the 40,000 visitors each year.
Dust can also damage historic objects by altering their appearance and interacting with an object’s surface, causing physical damage and chemical alteration.
Attempts to remove dust can cause damage by rubbing surfaces too hard, or cleaning away original materials.
As a result the specialist team of volunteers come in at the start on the new year for the annual big clean.
Around 15 rooms on the visitor route become work stations for dusting and careful vacuuming from floor to ceiling.
Wendy Jackson, Senior Collection and House officer at Gunby Hall, said: “We have a very short period in the winter when the house is not open to the public but we are carrying on with our work to ensure we are caring for our collections in the best way possible to preserve them for future generations.”
Every year a whole team of volunteers come together with staff to undertake the vital deep clean.
"The collection at Gunby is over 9,000 objects. Not all of them are on the visitor route but we do have to clean and maintain all of the collection,” said Wendy.
"Annually we inspect every item and we compare it with last year’s records to see if there has been any deterioration.
"We check to see if there is any insect infestation in the furniture and if it’s active or check that something isn’t accidentally getting rubbed and touched and therefore a textile is getting destroyed in that process.
"It’s a really good opportunity to get close up to the collection and make sure we are presenting it in the best way possible to maintain it.”
“Volunteers are invited to take part in the conservation clean as early as September so we give them a training session to show the process and why we do these things.
"It’s not that we are overly house proud but we need to maintain these items.
"Nature would naturally decline these objects so chemical reactions can interact with the objects and metal will corrode so we have to make sure we do a really deep clean – and we couldn’t do that without our volunteers.
”And they do enjoy it – they come back year on year.”
Members of staff also get involved. Ronnie Sellars is collections assistant at Gunby Hall and we found her up a ladder with a vacuum cleaner carefully cleaning a light fitting with a brush.
She explained: "We clean everything from floors to ceilings to remove dust and slow down deterioration.”
Currently there are about 20 volunteers donning their rubber gloves and involved in the conservation clean, which is expected to continue until the February half-term when the house re-opens.
Two of the volunteers working on crystal items when Lincolnshire World visited are Jenny Humphrey of Stickford and Sue Clarke of Halton Holegate.
Jenny said: “We have this crystal that has to be cleaned very carefully because it is so delicate so we are only allowed to dry brush it – we are not allowed to use any water near it in case water gets into any cracks.
"We work in pairs on this and Sue is holding the glass is to keep it firm and stable so I don’t push it over with the brush.”
Sue added: “We are also assessing it as we go along.
"We have sheets on which to note any chips so we check it to make sure there has been no further deterioration.
"It’s an absolute privilege to handle some of the items that normally we would not be able to handle as guides – and items that the public don’t even get to see.
"We absolutely love doing this.”
Pamela Hargreaves of Alford was cleaning pottery from a display cabinet.
"I really enjoy this intricate work,” she said. “You have to use a lot of concentration.
EIGHT WAYS TO ENJOY NATIONAL TRUST IN WINTER
- Why not take a walk around the 15th-century rare red-brick Tattershall Castle? The grounds are surrounded by moats, featuring wildflowers and critters.
- Sandilands is also a new haven to explore on Lincolnshire's wild coast near Sutton-on-Sea.
- Gunby Hall – February 10, 12 to 16 – Cake and Snowdrops Walks, 10.30am.
- February 16 – 'Harbingers of Spring' Concert, Gunby Hall. Enjoy an evening performance to mark 'Gunby Snowdrop Week' by bass singer, George Elson and pianist, Jane O’Farrell, as they present an evening of music to celebrate the first signs of spring. 6.30pm.
- Belton Hall – January 27 – Londonthorpe Village guided walk, 10am. Join volunteer ranger on a circular walk to Londonthorpe village, which is steeped in history dating back to 161AD.
- February 8 – Belton Circular Walk - Parkland, 10.30am. A circular morning walk with volunteer ranger taking in some fantastic vistas, whilst enjoying a wildlife rich, open area of wood pastures with historic deer herd.
- Clumber Park – January 12 – Lantern Walks around Pleasure Grounds.