2014 and all that…

Well, here we are almost at Christmas yet again…….

Stopping to think about it makes me realise how much has happened in the past year. This time last year we were labelling, packing and moving hundreds of items belonging to the west end of the house. Many of them are in our normal show house rooms but as many again, if not more, are from the up until now private bedrooms situated in that part of the mansion.

Last January the contractors moved into this part of the building and started their work. Upstairs floors have been strengthened and re-wiring and re-plumbing have taken place. Then floor boards were replaced, the walls and ceilings were repainted as well as the doors and skirtings.

Then the rooms were returned to us and we started our re-instatement.

Paintings are hung on the newly painted walls, our regular visitors will see a big difference next year as we have many beautiful new paintings (on loan from the 10th Marquess) as well as several of our established ones now hung in a different place. Lady Londonderry’s Sitting Room, for example, is now furnished as Edith, Lady Londonderry had it years ago. The fireplace wall is covered with paintings – one of her son Robin, the 8th Marquess, the rest of Lady Mairi, her youngest daughter – a bit like a large family photo album!

Re-hanging Hambletonian in its new frame

Re-hanging Hambletonian in its new frame

Much of the furniture has been moved back into its room, maybe not into the exact place it will live in but close by. Hundreds of books are back on their shelves in Lady Londonderry’s sitting room and Lord Londonderry’s study, boxes of ornaments and smaller items have also returned to the rooms ready for being put out on display again. Carpets and flooring are also laid.

The contractors have been hugely busy this year and have made great progress; by Christmas they will have handed back all but two of the bedrooms (Archangel and Sebastopol) upstairs and their corridor, while downstairs they are only left in the kitchen plus entrance and central halls. They will also be moving into the chapel in the New Year – their last area to start work on!

That means, of course, that we have to clear the chapel and find new storage for the items there – space in the house is getting tight again!

In the middle of all the above we have also welcomed over twenty seven and a half thousand visitors into our house this (shortened) season. A massive well done to our guides for such a fine job in very unusual circumstances.

2014 has certainly been a year to remember in Mount Stewart house!

Sheena

European Heritage Open Day 2014

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Last weekend, 13 -14 September 2014, was European Heritage Open Day (EHOD for short).

This is an annual event which started in 1984. It takes place over the second weekend in September each year and is an opportunity for people to visit interesting places that they may not normally think of going to see.

There are a few variations on the opening weekend. Some places (like National Trust properties) open on one or other of the days and others open on both. Some places (again like National Trust properties) are normally open to the public for an entry fee but are open on this occasion for free; others are normally closed to the public but open for one or two days only each year during this event!

National Trust properties open for free on Saturday only, Sunday is a normal entry day again.

It is a popular event, over 60,000 people in Northern Ireland avail of the opportunity to investigate their heritage. This year here at Mount Stewart we had 1687 visitors to the property, of which 779 entered the house. With our show house smaller than usual because of the ongoing building work, we were probably at full capacity for the day.

Happily most of our visitors this season seem to have enjoyed seeing behind the scenes, watching some of our conservators in action and learning about the project and are keen to return in the future to see the end result – which is going to be rather fabulous (not that I am biased or anything…)!!

We are starting to get some of our showrooms back again which is very exciting and encouraging for us. We are starting to clean and prepare these rooms and furnishings are being returned to them. We have a busy winter ahead of us as we re-instate all the rooms ready for next season.

Next Sunday, 21 September, will be the last open day for our house this season as our contractors have work to do in a few of the areas that are currently open to the public. This needs to be completed before we open again next Spring.

Then, from next week onwards, it is all hands to the pumps as we get down to work. Everything has to be ready for the re-opening of the showrooms, which will be back to ’normal’ – except even better than ever!

Sheena