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

Carpet blocks

Hello again folks!

This time I thought I would show you what our youngest apprentice James has been getting up to. He has been progressing very well and has integrated into the team seamlessly.

He is just about a quarter of his way through his NVQ level 2 and is well on his way to completing it. At this stage I am trying to get him to master the use of hand tools and cement his ability to work off plans.

James, although only just 17 years old, has previous experience in the joinery field as his Father is a joiner and has always involved James in his work, helping out during holidays and instilling in him from a young age the desire to follow in his Fathers footsteps.

This task was to help James development in the use of portable power tools, in this case the jig saw.

What are these carpet blocks you might well ask? Well these little items fall into the package and protection side of things, not the restoration work that you have seen in previous blogs.

Mount Stewart has its fair share of carpets, all of which need to be stored at some stage during the restoration project. Some of these carpets are very much worn and fragile requiring much restoration by the conservation team. Some of the carpets are very precious having been brought back from family holidays many years ago.

We have been working closely with our conservator Fiona to establish what she required from us to properly move and store the carpets. The picture below shows how the carpet blocks are used and how the carpets are stored to preserve them while they are in waiting for conservation work to be carried out.

carpet blocks 001

The carpets are rolled with the pattern facing inwards to the pipe. The pipe which Fiona normally uses is 6” plastic drain pipe and is just brilliant for this job.

The pipe is cut 500mm longer than the carpet so that when the carpet is rolled the pipe sticks out 250mm past each end to allow the pipe to rest on the carpet blocks which are designed so they can be stacked on top of each other to minimise the amount of floor space used.

carpet blocks 002 carpet blocks 003

Now it was these handy wee things that James was tasked with. Trevor kindly showed him the ropes and left him to it. I have as usual included a few photos of James merrily working away. He did a good job and has proved he can work on his own with minimal supervision.

004 James cutting out the area for the end of the pipe to rest in. He is showing great attention to the line!


James cutting out the area for the end of the pipe to rest in. He is showing great attention to the line!

005 James has used the jig saw well and followed the line. Using a jig saw is not just as easy as you would think


James has used the jig saw well and followed the line. Using a jig saw is not just as easy as you would think.

006 Counter sinking the screw holes , very good James!


Counter sinking the screw holes , very good James!

007 With all the sections needed sitting in from of him James is starting to fix the posts to the sides. I do wish though he would have used a panasonic drill instead of that  makita!


With all the sections needed sitting in from of him James is starting to fix the posts to the sides. I do wish though he would have used a Panasonic drill instead of that Makita!

008 The holes have been drilled and ready for screws


The holes have been drilled and ready for screws.

009 James is now starting to assemble the various pieces and LOOK, a powerful and most wonderful Panasonic drill!


James is now starting to assemble the various pieces and LOOK, a powerful and most wonderful Panasonic drill!

010 Good action James, shame about the drill


Good action James, shame about the drill!

011 look at the concentration even with me pointing a camera at him! I would also just like to point out that it takes two Makita drills to try and beat a panasonic! OK OK its my drill!


Look at the concentration even with me pointing a camera at him! I would also just like to point out that it takes two Makita drills to try and beat a Panasonic! OK OK, it’s my drill!

012 Jenny our wonderful project admin pops in on her way home to keep us right!


Jenny our wonderful Project Administrator pops in on her way home to keep us right!

013 The finished article! well done young James!


The finished article! Well done young James!

014 They are stacked up here showing what they do


They are stacked up here showing what they do.

The Project Conservator has asked us to make some boxes to transport some metal ornaments over to specialist Conservators in England to have some restoration work carried out on them which I think would be another excellent job for James and of course I will keep you posted.

Bye for now!

David

Watch this space…

As I mentioned in the previous blog to watch this space, I have taken a few more photos showing the walls which have just been erected on the second floor. In the photo you can see Trevor nailing in bridging to the floor joists. This is to stabilise the joists stopping them from moving individually, creating a floor that moves as a whole and not in parts. I have also included a short video showing the layout of the chapel storage.

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The ceiling height this time is 8 feet high or 2.440m as opposed to the ceiling height of the ground floor being 10’-5” or 3.180m high. All in all we will have three floors with ground floor being as stated and the other two being 8”or 2.440 high.

David

Project update – Turning the Chapel into a giant storage area

Monday 20 August 2012

Things are moving on now at an ever increasing pace; the phase ‘getting ready‘ is almost complete. I can say a lot of head scratching has been done because of the structural problems we have uncovered.

However during this stage while opening up floors we made some very interesting discoveries. The newspaper mentioned in a previous blog post gave us dates; whilst the bones of the different animals found in the same room gave us an insight to the culinary tastes of workmen in 1912! The bones when analysed where found to be from different animals including sheep, geese, rabbit and chicken.

At the moment we, the project joinery team, are in the chapel erecting three floors of studwork. The work being carried out by us in the chapel is to provide an area in which the project conservator can store items such as; furniture, curtains and carpets from the various rooms while the work is carried out in them. All the rooms in the house are full with furniture and family memorabilia, all of which are very important to the property and need very careful storing and maintenance. Unfortunately for the project conservator, this makes her life here in Mount Stewart that little bit more complicated.

We have been working steadily and progress has been coming on well. Although we all (and I personally), miss our project apprentice joiner Callum while he is away on his trip to China.

As you would be aware the Chapel is out of bounds to the public for sensible health and safety reasons while the construction work is under way. I have included a few photos of the building work so you can see what is happening. Also the whole building works has been filmed using a time lapse camera and I for one can’t wait to see the footage!

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Keep watching this space!

David

(Project Joiner)

Introduction to our Project Conservator – Fiona

Fiona Austin-Byrne – Project Conservator

As Project Conservator I am responsible for the packing, protection and storage of the historic collection at Mount Stewart. I work closely with the joiners, house staff, family members and specialist engineers and conservators to make this happen as efficiently and professionally as possible, following best practices in conservation, whilst offering access for an enjoyable visitor experience.

Fiona Austin-Byrne (Project Conservator), preparing to meet and greet the public at the Garden & Craft Fair

We hope to improve environmental conditions, display techniques and conserve or replace items to lift the presentation of all rooms.

By the end of the project we will be able to open several more rooms all over the house.

I’m actively seeking volunteers to help me with the following tasks:

  • Moving and packing furniture and objects
  • Making bespoke in-situ protection for fixtures or large items
  • Conservation cleaning and writing condition reports for objects
  • Cataloguing objects (IT skills desirable)
  • Making individual furniture dust covers (basic dressmaking skills essential)

Full training and supervision provided and travel expenses paid.

It would be a great opportunity for students or graduates looking for experience working in the heritage sector or those who would just like to be involved with the work of the National Trust during the project and beyond.

Please contact me to arrange an initial visit and chat.

fiona.austin-byrne@nationaltrust.org.uk