Public given a rare insight into the art of closing a National Trust house down for winter

FOR the many who visit a National Trust house, when the closed sign is placed across the door for winter it could seem as though work has stopped. But after the tide of visitors through the summer months halts, for those behind the scenes the hard work be

FOR the many who visit a National Trust house, when the closed sign is placed across the door for winter it could seem as though work has stopped.

But after the tide of visitors through the summer months halts, for those behind the scenes the hard work begins.

Earlier this month the public were given a rare insight into the art of closing a National Trust house down for winter when they were invited for a tour of Peckover House in Wisbech, in a demonstration of the techniques and hard work that goes into maintaining an important part of history.

Carole French, house steward, who is doing most of the work, said: "It's like us doing our spring clean but we do it in the winter when we're not open to the public.


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"In the summer we dust and hover and up after every opening, but in the winter it's a chance to give the house a thorough clean.

"The chandeliers can in themselves take a week to dust. You cannot do it quickly, you have to take your time and do it carefully." She added: "In Victorian times they had a winter house and a summer home and so they would have to shut it down as we do. That preserved it because it protects it from the light and the dust."

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Conservationists who work for the National Trust are given specialist training in how to clean the antiques without breaking and destroying them.

The main objectives include protecting the homes from fire, flood, loss, physical, biological, humidity and light.

The winter is also a time for the house to have any make-over that it might need.

Last year the some of the rooms and the hall were redecorated.

At Peckover House, during the winter the volunteers go through every book in the house, dusting each page before they are carefully placed back on the shelf.

It is such an undertaking that only half of the books in the library were dusted last year.

Mrs French said: "The people that come to the tour are either looking for an interesting thing to do in an afternoon or people want to take what we apply to National Trust houses away with them and apply it to their own properties. A lot of what we do is transferable."

It is only natural ingredients used for the cleaning - no chemicals are used.

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