Would you like to get grubby on all fours with a rubber bat in an historic manor? Never fear! We are not lowering our standards to supplement our meagre earnings. At Snowshill on November 12th conservation assistants and property administrators alike heeded the call (sent out well in advance) to the first major task of the winter clean – tamping and rolling Zenith carpet.
This handsome but well-worn carpet is an unwieldy and heavy beast which covers nearly the whole of the floor space in the panelled room Charles Wade named Zenith, hence the need for many willing hands to get the job done. The first step is to move the carpet from Zenith across the hall to the larger and emptier Turquoise room(after the colour). There isn’t enough space to fit in the plastic drainpipe and roll on the carpet in Zenith, so we have to take this unavoidable extra step. With a bit of ‘to me, to you’ to wriggle round the tight corners, half a dozen of us lift and carry the carpet like some strange ceremonial flag to its new destination. A couple of others remain to vacuum and fold away the hairy wool underlay.
After an initial vacuum we haul the carpet face-down on the floorboards ready for the first treatment. The reverse side reveals a few battle scars, patching here and there to preserve the balding threads, but generally the carpet is robust enough – very fragile rugs aren’t suitable for tamping. A sheet of acid free paper is slipped beneath the first section with a frame covered in fine mesh . The carpet is rolled back on top and the bat(which looks like a hot water bottle after an unfortunate encounter with steam roller) is offered with due gravity to the first volunteer. The trick is to hit the area of carpet over the mesh with the flat of the bat, creating a ringing and satisfying ‘thwack’ . We take it in turns, a section at a time. It can be therapeutic to visualise some personal demon or vexing problem on the carpet and give it what for! Soon scarves and extra layers are discarded as we literally warm to our task.
As each section is completed the paper is checked for debris. At first glance it looks disappointingly empty, but a slight shuffle reveals rivulets of sandy grit which we tip out and admire. By the time the task is completed we have quite a substantial heap.
Carpets should be rolled right-side out but before that it is covered with protective sheets of acid free paper. The drainpipe is positioned along the shorter edge and it is important to get quite a tight roll going. The other trick is to stop the carpet from rolling off the ends of the pipe. It takes us a couple of attempts at rolling and unrolling but finally all is well and the now even heavier roll of carpet is lifted onto cotton sheeting which is wrapped around, tucked into the ends of the pipe and secured with Velcro straps before the strongest of the volunteers bear it away for storage.
As we all take a breather and reflect on our united achievement thin shafts of November sunlight full of dancing dust particles fall on the newly bare boards. The conservation assistants at Snowshill quite like the idea of bare boards, but as they will have to be polished with wax on hands and knees there will still be plenty of work for our helpful colleagues. That might be a task for next year.