Working in an historic house can often mean walking a tightrope between access and conservation. As an organisation we want to protect houses and collections that we care for, but we also want to welcome visitors to enjoy these special places. So, where can issues arise in this? Historic houses were never designed to carry the number of visitors we welcome today and, with time they can begin to show signs of stress. At Snowshill, we were somewhat alarmed earlier in the year to discover that a section of the fireplace cornice in Turquoise had fallen down.
At the time we were worried that this was a result of the vibrations and weight of visitors walking and standing in the room above and on the advice of the Building Surveyor, we had to sadly locked the door for the rest of the season, until further investigations and repairs could be done. Over the winter we have done some investigations; matting has been pulled up (it was a bit of a shock to find that it had been glued to the floor!) and the floorboards removed and we discovered that the falling plaster was the result of an old and not very well executed plastering job. The plaster had not attached itself to the lathes and so was effectively just supporting itself. Cliveden conservation have been working since the beginning of March to repair the patch in question and we should be just about ready for the start of the new season on the 28th March.
The issues in Turquoise have really made the team stop and think about how fragile historic interiors can be and it may be that in the future we have to think more creatively about how we show rooms. We are passionate about sharing this wonderful place and all its stories with our visitors, but we are also very conscious that we look after it in a way that means it will still be intact for future generations.