Emergency Planning

Last week Assistant House Steward Lizzie attended an Emergency Salvage training course at Dudley Community Fire Station.

As an open house museum with significant architecture and collection it is essential for Osterley to have plans in place in case of an emergency. The emergency plans include information such as contact details of people who can be called in to help, maps of water sources, documentation to be filled in and priority items that need to be rescued, to name a few.

Dressed for action

The course covered vital information about how to prevent emergencies from occuring, as well as action to take when they do.

As well as the usual presentations and case studies, the training included practical experience of staged events, such as an example of water coming through a building that the trainees were required to divert away.

Water exercise

 Deciding how to safely move a painting

Transporting books









The trainees also entered a smoke filled building wearing breathing apparatus to gain an understanding of the conditions the fire service often have to work in, and therefore how clear emergency plans need to be.


The final practical was a simulated fire, with trainees required to react to the incident by putting the emergency plans into place, salvaging the priority objects and treating the vulnerable items.

Air drying booksThe training was excellent and important for all those on property who may one day need to assist in an emergency situation.  

What’s hiding under the bed?

During the winter clean, work in the Yellow Taffeta bedroom uncovered a number of woolly intruders.  Within theIMG_1956 fabric of the bed hangings, curtains and dressing table, a worrying amount of woolly bears, the larvae stage of the varied carpet beetle were found.  Woolly bears are particularly unwelcome in a mixed collection as organic materials like furniture and textiles are their favourite food.

The area bellow the bed needs to be frequently vacuumed as the adult beetle will lay its eggs under furniture.  The larvae thrive in undisturbed areas, so frequent checking, dusting and vacuuming can help to prevent their continued activity.  The regular checks for pests involve inspecting all the textiles with a torch and gently disturbing the tassels on the beIMG_1439d hangings and curtains with a soft brush to see if anything is hiding within them.  All pest findings are recorded and reported so that levels can be continuously monitored in case of increasing numbers.

The most recent inspection of the textiles in the Yellow Taffeta bedroom fortunately yielded no new woolly bear discoveries.  This may be a result of the regular cleaning and checking of the area and we are hoping for a continued absence of larvae throughout spring, the prime egg hatching period for this damaging pest.

Spring cleaning tips from the experts


Want some handy hints on how to clean your home, using methods tried and tested at National Trust properties? National Trust East have published a post offering just this. Take a look. We also use some of these at Osterley.

Originally posted on National Trust in the East :

Many of us have struggled through a tough spring clean and know just how much hard work is involved. But can you imagine cleaning a country mansion, the likes of which National Trust teams tackle each and every year?

Blickling (credit) Kenny Gray (8)

Never mind the sheer size of the places involved and the number of rooms, there are delicate and historically important objects everywhere – from carpets, tapestries and ceramics to marble busts, carved wooden staircases and sparkling chandeliers. Just think of the number of chimneys that require sweeping and we have just one or two windows to clean!

Many of the jobs we carry out at our places are the same as those you do at home, just on a larger scale! So we’ve asked those ‘in the know’ at the National Trust to put their thinking caps on and bring you a list of their top tips to get your…

View original 458 more words

How many people does it take to …

… prepare the house for opening?

As many as possible.  When a room has been put to bed for the winter and then needs to be ‘woken up’, there is a lot to do.  There is the acid-free tissue paper that needs to be removed, folded and put back into storage for the next winter clean.

Chairs and pole screen in Childs' bedroom covered in acid-free tissue, after winter clean at Osterley Park (image: Laura Brooks)

Chairs and pole screen in Childs’ bedroom covered in acid-free tissue, after winter clean at Osterley Park (image: Laura Brooks)

Dust covers that needed to be taken off the furniture and also put back into storage, in the Housekeeping Store.

Tapestry Room sofa with dust cover at Osterley Park (image: Laura Brooks)

Tapestry Room sofa with dust cover at Osterley Park (image: Laura Brooks)

Some rooms have curtains that need to be lifted up and adjusted, after the winter when they were allowed to hang down whilst being dusted.

Mrs. Child's Dressing Room's curtains being raised for the new season, after the Winter Clean at Osterley Park (image: Laura Brooks)

Mrs. Child’s Dressing Room’s curtains being raised for the new season, after the Winter Clean at Osterley Park (image: Laura Brooks)

I can’t give you an exact number for the house overall, but to give you an idea of how many people are needed to make sure each room is spick and span, ready for opening, just take a look at the Long Gallery.  This room alone required three volunteers and one Assistant House Steward to dust and vacuum this 130ft long space.  And that’s just one (rather long) room.  Not all four people are visible in the picture below.  That’s because one volunteer is just out of shot on the right and the other one was the photographer.

Two volunteers and an Assistant House Stewaard working in the Long Gallery, in prepration for opening Osterley Park House (image: Laura Brooks)

Two volunteers and an Assistant House Steward working in the Long Gallery, in preparation for opening Osterley Park House (image: Laura Brooks)

Not counting the basement, the Breakfast Room, the Adam Room, the corridors and Grand Stair, there are 12 rooms on display, which all need to be cleaned and made ready for visitors to see them.  This many rooms calls for teamwork, which is why each season, there are so many people pulling together, both volunteers and staff, to ensure the house is ready to welcome visitors so they can once again, or for the first time, enjoy the delights there are on offer.


Back to work

Laura cleaning the French ebony cabinet in Childs' Bedroom at Osterley Park (image: Laura Brooks)

Laura cleaning the French ebony cabinet in Childs’ Bedroom at Osterley Park (image: Laura Brooks)

We are well into the new year now and the team at Osterley have certainly had a productive start to 2015.

Continue reading

Surprise in one of the lacquer cabinets

While condition checking and cleaning one of the lacquer cabinets in Mrs Child’s Dressing

The Lacquer cabinet (with a drawer missing) in Mrs. Child's Dressing Room at Osterley Park.

The Lacquer cabinet in Mrs. Child’s Dressing Room at Osterley Park.

Room, a couple of unwelcome visitors were discovered in a bottom drawer.  A few woolly bears (no longer alive) were found amid a pile of suspicious looking fragments. The base of the lacquer drawer was also patterned with golden blooms that may have been a result of previous mould damage, or some sort of damage to the wood layer underneath the resin layers. All the other drawers and the shell of the cabinet were in great condition, so the discovery of the problematic drawer was completely unexpected and poses some interesting questions. Could the drawer have contained something which attracted the pests and caused the damage to the surface?  Could this explain where the dust fragments we found came from? Continue reading