Ssshh! No talking in the library!

Library in midst of winter clean.

Library at Osterley Park, during the winter clean (image: Laura Brooks)

Osterley is a house full of things to intrigue and excite, and I don’t just mean the collection.  One room that sometimes proves interesting to visitors is the Library.  There are a couple of reasons for this, one of which we’ll blog about at a later date, but the other is its colour, or rather, lack of, as some would say.  For a house that combines pink with green in one room, contains a rather beautiful shade of blue in another (if we do say so ourselves), whilst yet another is a riot of colour (and largely unfaded after more than two hundred years), you could be forgiven for thinking that every single room was just as colourful, other than the servants’ rooms, of course.  This is not the case.

When Robert Adam designed the Library, so the story goes, he produced various schemes, some that would have involved the use of more colour.  Guess which scheme Mr. Child preferred.

Ceiling, bookshelves, curtains, windows and painting in Library at Osterley Park.

Library bookshelves, curtains, windows, painting and ceiling at Osterley Park (image: Laura Brooks)

When the team turned their attention to cleaning this room a few weeks ago, they were able to get up close and personal with Adam’s amazing eye for detail that encompassed everything in the room, right down to the fireplaces.

Osterley's Library - bookcases, John Linnell chair, corner of desk, window (with curtain) and Antonio Zucchi paintings.

Picture showing more of the white interior in Osterley’s Library (image: Laura Brooks)

Library chimney piece with fender and implements.

Library fireplace with fender and implements, at Osterley Park (image: Laura Brooks)

Picture showing marble surround on one of the Library's fireplaces.

Showing some of the detail of a Robert Adam designed marble surround on one of the Library fireplaces at Osterley Park (image: Laura Brooks).

Picture showing the bell flowers and rosettes on one of the chimney pieces in the Library.

Close-up of detail on side of marble surround in Library (image: Laura Brooks)

Close-up of Robert Adam designed chimney piece in Library

Close-up of chimney piece in Library at Osterley Park (image: Laura Brooks)

Picture showing the side detail of Robert Adam chimney piece in Library

Side detail of Robert Adam chimney piece in Library (image: Laura Brooks)

The fireplaces weren’t left out in the winter clean.  Conservation techniques were applied to the cleaning of the marble, the fenders, fire grates and implements.  In the pictures below, you can see a table with the acid-free tissue paper that we mentioned in our last post ‘Cleaning a 130ft long room’.

Acid-free tissue and bubble-wrap covered table in Library

Acid-free tissue covered table in Library at Osterley Park (image: Laura Brooks)

Underneath the acid-free is bubble wrap, which provides cushioning and protection to the objects as they are cleaned.  The fire tongs, pokers and shovels were laid out on the table, as below, before being dusted with a low-suction museum vacuum and pony hair brush.  The pony hair, as explained before, is softer and won’t scratch the metal.  The fire grates  were also cleaned in this way, as were the fenders which were lifted onto the table.

Fender, fire implements and conservation brushes on acid-free covered table.

Fireplace items being cleaned in Library at Osterley Park (image: Laura Brooks)

The marble, which is considered more robust, was again cleaned with a museum vacuum but instead of the pony hair, a hogs hair was used to gently encourage the dust out of the surround, and a banister brush was used on the mantel pieces as well as the fire backs.  As always, condition reports were carried out, so as to keep track of any changes in their condition.

Hogs hair brush on marble mantelpiece in Library.

Picture showing hogs hair brush on mantelpiece in Library at Osterley (image: Laura Brooks)

These techniques were also used in the Breakfast Room.  If you’ve been reading our sister blog on the Breakfast Room, then you’ll know there isn’t as much in this room that needs careful attention, compared to the other showrooms,

Picture showing the Breakfast Room during winter clean in February.

Picture of Osterley Park’s Breakfast Room during winter clean project 2013/14 (image: Laura Brooks)

For this reason, the team didn’t need to spend as much time in here, leaving them free to move on to other parts of the house.  However, it wasn’t going to be left out, so it was given a deep clean, with the shutters and skirting tended to by Lizzie, one of our Acting House Stewards, as shown below, whilst one of our volunteer conservation assistants tended to the fireplace, fender and implements.

Fireplace in Breakfast Room.

Breakfast Room fireplace at Osterley Park (image: Laura Brooks)

Fire poker and shovel on acid-free covered table in Breakfast Room.

Breakfast Room fire poker and shovel before conservation cleaning at Osterley Park (image: Laura Brooks)

Breakfast Room fender on acid-free tissue covered table, undergoing cleaning.

Fender in Breakfast Room undergoing cleaning at Osterley Park (image: Laura Brooks)

Lizzie cleaning skirting boards in Breakfast Room.

Lizzie dusting skirting boards in Breakfast Room at Osterley Park (image: Laura Brooks)

Additional cleaning in the Library included careful dusting of the shelves, which contain books with interesting titles like those in the picture below.

Osterley Park's books on Library bookshelves

Books on bookshelves in Osterley Park’s Library (image: Laura Brooks)

If you’re interested in reading more about Osterley’s Library and the books that would have once resided there, take a look at a post from 2011 on the National Trust’s Treasure Hunt blog.


2 thoughts on “Ssshh! No talking in the library!

  1. Fascinating insights and reminds me of one of my first jobs when volunteering there which was PnVing the library floor as the area in front of the fireplace.

  2. Pingback: Polished to perfection | Osterley Conservation Team Blog

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