It’s almost the end of February and we should be full of the joys of spring. The Snowdrops are out on the bank in front of the Hall, and the Aubrietia is starting flower on the terrace walls in the garden. Last week, there was a hint of spring in the air, the sun shone and it warmed up a little. This week however, we’re back to the cold, snow threatening weather.
Haddon Hall has no heating, and is often colder inside than out. Spare a thought for Jo Walker, Head Steward who tirelessly works in the house cleaning and dusting in preparation for the visitor season. It’s intricate work and not really the kind of strenuous cleaning that keeps her warm. The Daniel Marot chairs in the Long Gallery (of which there are ten) are each cleaned using a cotton bud to get into the ornate carving on the back of the chairs. The very delicate and worn tapestry seats are then vacuumed using a very low suction, specialist vacuum cleaner through a gauze ring to ensure that nozzle and fabric never come into contact.
Every hour or so, a very shivery Jo will emerge into the relative warmth of the office (normally hovering below 16 degrees C) to plunge her hands into a basin of warm water to try and get some feeling back in her fingers! A cup of hot chocolate and warm by the radiator and she’s ready to go back and tackle another piece of furniture with the same pain-staking care and attention.
Every piece of furniture at Haddon Hall has its own tailor made cover. Once the piece has been cleaned it is covered up until a few days before we open to visitors, to keep it in its pristine condition. Once uncovered, chairs have teasels placed on them to warn visitors not sit on them!