Watching paint peel: Logging the historic interiors

As one of the three Conservation Interns at Polesden, I assist in caring for our precious objects; from ‘deep dusting’ to environmental monitoring to salvage planning.  But what about the rooms that house them?

Over the last two years the previous Conservation Interns have been assessing the state of the walls, floors ceilings and windows.  I took this project, called the Historic Interiors Log, over in March.  We’re going through the house with a fine tooth comb (or torch, camera and ruler, and not forgetting my wonderful helper) and logging any wear and tear.  In that time a pillar in the Library has been found to be coming away from the wall, areas of gold leaf spotted in the Saloon are losing their lustre, and a few draughty gaps between walls and the outside world have been discovered.

Pillar in the Library

Oh dear!

One area I have been helping Claire, our Seasonal Conservation Assistant, finish logging is the West Corridor.  The oak panelling in the picture galleries is Jacobean and was installed by White, Allom & Co. as ‘architectural salvage’ for Mrs Greville.  The age of the panelling means there is quite a lot to discover!  One area of which made our hair stand on end was an area of holes.

Something suspicious about this...

Something suspicious about this…

After its discovery, it was checked for debris and insects, and we consulted an expert in integrated pest management. From longer term observation, the team decided woodworm had been and was long gone, perhaps whilst the panelling was in its last home!  The discovery of the woodworm is a good example of why we need a Historic Interiors Log: we can accurately monitor these issues in the long term to ensure Polesden Lacey is still standing for the future.

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