Our conservation volunteers are a vital part of the team here at Polesden Lacey. With over 6000 items in our collection it is a ongoing task to keep everything in top condition.
Twice each week a group of dedicated conservation volunteers sign up to help with varying conservation tasks which can range from cleaning our precious Meissen ceramics to polishing Mrs Greville’s prized silverware. Today I joined our volunteers to help with polishing a few of our brass items. Being the newest member of the house team I was looking forward to getting my hands dirty after a year away from conservation work.
Myself and the volunteers were to be working on a cast iron and brass boot scraper from the Lobby, a brass and iron fire grate from the Blue Cloakroom, and a pierced steel fender from the Smoking Room. I was very keen to polish the brass griffons on the boot scraper after seeing how dull they were (exciting before and after pictures to follow!).
Exposure to oxygen, along with other elements in the atmosphere causes most metals to tarnish over time. Any metals which contain iron may also rust if left without important care and maintenance. In order to get our objects shining as they should be we use Autosol to buff up the metal and then finish with a light coat of Renaissance Wax to protect the surface of the metal and keep it looking good for longer. With trusty toothbrushes and wire wool in hand we got the work and soon realised we should have warmed up beforehand- polishing requires a surprising amount of elbow grease!
We enjoyed sitting and chatting in the servery as we worked and imagined the maids working in this very location to polish the house’s brassware in Mrs Greville’s day. As you can see below, reviving the griffons to their former glory was as satisfying as I had hoped!
It’s like magic! Jackie and Caroline (pictured below) also did a very impressive job with the fire grate from the Blue Cloakroom. Getting involved with the conservation of our house and collection gives our volunteers the chance to learn new skills they can use, not only to help house team, but they may even be able to use at home! Working so closely with the collection also gives a rare opportunity to get a good look at items you would not normally have hands on access to, or may have simply overlooked. I know now that will never fail to spot the griffon as I pass through the lobby.
As we proudly carried the items back to their rooms, our room guides were amazed at the difference our hard work had made. Myself and the volunteers all agreed, it was a truly satisfying job!