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Getting ready for the cold…

October 23, 2014

As the month passes by and we’re preparing for our winter weekend openings, we’re also getting ready to keep everything warm and protected.

Our heatings now on so the room’s humidity and collection is kept at a nice temperature as well as keeping our volunteers and visitors warm! The conservation team are busy deep cleaning room by room and continuing to sort through the archive stores.

Sunnycrofts very special medicine cabinet

Medicine cabinet

In the garden we have been busy removing our summer bedding, ready to plant the spring bedding. All of our apples have now been pressed and made into juice so we can start to make mulled apple juice for December!

Autumn in the Sunnycroft garden

Autumn in the Sunnycroft garden

In the tea room we are now stocked up on kindling and coal to make a roaring fire to keep everyone warm, as well as offering lovely hot soup with a bread roll for that extra cosy feeling on your visit.

Roaring fire in the Sunnycroft Tearoom

Roaring fire in the Sunnycroft Tea room

If you find yourself in the kitchen in the next few weeks you’ll see that we have started our festivities already! There are lots of lovely gift ideas and decorations to buy, as well as our Sunnycroft souvenirs.

Christmas gifts arrive in the Sunnycroft kitchen

Christmas gifts arrive in the Sunnycroft kitchen

by Lizzie Bennett, Tea Room Supervisor

Sunnycroft 2014 Produce Festival is nearly here

July 28, 2014
Some of the entries from 2013 Produce Festival

Some of the entries from 2013 Produce Festival

Last year we decided to reinvent our late summer event by turning it into a produce show. We thought that it would be a great opportunity to include the local community and it would also inject an exciting new element into our annual event’s calendar.

A small committee consisting of myself and four volunteers formed to organise the main structure of the event. Because we wanted this event to invoke a small local produce show the first task was to decide on the categories in-which the exhibits would be judged. After much discussion the committee decided on the following categories.

More entries from 2013 Produce Festival

More entries from 2013 Produce Festival

Last years categories:-

Basket of vegetables
Longest runner bean
Floral arrangement in an unusual container.
Jar of fruit jam
Chutney
Cake that includes a vegetable in the ingredients
3 cup cakes made by children for ages 12 and under.
Vegetable animal made by children (under 12 yrs old)
Mini garden in a seed tray made by children (under 15 yrs old)

Presenting the Winners Certificates

Presenting the Winners Certificates

Once the main categories were decided we had to come-up with a framework of rules and criteria with-which we could judge the exhibits. Here we encountered a minefield of rules and codes of practice which have accumulated over many decades of village shows and events. After much discussion we opted for a much more simple and inclusive approach to our judging. We wanted first time growers and seasoned show growers to both feel that they could compete without the fear of disqualification for a minor discrepancy in protocol, whilst still retaining a competitive element to the show. No exhibit would be disqualified but they would be judged accordingly for there appropriate merits such as taste, size or presentation.

After the first show we decided to refresh the categories for the 2014 Produce Festival to give new challenges to our exhibitors and to retain a fresh feel to the event.

The 2014 categories are:-

  • Four types of vegetables in a basket (unrestricted amounts of each type)
  • Longest runner bean
  • Floral arrangement in an unusual container.
  • Jar of jam
  • Jar of marmalade
  • Victoria jam sponge cake
  • Homemade fruit wine
  • Cup Cakes (men only category)
  • Fairy cakes made by children (for ages 12 and under)
  • Monster made from natural materials, made by children (under 16 yrs old)
  • Garden in a seed tray made by children (under 10 yrs old)

Exhibitors gain free entry to the grounds over the weekend. Standard admission prices apply to the house. Entries need to be dropped off at the registration tent on the front lawn between 8am-10.30am Saturday 30 August. If you are organised you can print and complete the Exhibitors Entry Form to bring with you, otherwise you can complete it on the day. Items submitted for exhibiting can be collected after 3pm on Sunday and not before.

We added a musical element thanks to the very talented Gary and Kitty (a local folk duo) to embody a traditional British late summer harvest feel. In 2014 we are very please to have them back on the Sunday. This year we also have Jabina a small folk band playing on Saturday.

Folk band providing the entertainment

Folk band providing the entertainment

Other attractions were the child’s craft tent and mini beast hotel making as well as a stall selling our own produce and a bottle tombola.

Front lawn festivities

Front lawn festivities

In 2014 we are hoping to build on the success of last year by slightly changing some of the categories and adding more demonstrations of traditional crafts and skills, some of which our visitors will be able to try for themselves. We have AGA coming to show use how to cook in a real AGA oven, we have Outback2basics showing us how to light campfires and giving visitors the chance to cook on a open fire. Also there will be chair caning demonstrations and woodturning demonstrations. This year’s show is on August the 30th and 31st. Awards and raffle draw will be presented on Sunday 31 August at 3pm onwards, by the Mayor of Wellington.

If you would like more details on how to enter contact me on joel.richards@nationaltrust.org.uk

Joel Richards
Sunnycroft Gardener

Sunnycroft’s Tea Room Through the Ages

June 11, 2014
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Entering through the veranda, you hear 1940’s music being played, a counter in front of you full of tempting cakes and treats. A menu filled with a delightful choice of drinks, snacks and light lunches. You sit down and are greeted with embroidered tablecloths on each table, a beautiful view onto the lawn and rose garden. You tuck into your delights from china cups and saucers, plates and teapots. This is your chance to relax and unwind: You’ve entered Sunnycroft’s tea room.

In 2004, catering came to Sunnycroft for the first time! Volunteers opened up an outdoor kiosk, located by the back door open Sundays and Mondays 2-5pm to raise income to pay for the upkeep of Sunnycroft. We served tea, coffee, hot chocolate all in takeaway cups. All we had was a fridge to hold milk, juice cartons and cans of drink. For a sweet tooth, we had individually wrapped cakes and biscuits.

After much deliberation the old smoke room was turned into Sunnycroft’s unique Tea Room in 2006 by Graham Rogers from Attingham Park.

Sunnycroft ground floor plan

Sunnycroft ground floor plan

This room has had many uses over the years. Originally designed as a drawing room for John George Wrackrill and his family it became Mary Jane Slaney’s morning room following her remodelling of the house. When Thomas Offley Lander bought the house he used it as an informal sitting/tv room which became known as the smoke room.

Thomas Offley in Smoke Room

Offley Lander in Smoke Room

When Offley became ill it was used as his bedroom, then by Joan Lander, his daughter as her morning room. When the National Trust began to care for the house it slowly started to develop to the tea room we know today.

Volunteer Anna serving from a wallpaper trestle table circa 2006

Volunteer Anna serving from a wallpaper trestle table circa 2006

The Welsh dresser that was left by the last owner Joan Lander was used to display the china teacups and teapots and a wallpaper table with a tablecloth was used to serve the cakes.

The Welsh dresser circa 2006

The Welsh dresser circa 2006

There was a small cool box to hold milk and juice cartons and the boiler from the kiosk was brought in and used to make teas and coffees. Volunteers had to run to and from the kitchen with jugs of water to keep topping up the boiler! The cakes were made by Mrs Dixon who lived at Home Farm at Attingham.

At this time Fridays were also added to Sunnycroft’s open days. Washing up was all done by hand in the scullery inside the house and the sales were done by hand using a calculator and some paper! Usually there was only one person in the tea room each day and takings reached to about £30 a day. Cups of tea and coffee were served in china tea cups with saucers, with top ups from large teapots on the counter.

Tea room volunteers receiving Marsh Heritage Volunteering Award

Tea room volunteers receiving Marsh Heritage Volunteering Award

In 2008 Sunnycroft’s tea room was entered into the Marsh Heritage Volunteering Award. We came in 2nd place and won £500 towards the tea room! With this generous prize plumbing was fitted into the tea room and the boiler arrived so serving hot drinks became a lot easier!

Volunteer Sandra and Custodian Sonia Batten in 2008

Volunteer Sandra and Custodian Sonia Batten in 2008

We set up Handmade in Ludlow as our main cake supplier, which is where we still buy our delicious cakes from. A coffee machine was also added to make pure filter coffee served in a mug and saucer. The extra opening days of Friday and Saturday meant that more volunteers were needed; it now took 3 or 4 a day to run!

Tea room volunteers raising a tea-cup in 2008

Tea room volunteers raising a tea-cup in 2008

2012 introduced a member of staff in the Tea Room with the volunteers on all 4 days of opening. This was to help with the progression of the tea room, as our offer was increased, selling soup and homemade sandwiches. In the April we also gained a new till to make sales a lot easier!

Teapots were brought in for customers to serve themselves, rather than being poured straight into their individual cups.

Sunnycroft Tea room in 2011

Sunnycroft Tea room in 2011

Following feedback from visitors in 2013 we set up a new supplier, Cariad Cakes, to provide us with lovely gluten free cakes. Now in 2014 we are always looking to increase our offer as much as we can for our customers and making their day out as special as can be.

Looking back at the development of Sunnycroft’s Tea Room, it’s clear to see how far we’ve come over 10 years! The tea room is our main source of income in funding conservation projects at Sunnycroft and in the past years customers have helped raise funds to repair the wallpaper in the house and install environmental monitoring which helps us protect the contents. Volunteers continue to be instrumental in running the tea room and the homely atmosphere along with the china cups, jugs, teapots and period music playing, continue to keep the spirit of Sunnycroft alive.

We set up Handmade in Ludlow as our main cake supplier, which is where we still buy our delicious cakes from. A coffee machine was also added to make pure filter coffee served in a mug and saucer. The extra opening days of Friday and Saturday meant that more volunteers were needed; it now took 3 or 4 a day to run!

 

Sunnycroft’s Spring Clean

April 18, 2014

Every year, National Trust properties go through a programme of conservation cleaning where the conservation teams clean and monitor every item. Originally, this programme was called the Winter Clean or “putting the house to bed”. This involved cleaning every item before putting them under cover to preserve them throughout the closed Winter months until the properties were opened up again in the following Spring. This is a process that has carried on from when these houses were occupied by families. In the larger country estates, the families would split their time between their country homes and their properties in towns or cities. While the family was away, the house staff would do a complete clean of the property and put the house to bed until the family arrived back.

Today, with most National Trust properties open all year round so that we can welcome our visitors, the collection is no longer covered over but the work must still go on! We work from room to room, checking and cleaning every item inside and out. This is very delicate, time consuming and often dirty work, but essential to keep the collection in the best possible condition.

What do we do?

We do not use harsh treatments, as these can remove the patina of the item and some of its story. We use a selection of brushes in a range of textures, lint free dusters, vacuums with a suction gauge, muslins and gauzes, vacuum attachments, and a selection of packaging material, including acid-free tissue and bubble wrap. We do not use any harsh chemicals as these are more likely to damage fragile surfaces.

Some of the equipment that we use

Some of the equipment that we use

Firstly, we remove dust. Dust not only looks unsightly, it can also react with a surface and damage it. We use the brushes to remove surface dust from stable objects, particularly from any crevices and design features. A softer brush, such as a pony hair brush, is used on more unstable items or items with an applied surface that may come away with a firmer brush, for example on flaking gilt picture frames.

Dusting

Dusting a gilt frame

Stable, flat textiles can be vacuumed through a textile attachment on the end of the vacuum nozzle. To help prevent sucking up any loose threads, a piece of muslin can be placed between the attachment and the nozzle.

Vacuming through gauze

Vacuuming through gauze

For fragile textiles, a pony hair brush is used to flick up the surface dust in to the vacuum nozzle held away from the fabric.

Some surfaces can be treated with wax. We use Harrell’s soft wax on wood that has already been waxed previously. Another wax is called Renaissance wax. This is a finer wax that dries translucent. This can be used on a range of materials, from wood and stone to metals and leather. Wooden floors that have been waxed can be rejuvenated by wiping them with a cloth that has been soaked in a 50:50 mixture of paraffin and vinegar. This not only collects up the dust and dirt, but also helps to soften and spread any wax that the floor has been treated with. Beware! This leaves a strong odour, but this soon dissipates.

We are not just concerned with cleaning the objects, but in keeping them in an environmentally controlled environment. This can be rather tricky in a historic house. Think about your own house. Do you get condensation on your windows? What about damp floors or walls, particularly underneath sinks? Have you had moths munching your best wool jumper or carpet? Faded curtains? Mould in your shower?

All of these things can damage our collection. To try to prevent these problems from occurring, we have in place a few simple measures. We try to minimise the amount of direct sunlight that falls on an item throughout the year by using UV film on windows, sun curtains, blinds and curtains. We monitor how much light is landing on an item using a blue wool dosimeter.

A blue wool dosimeter

A blue wool dosimeter

To prevent either mould growth or drying out of objects, we try to maintain relative humidity (the percentage of water vapour in air) between 45% and 60%. Below 45%, objects will start drying out, above 60% the majority of moulds will grow. Both can cause irreparable damage to objects.

As for pests, we have traps called “blunder traps” that catch any insect pests that are running around our houses. We are particularly concerned with silverfish (these eat mould and whatever the mould is growing on), wooly bears (larvae of the carpet beetle that eat natural fibres such as wool and silk), wood-boring pests such as wood worm, and moths. We check these traps every three months to see what insects may be harmful to our collection. To all those afraid of spiders, I’m sorry to say that spiders are our friends. They kill the bugs that will destroy our collection.

A blunder trap

A blunder trap

We have almost finished our work in the showrooms. During the summer months, we will move in to the stores where we will be cataloguing, photographing, cleaning and repackaging every item. What a task! We will be discovering more and more about the fascinating collection at Sunnycroft and be able to bring more of it out for our visitors. Did you know that the Gentleman’s Dressing Room was furnished entirely by items from the stores?

Conservation 022

Our newly dressed Gentleman’s Dressing Room

If you want to find out more about conservation of historic collections or how to care for your own precious objects, don’t miss our wonderful conservation team at work on Saturdays 3rd, 10th, and 24th May where they will be cleaning and checking items from the collection, particularly the costume collection.

by Megan Cullinan, Assistant House and Visitor Services Manager

Sunnycroft’s Guided Snowdrop Walk

March 2, 2014

Snowdrops

I am a conservation volunteer at Sunnycroft, one of a few volunteers involved in transcribing some of the many paper diaries kept by Sunnycroft’s owner Joan Lander. But on Sunday 9 February I visited Sunnycroft for a different reason.

It was late morning, slightly blustery but thankfully no rain from the passing clouds.  A crowd of around 15 visitors including myself were gathered on the Sunnycroft veranda, eagerly awaiting the start of the first ever guided Snowdrop walk.  Eddie Roberts, Shropshire galanthophile, (that’s a snowdrop expert for the likes of you and me) started with a brief introduction to snowdrops.

Now whilst Sunnycroft may not have the swathes of snowdrops carpeting woodland like our neighboring NT property Attingham Park, Sunnycroft does have some 17 different varieties of snowdrop.  Not quite as many Eddie who has a staggering 150-200 varieties in his own garden.

Over the last few years Sunnycroft has planted about 1,000 snowdrops. These are native to the National Trust Attingham Park property.

Two particular snowdrop varieties, the Magnet and Galatea, are original to the period of the house and are thought to have been here since approximately the 1890’s. These are found in the shrubbery area of Sunnycroft’s garden.

Snowdrops – Magnet

Last year Sunnycroft gardening volunteers planted common galanthus nivalis snowdrops in the Hosta Garden. You can see from the photo below that  they have come through this year. With the speed that snowdrops spread, Eddie told the group that we could expect to see this area covered in snowdrops in 5 years time. Over the next few years we will watch with interest the progress the snowdrops make in covering the Hosta garden.

Snowdrops emerging in the Hosta garden

Snowdrops emerging in the Hosta garden

There were a further three guided snowdrop walks during the remainder of the day, all of which were well attended. We received some fabulous feedback from visitors, who enjoyed learning the facts about snowdrops –  a refreshing change from just walking around and looking upon these most delicate of flowers.

You can of course visit Sunnycroft to walk around the garden and enjoy the snowdrops well into March, and I can recommend a visit to the tea room too.

Angela Moore – Conservation Volunteer

Gardening for wildlife

March 9, 2013
National Trust wildlife hotel

National Trust wildlife hotel

Here at Sunnycroft we try to work with nature in the garden. This year we have left our flower borders to stand all winter before cutting them down. We have also left stacks of wood around the garden to form ‘wildlife hotels’. We are hoping that this will encourage ladybirds and other beneficial insects to over-winter within them. In March the borders will be cut down and last year’s vegetation will be stacked to the side of the border to allow the insects to awake from their winter dormancy.

Flower border during Winter

Flower border during Winter

Even though we use organic based sprays, by managing the whole garden’s eco system more carefully we are hoping that this will reduce or even eradicate our dependency on insecticides.

This has been a controversial approach to managing borders and has provoked some very strong opinions from both visitors and volunteers with some favouring a more conventional and ‘tidy’ method of horticultural practice, others seeing the potential positive results of such an experiment. The overall benefit of attracting ‘useful’ insects to over-winter in the borders can only be monitored in the summer so the jury is still out to whether this will give any positive results in the control of horticultural pests.

Thanks to some strategically placed interpretation everyone can have the chance to understand our experiment and make their own decisions on its merits.

by Joel Richards, Gardener

Wallpaper Training Day at Sunnycroft

February 7, 2013

This week Sunnycroft got to play host to a training session on, of all things, wallpaper! Although it sounds pretty unusual when you tell people you’ve spent the day studying wallpaper, it was incredibly interesting, especially for me as our visiting experts: Andrew and Graeme (wallpaper and paper conservators extraordinaire) were able to tell me a lot more about the wall-coverings here at Sunnycroft than we had ever previously known.

Some example wallpapers for us to handle

Some example wallpapers for us to handle

Andrew and Graeme brought samples of wallpaper through the ages. These ones are more modern papers, and you can see little circles of vinyl 1960s wallpaper. Don’t think they’d suit Sunnycroft!

The Billiard Table display of wallpaper

Once again Sunnycroft’s billiards table found itself being used for anything other than billiards; not storing embroidery this time though, but examples of beautiful wallpaper, including oriental designs and a William Morris paper that was very familiar to the staff attending from Wightwick Manor!

 We spent the morning learning about types of wallpaper and how it is constructed. The bit I loved the most was the tour of Sunnycroft’s papers, and learning more about when they were likely produced and examining the condition that they are in. These are a few of my favourite examples here in the house:

The 1920s/1930s wallpaper in the Master Bedroom

The 1920s/1930s wallpaper in the Master Bedroom

This pattern in the Master Bedroom is one of the ones that visitors often claim they would have in their own house. It just shows that all styles come back around, if you wait long enough! You can see that the pattern is in a series of large ‘frames’, which was a common design feature of wallpapers in the 20s and 30s. The wallpaper in this room has been considerably faded by light from the large windows although, when you come visit, take a look at the paper above the bed – it has far more pinks and oranges in its pattern, as at one time a large wardrobe stood in this spot and has protected the paper from further light damage!

Varnished "sanitary" wallpaper in the Servants' Areas of Sunnycroft

Varnished “sanitary” wallpaper in the Servants’ Areas of Sunnycroft

This paper is actually called “sanitary” paper and was varnished at the factory, and then often varnished again in situ, to make it wipe-clean! It was used predominantly in Servants’ areas of houses, as the wallpaper answer to linoleum on the floor! Sunnycroft has a rare surviving example of this, and it’s intriguing to see that there are at least two other layers of paper underneath this one that are peeking through – make sure you have a look when you wander the house! When the house was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1997, this beautiful paper was actually covered with modern Laura Ashley wallpaper, and a team of conservators had to delve beneath to reveal this paper from 1899!

At the end of the tour we were given an area of wallpaper that might be suffering or require monitoring to ensure that it does not deteriorate further, and shown how to examine the area and record our findings. Some of these papers are over one hundred years old, so it’s hardly surprising that they’re feeling a bit delicate!

Examining the damaged areas of paper

Examining the damaged areas of paper

The area I looked at was the sanitary wallpaper you saw above; I chose a small area behind the door in the Servants’ Corridor. It’s an unusual place to have damage, as the door covers the area when the house is open to visitors, so there is no risk of any accidental damage or abrasion. It is a good area to monitor, as we can track if there are any changes to the environment or if it deteriorates further and a conservator is required to stabilise it.
Flaking paper in the servants' corridor

Flaking paper in the servants’ corridor

We took photographs of the paper under a raking light, which highlights if it is lifting, bubbling underneath, or how large any areas of tears or flaking are.

We measured the area with a ruler, filing out a condition monitoring form which is filed, and drew a diagram on it to show the location and size of the problem area. We dated this information, so that periodically we can return to the area and quickly check if any change has occurred. Hopefully though, it won’t!

Who knew you could get so excited about wallpaper?

by Rebecca Farr, Assistant House and Visitor Services Manager