Tuesday, 9 May 2017

There is more to Mountstewart than meets the eye

This place is a treasure of treasures, even for the staff who have been here quite a while, each day can reveal something new.or I should say old and almost forgotten.I decided to pay a visit to Proni to dig a bit deeper. The majority of the Londonderry papers are available to the public and I recommend a visit. In the past I have spent a lot of time here researching my own family history. The staff are so helpful so even if you are not familiar with catalogues and searching they are more than happy to show you the basics. In this case I found it very beneficial to be able to search the ecatolgue at home first. I trawled  through around  1800 titles and descriptions and eventually refined it down to 20. It did take a few hours but in my own comfort at home with Smudge curled up beside me. https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/proni/.
My focus was on the needlepoint but a few things jumped out at me that I knew other staff were interested in so I pulled them out just in case there was something of interest for them.

I recently got to view the tapestry chairs that were a gift to the Londonderrys  from Laura Corrigan. The documentation states the part Lady Edith had in the paintwork and the design s by her daughter Margaret. The work is in petit point and the details are magnificent with panels on the seats of the chairs as well as the front and back. Each panel is a different scene from Mountstewart, the cost documented was astronomical for the day and I can only imagine they are priceless now. If you want more details you will have to visit Proni for yourself! Or request a private viewing at Mountstewart as they are not on general display at the moment. Talking of which, there are so many treasures in this place even with the present volunteers they wouldn't have the staff to show everything off so maybe it's time to pay a visit and find out more about volunteering yourself.

I feel very at home here now and under the instructions of the house stewards Sheena and Tammi I have learned a lot. The central hall is still my main employ but there is always time for a few little extras as I can barely drag myself away from the place. The brass panels need dealing with on occasions as visitors like to touch as evidenced by the finger prints. They are a little worn with the years of cleaning but what really stands out to me are the brass door knobs and locks. The workmanship is life long. My house is 25years old and we have had to change many handles and doorknobs as they just do not stand up to the use.
Depending on the footfall the dust can be varied. I am sure some folk hate those little ropes that only allow you to go so far into a room. However you really can see everything from that point so why go further. This reduces the amount of dust in the room which reduces the amount of cleaning needed and the wear to the furnishings with extra cleaning. In turn this should guarantee the items to be on show longer for the public emphasising Forever for Everyone. I recently took a tour with some friends and I can see how easily it is for visitors to lean on objects of furniture without even realising as they stand on the  spot listening to the guides, so the less items at hand the better. 

The resetting and dusting of the dining room table is certainly a task in itself. We do not take out our tape measures like the butler did but the next best thing to it. Thinking of some letters between Lord Londonderry and a friend in the 1920's it was mentioned that butlers were hard to come by at that time. I guess this is true of today too!
I posted some photos in a previous blog of stone sculptures in the garden and I have been doing a little work in these behind the scenes and hope to have stitched my version of one of them soon so keep watching and reading.

I also have a new personal challenge the National Trust have allowed me to follow so will speak about that soon. Meanwhile I have my own house to clean, table to lay and get ready for my real job.

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