As part of our two-week placement with Doddington Hall’s tapestry conservation team, we were asked to help spring clean the Tent Room. In this, the second of our two blogs, we take you through how we cleaned the large cushions and rugs, ready for the house reopening in spring.
We began by emptying the space of all the floor and bolster cushions and rolling up the large floor rugs. This sounds easy enough but when each cushion is actually stuffed with cotton fibre which is the traditional Indian method where they were made, it was heavy work and after moving all nine plus twenty-one large bolster cushions we were ready for our tea break!
Image 1 – Melinda and Jocelyn in the Tent Room
In removing the rugs, we were able to take a closer look at the original ‘compound’ floor, one of the reasons that the room is so special. This material is an example of a lime–ash floor and can still be found in a number of the rooms at Doddington. A bed of reeds would have been fixed to floor joists to make a tight thatch. These were held down with oak lathes and these in turn were covered with 5cm of lime-ash slurry, which could then be polished. The floor has been standing for over 400 years, showing how effective this technique was.
Image 2 – Melinda vacuuming one of the bolster cushions
Having set up camp in the Long Gallery we set to cleaning the floor cushions. Years of use by visitors and school groups had made the cushions quite dusty, so cleaning was important to prevent accumulation of dirt and discourage pests. In moving the cushions we unearthed evidence of small rodent activity, so we aren’t the only creatures who find the room an appealing space.
Image 3 – Mattress wrestling
Using conservation vacuums with brush attachments, each cushion was vacuumed, as were the two rugs which had also become quite dirty. In fact the largest rug needed vacuuming three times! A few hours the cushions and rugs were looking much cleaner and were ready to go back into the Tent Room. Again, this was quite the task, made even more difficult this time as it was important to keep the cushions clean; This turned out to be a four woman job! After some trial and error, a large piece of Melinex Polyester Film was placed underneath the mattress to help it slide from the Long Gallery into the Tent Room. After two days of hard work and with the room looking much fresher, we were finally able to stand back and admire our hard work.
Image 4 – The Tent Room after its spring clean
Melinda Hey & Jocelyn Cook
Conservation and Restoration students, The University of Lincoln.