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14 Dec 2018

It’s time for the winter deep clean

Written by Vicky Hogg - Housekeeping Plans Project Co-ordinator
Elizabeth Bracher, Guide and Conservation Volunteer at Kellie Castle, demonstrating book cleaning
Elizabeth Bracher, Guide and Conservation Volunteer at Kellie Castle, demonstrating book cleaning
October saw many Trust properties close for the winter – but the work doesn’t stop there. This is the time of year that the interiors and collections get their annual deep clean.

Over the past five years a small group of volunteers have got together at Kellie Castle to carry out its 5-year cycle of deep cleaning. For most of that time, Elizabeth Bracher, Guide and Conservation Volunteer, has co-ordinated staff and volunteers in this activity. The 36th George Waterston Memorial Award was awarded to Elizabeth at the Trust’s AGM in September for her special contribution to the work of the Trust through her dedication to winter deep cleaning at Kellie Castle.

Deep cleaning a castle is not an easy undertaking as many factors have to be considered, not least the cold: lots and lots of layers are needed and many cups of tea! Access must be carefully considered to reach the high ceilings; daylight is also lost quickly during the winter, so the working day is very short.

As part of my Housekeeping Plans Project, I was delighted to be invited along to Kellie Castle in early November. Every year, volunteers gather together to run through the programme for their closed season, agree dates for cleaning days and receive training.

We were given full training in conservation cleaning, including the use of gloves, principles of moving objects and the use of brushes and vacuums.

The conservation cleaning kit
The conservation cleaning kit

As Kellie Castle is closed for the winter, it’s an ideal opportunity to ‘put the rooms to bed’ by covering furniture in dust sheets and wrapping smaller pieces from the collection in acid-free tissue paper.

Julie Bon, Conservator for Edinburgh & East, has fully supported the ‘Kellie Conservation Cleaning Crew’ and explains: ‘Putting our houses to bed in the winter is an important part of our approach to the care of our collections. It allows staff and volunteers to get up close to our collections and check their condition; it allows the collections to be covered and protected from the damaging effects of light for a few months; and it allows our collections to be cleaned and checked prior to our houses opening again in the spring.’

A conservation volunteer demonstrating how to clean textiles
Training on textiles

This year, deep cleaning at Kellie will be carried out in the John Henry Lorimer Room, the three rooms in the north-west tower, the main staircase and the spiral staircases, and on the books in the Library.

The 2019 deep clean will conclude the 5-year cycle started by the Kellie Conservation Cleaning Crew. By then the team will have been round the whole castle – a great achievement! The whole place is looking good, particularly the plaster ceilings which had not been cleaned for a long time. Elizabeth commented: ‘when cleaning the plaster ceiling in the Earl’s Room it was a real thrill seeing the amount of dust removed, as it was gently brushed off and sucked into the conservation vacuum. At first you really don't think a small soft bristle brush would do that much’.

We’ll be bringing you more stories during the winter deep clean at Kellie Castle to demonstrate the delicate skills needed to execute an effective deep clean.

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