If you have visited us recently you will have noticed the scaffolding up around the house.
Scaffolding is up around the east and south elevations
We are repairing some of the stone work on this side of the Mansion where the stones have decayed, making a lime mortar repair to the stone to stop any further deterioration of the stone work. Where we make a new mortar repair we make sure that the material is the same colour as the stone being repaired so that it blends in. Where the stones are in a very advanced state of decay, so that they can no longer serve their purpose – such as with a window lintel – then the stone has to be replaced.
Before we acquired Calke some mortar repairs to the stonework were carried out using ‘Roman Cement’. This was made from nodules of septaria, iron rich calcareous stones, which were taken from the Thames estuary! It is so called because it was thought to be similar to the material that was used by the Romans.
The Roman Cement has a distinctive orange colour which you can see in patches all over the Mansion. On other properties we might remove such repairs and carry out new repairs to match the stone work. However, Calke has a different philosophy and we repair things rather than restore them to their former glory. This means that with these old repairs we will match any replacements to the colour of the previous Roman Cement rather than the stone itself.
This way we let the different types of repair continue to tell the story of Calke’s past.
Thanks to one of our volunteer photographers James Woodcock for braving the scaffolding to take these close up shots. We salute you!
Our (usually empty) stable courtyards have been transformed into an amazing temporary display space for the incredible 2020Vision photography exhibition.
So what is 2020Vision?
The 2020VISION roadshow, the UK’s most ambitious conservation photography project, features the work of some of the UK’s top nature photographers. Featuring images taken in twenty locations, over twenty months, throughout the country, including The National Forest, the exhibition celebrates landscape-scale restoration projects that benefit both wildlife and people.
We’re really excited about seeing this fantastic photography project come here especially as we are featured in the exhibition as one of the photographs taken in The National Forest.
We can’t quite decide which image is our favourite though, there are too many to choose from. However, we can’t help but be partial to this lovely boar – it is the Harpur-Crewe family crest after all!
Why not come along to The Vision theatre show on Wednesday 24th April where you’ll get to meet some of the UK’s top nature and wildlife photographers who worked on the project. It promises to be an evening of spell-binding imagery, music and personal anecdotes hosted by Andy Rouse with guest photographers Peter Cairns, Danny Green and Alex Mustard.Tickets are £12 including refreshments and need to be booked on 01332 863822.
The exhibition will be with us until 29th April. We’re sure you’ll feel inspired by it so why not bring along your camera on your visit and get out into the park to take your own nature and wildlife shots? Share them with us on Facebook and Twitter.
Find out more about 2020Vision
We arrived to quite a mess this morning. As we trundled round the corner of the house in bright sunshine we came across a disruption on the front lawn…
Can you guess who has been here?
It seems as though our resident Calke badgers held quite a raucous dinner party last night!
Bill, our Countryside Manager found these badgers behind home farm
They like digging with their claws in the grass to find some grub and we have been used to clearing up after them, however never quite on this scale! We decided to head up out onto the portico to get a better look.
600 acres of parkland, and the badgers decide to dig here!
It’s a good job we have our trusty team of garden volunteers to help clear the mess up. They have been working hard all morning putting the lawn back together!
Hand-pieced back together.
They have done a sterling job and the lawn is almost back to normal, give or take a few muddy patches. Until next time!
Put yourself in the shoes of a 19th century Baronet who loves natural history. He can’t google that plant he’s found but can’t identify. So he starts collecting a herbarium.
What is a herbarium we hear you cry? It’s a collection of preserved plant specimens, mainly dried and mounted on to a sheet. Our Victorian Baronets were addicted to natural history (the Saloon is more like a natural history museum!) and began a herbarium collection to fuel their passion for knowledge in the natural world. And herbarium collections were very in vogue.
We have Simon Moore, Advisor and Conservator of Natural Sciences, here this week uncovering our vast herbarium collection for the first time. He’s transformed our reading room into a working space and is having an initial sort through of the collection, which dates between about 1830 – 1890.
Here’s Simon inspecting some of the herbarium collection
Sir John Harpur-Crewe (9th Baronet) and Sir Vauncey Harpur-Crewe (10th Baronet) bought their collection through auctions and private sales. It was very important to know who did the actual collecting and where they collected it from on what date.
The details are essential
Simon has found specimens collected from a Mr. Bloxam, who appears to have been Sir John’s tutor in natural history. The collection here at Calke is in a good condition due to being kept in the dark. However, there have been some sneaky pests causing holes in the paper and dusty sheets.
Pests have left their mark – but their dust trails are easily cleaned
Simon is sorting the pages into groups so it will be easier to find certain specimens.
A selection of these pages will be on display for the very first time in the Library when the house opens for the new season on Saturday 23rd February. Why not come along and discover something new?
As the snow falls outside the winter clean continues. Today the conservation team are working on one of the quirkiest rooms in the house – the caricature room. As the name suggests this room is full of caricatures, but not how you would expect. Always the more eccentric than their fellow aristocrats this Harpur- Crewe room is a variation on the more familiar country-house print room. In place of engraved landscapes, views of buildings and other decorative subjects, there are satirical cartoons of contemporary events in high society. You won’t find these cartoons proudly displayed in frames – they’re pasted on to the walls! Many of the best-known caricaturists of the day are represented, including Rowlandson, Gillray and Cruikshank.
As our conservation team got to work we went to see how they look after this room in the winter months. The majority of the furniture is moved out to the bottom of the principal stairs to be vacuumed with a specialist museum vac.
Here’s our conservation volunteer Emma using a goat’s hair brush
The chairs and sofa are made easier to clean thanks to work completed by textile conservators a few years ago. Usually with textiles the museum vac is used over a net to protect the threads; however a permanent protective mesh has been attached to the fabric as it was becoming unstable.
The caricature prints need close monitoring due to rising damp patches. Each print is photographed to keep a record of its condition. Our conservation assistants Gill, Jen and Neil say that this is one of the easiest rooms to clean as there are only 3 oil paintings but it also is one of the dustiest too as it is the first room on the visitor route after the entrance hall!
Ornaments are lined up whilst Neil gets busy with cleaning the fireplace
The house will be reawakened in February for season opening on Saturday 23rd February. Get an exclusive behind the scenes tour of how we get the house ready on our Keeping House, Spring out of Bed lecture lunch on Wednesday 13th February. Find out how to book.
We can’t believe that 2012 is over already – it passed us by so quickly with a busier than ever packed year of projects and events. We faced lots of challenges with the 2nd wettest year on record (yes, it’s official now!). But we’d like to thank you for all of your support and commend those that braved many visits in torrential rain!
Just a few of our 2012 highlights:
2 peas in a pod in our Garden of Imagination
Garden of Imagination:
Throughout the summer holidays our Large Kitchen Garden was transformed into a haven for families to indulge in lots of natural play. We even spent a few of those *dry* lunch breaks up there treating ourselves to tasty snacks from the trailer. This pilot project was a great success so look out for another Garden of Imagination this summer.
Even the original gate has been hung in place.
For years our grotto lay inaccessible. For the first time it was opened up to visitors after a major project began. You can now walk right into the grotto and see the cascading water – a lovely retreat on a summer stroll. A further phase will hopefully be completed this summer.
Whispers of Calke’s Christmas Past
And more recently the servants’ hall was opened to visitors for the first time as part of our Christmas trail. The table was set to portray the gradual decline from grandeur to decay. This room is such an atmospheric reminder of the decline of this country house estate and we were so excited to be able to show a room behind closed doors.
There are many more 2012 moments we would love to share but here’s looking to the year ahead. A major project will take place from spring to repair the front of the east and south elevations of the house where stonework fractures will get some much-needed TLC from the Hardwick stonemasons. Look out for further information on demonstrations and talks on this project. We also have some new and exciting events planned as well as our popular family favourites so look out for our new leaflet coming soon and check out our website.
Here’s to a bright and sunny 2013!
We’re all so used to taking photos on our digital cameras and smart phones that it’s easy to forget that images weren’t always so fuss free to store. Instead of having that favourite family snap at a click of a button or swipe of a screen you might search for the original printed copy or display it proudly in a beautiful frame in times gone by.
At Calke, the family photos of the Harpur-Crewes are lovingly displayed in picture frames around the house. However, over the years the quality of these special photos has deteriorated due to light exposure. We need to preserve these photos for the archive and without digital copies we are starting from scratch and making our own!
These photos of the Breakfast Room show that these family portraits were much admired. This room was almost always used as a private ‘dining parlour’.
We’ve got experts in to carefully remove the photos from their frames and dry clean them using Japanese brushes.
Set up shop in the Butler’s Pantry
The original images will then be photographed and digital copies will be made and then carefully put into frames. The originals will then be stored away from the light.
As you can imagine, there are lots of photographs to be dealt with – Can you spot Princess Anne?
We’re also going to make a family photo album from the digital copies which you will be able to leaf through at leisure. Look out for it in the new season and discover something new.