Ice cream and sun cream are welcome signs of the season but can have another, unsuspected side for the National Trust conservation team at Hill Top looking after the house and its contents. As Hill Top is now open every day for summer, the monitoring of Beatrix Potter’s belongs has to be stepped up as this brings thousands of sticky hands and greasy fingers into the house.
That’s why the conservation team have a ‘waxing watch-list’ with the top potential items on which could be susceptible to damage. Wooden chair backs and window seats are particularly high risk, so these are high up on the list.
Sophie Terrett, Conservation Assistant says “We love welcoming thousands of visitors to Hill Top over the summer but that’s a lot of sticky ice cream fingers and sun-creamed hands! It’s extra important that our conservation checklists are carefully stuck to during these busy times.”
The team use special ‘Renaissance Wax’, which is a microcrystalline wax, with smaller crystals. The wax was developed by the British Museum in the 1950s. A thick layer is given to the wooden furniture at this time of year and gives an invisible layer of protection, before the busy summer months. Ebony and painted wood items, such as the Windsor chair in the bedroom at Hill Top and the ebonised buffet in the Treasure room are especially vulnerable as their dark wood can be badly marked by the grease from touching.
The furniture and objects in the house are looked after carefully all year around but the large visitor numbers in the summer month mean extra protection is needed. If the waxing isn’t done correctly and at the right time, wood conservators would need to be brought in to give special guidance on cleaning methods, at extra cost. So it’s all about prevention being better than the cure to make sure the special objects are here for years to come for all to enjoy.
At the Beatrix Potter Gallery down the road in Hawskhead, you’ll see some of the conservation work in action in the Conservation Hub, alongside Beatrix’s original artwork on display in this year’s exhibition ‘Telling Tales’.
Hill Top and the Beatrix Potter Gallery are now open 7 days a week until 31st August. Fridays and weekend are a great time to visit to see the house and Gallery at quieter times.