The school summer holidays may sadly soon be over, but there’s still lots going on at Tintagel Old Post Office throughout September.
There will be folk music echoing amongst the ancient beams, we will be celebrating local female writers in the Women’s Institute next door. We will also be taking a closer look at the painstaking precision and nifty needlework needed in sampler sewing and how we care for these elaborate embroideries:
There are two more Activity Wednesdays left over the school summer holidays: tick-off #18 of 50 Things by creating wild art on Wednesday 22 August. All materials will be provided to help you create a mini-masterpiece. On Wednesday 29 August, create a memory box for your seaside souvenirs or Cornish curiosities as well as a badge or fridge magnet as a trinket from Tintagel. Normal admission applies.
Winter work behind closed doors
Once again the dust sheets are coming off, the ladders are out and the vacuum cleaners are in overdrive as the House Stewards are busy cleaning Tintagel Old Post Office ready for half-term opening, 10-18 February.
We’ll be carrying out the work in a ‘top-down’ approach starting with the ceiling, through to the walls and floorboards as well as treating, cleaning and documenting all the collection items in our care.
During this time the audit of the collections also takes place where we review the location of the items, their condition and try and identify what conservation work needs doing. A meeting with the conservator is lined up to help inform us on how to treat the most vulnerable items.
This is also an important time of year for our gardener, Kate. Aside from the usual cutting back and maintenance, Kate has been busy removing plants that we have identified as being out-of-keeping with the house, thus allowing room for the planting of new shrubs. This is being done in an attempt to make the garden of Tintagel Old Post Office more historically accurate, filled with the sort of plants you would expect to see in a cottage garden in this part of Cornwall.
Raspberries, redcurrants gooseberries and blackcurrants are the latest additions, planted to compliment the already well-rooted apple and medlar trees. This will create a ‘fruit corner’ for the garden with roses to add a bit of colour.
As part of the Festival of British Archaeology, 16-31 July, unearth how this ancient abode would have looked over 600 years ago and how life within it has changed over time.
Let your little treasures become archaeologists for the day with hands-on activities.
The exhibit will feature original pen, ink and watercolour reconstruction drawings of how the house would have looked back when it was built in 1380. These were created by much-celebrated local artist Sue Read.
A children’s archaeology and history trail will be available free of charge as well as crafty capers in the hall, where kids can create their own coat of arms, much like the one originally above the fireplace.
A mock-trench will also be available to dig in (weather permitting) featuring real artefacts from the medieval and post-medieval periods so that avid archaeologists can get hands-on with history.
For those interested in the famously wavy roof, a section of the exhibition will be dedicated to exploring the 1992 roof restoration, which took two builders six months to complete at a cost of £70,000!
Are you a green-fingered person with a passion for plants?
Tintagel Old Post Office is looking for a new gardener to maintain and develop its traditional cottage garden. The front garden frames the house and is inviting whereas the back is a quiet retreat and also the setting for many of our events.
The garden changes dramatically through the seasons; never the same there’s lots to keep you occupied. This is a real opportunity to make the garden your own through deciding what plants to grow and where, maintaining the current layout, planting pots for sale and chatting to other like-minded people who will have questions about garden.
The big winter clean at Tintagel Old Post Office.
As Tintagel Old Post Office prepares to open its doors for the 2016 season, we look back at the cleaning and conservation work done during the quieter times of the year.
Every late October/early November, Tintagel Old Post Office shuts its doors to the public and over the Winter months, the house and the collections are meticulously cleaned and cared for.
The best way to describe how we go about this process, is by saying we use a ‘top-down’ approach to both the items in the collection and the fabric of the house itself.
We start with the rafters and the underside of the famously wavy slate roof, clearing away the thick stubborn cobwebs that have been allowed to accumulate during the year when out-of-reach spiders have free-reign over the upper echelons of the house.
This is a delicate process as the limewash – the white mortar paint, which keeps the house watertight but breathable – tends to crumble if brushed too vigorously. As this covers most of the interior of the house, the walls also have to be dusted delicately – something all the more precarious when you’re up a ladder.
This is a real opportunity to get up close and personal with the warped green-oak beams that have somehow propped the ancient slate roof up since medieval times, save for a respite of conservation work in 1992.
Down the walls and to the floors. The timber floorboards of the house get filled with all sorts of dust and detritus brought in by the numerous visitors over the season. The best way to clear these: kebab skewers. Not the most high-tech piece of kit, but effective. Not the most glamorous of jobs, but essential. You’d be amazed how must dust is generated from a season of people entering a room for just a matter of minutes.
The flagstone floors, put down sometime in the 16th century require good old fashioned elbow-grease, and we clean them the traditional way, on our hands and knees with hot water and rags. There’s a lot to be said for the old methods. If you think slate is self-cleaning from people walking over it, then you’d be amazed by how quickly our white rags turn black.
The windows get a similar treatment, but we are careful not to use any chemicals or to be too vigorous as the panes are covered with transparent UV filters to prevent the damaging effects of constant sunlight on the paintings and samplers, which if left exposed, would fade over time.
On to the collections. Many of the items simply require a good dusting. This includes ceramics, paintings, samplers, pewter items and the like. Occasionally the ceramics are washed, but only with minimal tepid water and only every few years.
With the furniture, it’s the joints where the dust accumulates, the nooks and crannies. For this, we use special brushes to gently get into the grooves and prevent buildup. The main thing is to keep the dust moving, to clear it away and clean it up, because when it settles, it’s like cement. The occasional rub of NT wax polish brings the old items back to their best.
Some metal items require polishing to really bring out the shine and all fireplaces, pots, pans and irons are blackened with special grate polish which will slowly wear-off over the coming season.
Throughout this whole process, we are going through the conservation records to see if any of the items have deteriorated or need special treatment all the while recording our work on them this time around.
The beds are re-made, paintings are put back up, the clocks are wound and the house is ready for another year in a long history spanning more than six centuries.