Our treasured timepieces

At Attingham we are lucky to have some splendid examples of timepieces with elaborate decoration and captivating chimes. Many of our showrooms clocks are fine examples of Empire/Regency neoclassical styling. They were the epitome of fashion in the latter part of the 18th century and the early to mid-19th century with their Ancient Greek and Roman influenced mythology and architecture. In Napoleon’s France and Regency Britain such objects displayed to all that these nations were the great empires of the world following in the steps of their classical predecessors.

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This elegant and interesting clock rests resplendent on the Octagon Room’s mantelpiece. Unusually, this English made timepiece is wound anti-clockwise from the rear of its case.

These clocks are mostly bronze coated with a thin layer of gold, which if handled too often would wear away. This is known as ormolu and is applied in a process using mercury to bind the gold to the bronze. This process involves the evaporation of the mercury, which is so toxic that many of the workers involved died before the age of forty. Thankfully, electroplating is now used.

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A jovial Dionysus (Bacchus), possibly alluding to his ‘Triumph over India’, proudly sits within Attingham’s Boudoir. Sadly, his staff or thyrsus is missing its pine cone top (I’m still hoping to find it one day in the ‘Bits Box’ in our stores).

Writing this blog made me think about the meaning of time related words, so I thought I might include a few here. Horology the study of the movement of time, stems from the Latin ‘hora’ meaning hour/time, the word clock comes from ‘clocca’ which is the  Medieval Latin for bell, and the Ancient Greek water clock, Klepsydra, amusingly translates as water thief and was used to time the speeches of judicial trails.

Whilst in the midst of writing, Caroline, our House Steward, mentioned to me that there was once a rather peculiar clock tax. It came into legislation thanks to Prime Minister William Pitt in 1797 but proved so unpopular it was repealed just nine months later – unlike the equally unpopular window tax, which lasted over a hundred years, and whose effect can still be seen in many bricked-up windows throughout Britain today.

During my role as part of the Conservation team at Attingham I have occasionally helped with the winding of our clocks which takes place weekly as most of them have an eight-day movement. This has blossomed a particular interest and passion within me for them. After all, these hard working objets d’art have been custodians of time for, in some cases, over two hundred years.

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Me winding the longcase clock in the Servant’s Hall. Photograph kindly taken by my fellow conservation volunteer Katie.

We have a dedicated folder which records on a weekly basis not only the date and time of winding but also the accuracy of the clock’s movements. This folder is also used to note any adjustments that been carried out such as altering the counterbalance of the pendulum to either speed up or slow down the clock’s movement. This is sometimes the result of atmospheric expansion or contraction of the intricate metal parts. These records are vital to the conservation of our clocks and help us become aware of any problems that may need special attention.

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This is one of my favourites, the putto (cherub) or amorino (cupid) on the swing acts as the pendulum, it is currently resting in one of our stores.

All of our clock winding/maintenance keys and equipment are kept in a tool box along with a pony-haired brush which is used to gently remove one of our greatest enemies – accumulated dust. Before we attempt any work on the clocks we put on powder-free latex or nitrile gloves as these essential necessities protect our timepieces from dirt and sweat which can easily damage the surface of the clocks.

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Here is the crank and some of the keys used to wind the clocks; below these is the stick used for the pendulum/hands and below that is a pony-hair brush (notice the taped ferrule to avoid its metal potentially causing damage).

Some of the more delicate ones in the showrooms have a pendulum suspended from a single thread of silk and to stop these before winding we use a slim wooden cylindrical stick. This stick is also used when we need to move the hands of some of the clocks as using fingers on the small and ornate ones could potentially damage them. The clocks in the basement are much more robust, especially the longcase ones, and take some cranking to raise their heavy weights in preparation for the week ahead.

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The rear of one of the clocks in the Sultana Room showing the thread which the pendulum is suspended from.

There will be a specialist clock conservator visiting Attingham in August who will be giving our hard-working timepieces a full check-up so that they can continue their important and much-loved role of greeting our visitors with their charming chimes.

Hopefully, this blog has inspired you to find out more about the clocks at Attingham and those in the care of the National Trust. If so, then the National Trust Collections website is a great place to find lots of examples.


Cronkhill and Town Walls Tower update

Cronkhill and Town Walls Tower are two small properties opened by the Attingham house team a few times per year. They have limited openings because they are tenanted but they are both little gems with a fascinating history and well worth visiting.

Town Walls Tower is the last surviving watch tower on Shrewsbury’s town walls. Parts of the walls date from the reign on Henry III when a special toll was taken on goods coming into Shrewsbury to pay for the building of a defensive wall using sandstone from the Quarry, now a public park. The tower was added later in the reign of Henry IV when Shrewsbury’s fortifications were strengthened due to fears of more attacks from the Welsh forces.


Town Walls Tower seen from the rear, (C) National Trust


The towers never saw much military action and were later sold to principle townsfolk. In its later years Town Walls Tower became home to a watchmaker, a coachman and was used as a play den for the children of a family who owned it! It was given to the National Trust in 1930 and is currently tenanted by Shrewsbury Girls’ School.


Town Walls Tower seen from the road, showing a door that would have led onto a raised walkway that ran around the walls and back to Shrewsbury Castle. (c) National Trust


Cronkhill was built by John Nash (c.1802) to provide the 2nd Lord Berwick with an eye-catching Italianate villa to admire from Attingham. The building recalled the Tuscan villas in the Claude Lorrain paintings that Lord Berwick collected and fitted beautifully into the Picturesque landscape of the Attingham estate.

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Cronkhill (c) Laura Turner


Cornkhill was originally painted with an ochre colour to blend in with the landscape and recall the warm colour of buildings in Claude Lorrain’s paintings. In building’s later history it had been coated in stark white Dulux Weathershield. Nash would have been appalled as Sir Uvedale Price, an influential Picturesque theorist whose ideas were advocated by Nash, wrote in his Essay on the Picturesque (1796) that a whitened building ‘stares you impudently in the face’ and ‘is like the eternal grin of a fool.’ Even worse was that the plastic based paint didn’t allow the building to breathe, resulting in damp problems. Recently the National Trust carried out an important project to return Cronkhill to its original colour which lends a warm feel to the building whatever the weather. The building has now been restored allowing the walls to breathe.

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A painted window found during restoration work on the exterior of Cronkhill (c) National Trust


The first occupant of Cronkhill was Francis Walford, the 2nd Lord Berwick’s Steward. Cronkhill then became home to the 5th Lord Berwick who was renowned as a maker of rifles, musical instruments and most especially as a farmer. He won many prizes at agricultural shows and his Hereford cattle were so famous that after his death they were bought by buyers from Australia, Canada and for Prince Albert’s herd.

Another important occupant of Cronkhill was the 8th Lord Berwick who lived there from 1919 with his new wife, Teresa. We have a wonderful collection of photographs in the Attingham archives showing the couple at Cronkhill. They found it hard to get a tenant for Attingham so moved there themselves in 1921. Cronkhill has been let out to private tenants ever since.


Teresa, 8th Lady Berwick, enjoying the garden at Cronkhill (c) National Trust


This year the National Trust decided to start opening the properties on a timed ticket basis. Last year the visitor figures were huge and resulted in overcrowding, which was damaging in conservation terms and led to poor visitor experience as visitors squashed into the small rooms!

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Cronkhill hall and stairs, c. 1919 (c) National Trust


It was decided to limit visitor numbers at Town Walls Tower to 100 per day and visitors to Cronkhill to 250 per day and to run timed entry slots throughout the opening period. Tickets are bookable online or by phone (see links below).

The timed tickets were very successful in ensuring visitor numbers became more manageable. Town Walls Tower worked especially well with both days fully booked!


The door into Town Walls Tower (c) National Trust


The Friday opening of Cronkhill was fairly quiet as it was a chilly day but the beautiful weather on Sunday brought visitors flocking. £68.50 was made towards helping the National Trust’s conservation work at the Cronkhill open days, mostly on the Sunday.


Cronkhill (c) Laura Turner


It would be lovely to see you at the next openings of Cronkhill and Town Walls Tower. To find out more about Town Walls Tower and book a slot on one of the half hourly tours, please click this link.

To discover more about Cronkhill and book a visit, please click this link. Visits are free-flow so you can arrive at any time throughout the hourly slot you book onto.

Changing the Boulle cabinet display

When you next visit Attingham you may notice that changes have been afoot in the Inner Library. A new display of books has been created in the beautiful red tortoiseshell Boulle cabinet that was bought by William, 3rd Lord Berwick, in 1833.

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The Boulle cabinet


The display in the Boulle cabinet needs altering periodically as if books are always kept open in one place then the leather spines and the animal skin glue holding the pages to the binding is at risk of cracking. Harvey James, a book conservation specialist, advised that we rested the books that we’d displayed previously in the cabinet as they had been out for a while. Helped by a volunteer, I replaced the books that had previously been displayed on the bookcase shelves for a well earned rest and created a new display.

As well as including books essential to tell Attingham’s story, like the 1827 sale catalogue and memoirs of Harriett Wilson, the courtesan who was sister to the 2nd Lady Berwick, I tried to link with topical historical themes. This year Attingham is celebrating Humphry Repton, employed by the 2nd Lord Berwick to landscape the grounds. His Red Book for Attingham is on display in the West Ante Room. Books about English Deer Parks and by Gilpin, a key player in the Picturesque landscaping movement and influence on Repton, can be seen in the Boulle cabinet.

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Evelyn Philip Shirley Esq., Some Account of English Deer Parks with notes on the management of deer,  1867

Also topical for 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One and I included some of the 8th Lord Berwick’s military books in the display. He spent some time in the Shropshire Yeomanry at Morpeth and the battered, water stained appearance of some of the covers shows he was carrying the books with him in service. You can read more about Attingham’s World War I stories here.

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Thomas, 8th Lord Berwick, in military uniform


The display was also a lovely chance to showcase the beautiful illustrations and marbled patterns in some books. I am particularly fond of the humorous illustration in a book of Chinese Costumes that shows a tea gatherer and some monkeys. According to the book ‘A very singular expedient has been resorted to for gathering the tea in places so difficult of access… Monkeys are trained to climb these heights, and to strip the leaves from the bushes.’ The author explains that ‘these kinds of assistants are not the most easy to be procured; for the monkeys, in this employment, cannot be guided wholly by artificial instinct’ and need lots of food rewards to train them to climb up to the tea bushes by means of cords.

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M. Breton, Costume of China, Volume 2 Arts, Manufactures &c, 1813


When handling books clean, dry hands or latex gloves are best because white cotton gloves can reduce sensitivity and abrade the books. Before they were placed in the cabinet or put into storage, the books were placed on foam book blocks to be condition checked and cleaned. Two soft pony hair brushes were used to clean the books as the outside needs to be cleaned separately from the pages because the covers contain tannin, which could stain the pages if the same brush was used to clean them.

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Me cleaning one of the beautiful Gould’s British Bird books that was sadly too big to display


We kept an eye out for problems like mould growth or an infestation of insects, like silverfish or booklice. A lot of these problems are prevented as Attingham’s environmental monitoring system means that conditions in the Inner Library are ideal for the preservation of books. We need to ensure that books don’t become damp, as this would encourage pests and mould, or too dry as this might cause cracking and damage as the pages and covers are made of different materials and so expand and contract at different rates. Luckily the books were fine, although some show signs of previous damage. One of the schoolbook belonging to Noel Hill, 1st Lord Berwick, had a lovely example of old bookworm holes at the edges!

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One of the scribbled on school books – Gradus ad Parnassum sive Novus, Thresaurus, 1738

Cleaning the Fireplaces

Attingham Mansion is rather lucky when it comes to fireplaces, with many examples of Greek and Roman influence and mythology, they are very much a statement of a grandiose past. My name is Simon and I regularly volunteer at Attingham helping with conservation work. I have had the privilege recently to give the fireplaces a little tender loving care to keep them in their resplendence for the present and future generations, and this blog post is concerned with this.

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Me in the midst of cleaning


Like all things, including us, a little bit of intervention is needed to keep them at their best and prevent further deterioration, and this is really what Preventive Conservation is and what my work as a conservation volunteer involves. Each year in the closed season the house gets what we call a ‘deep clean’ to take the opportunity to get the jobs done that would be difficult to do when the house is open and busy with visitors. So, for the past few weeks I’ve been helping the house team with the fireplaces.Fireplace cleaning by Simon 3

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Cleaning in progress with resultant mucky swabs!


Whilst working on the mantelpieces I would sometimes notice small areas of damage and these can really fire the imagination if you let them – was it an overworked servant; a disgruntled Lord; or a drunken RAF officer that chipped the frieze, who knows?

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Bust of Pitt the Younger resplendent with polish


Anyway, I digress, the first thing we do is give them a check to see if any new damage has occurred or if there are any areas of concern that need reporting. Sometimes we discover small areas of rust which mostly can be buffed out with a little metal polish and cloth or, if stubborn, a non-woven abrasive pad with a little polish on. Then it’s a case of giving them a good dust with a hog’s hair brush which is more robust than the pony hair ones we use for more delicate objects, but is fine on marble. Most years a good dust and a clean with deionised water before a coat of wax or black leading is applied is all that is required, but this year we decided to give them a bit more attention.


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Partially waxed showing how the wax covers scratches.


Every few years it is good practice to give them a more intensive clean and after brushing and vacuuming the dust we armed ourselves with cotton swabs, buds and a solution of white spirit and deionised water. This was applied via the cotton to all the more awkward to reach places to remove most of the dirt that has accumulated there. You may have noticed I used the word ‘most’ as the aim is not to have the object looking brand new rather to keep it presentable with its historical context intact.

Once all the residue had evaporated (excess can be dabbed off with a paper towel) we then started to apply the wax with a clean brush in a circular action and, after some time to allow it to dry, buffed it with a clean cloth. Once the wax had been applied to the marble and metalwork we finished off with black leading the areas of the grate that needed it. And that is essentially how we look after the fireplaces in our care ready for another busy year in front of their admiring audiences.

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Two of the cleaned fireplaces ready for the visitors to enjoy.



The aftermath of Christmas in the mansion


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By this point in the year you’ve probably packed away your Christmas decorations and it’s the same at Attingham. Although, as might be imagined, tidying up after our 1940s Christmas took place on a much larger scale in the mansion!

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The volunteer flower arrangers gathered all the Christmas arrangements into the Dining Room

The mansion was closed on Christmas Eve so that the house team and volunteer flower arrangers can remove the flower arrangements and as many of the Christmas trees as possible. If they were left too long in the mansion when it is closed then decaying flowers or falling pine needles might damage historic surfaces, even though we tried to protect them as well as possible with sheets of Melinex plastic. The water used to prolong the life of the flowers and trees might damage the collection by leaking or evaporating into the atmosphere and raising humidity levels. The basement volunteers were also busy in the aftermath of Christmas packing away food that was made for displays so that it did not decay or attract pests.

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Volunteer flower arrangers and basement guides hard at work

It felt strange to be putting away Christmas decorations the day before Christmas but it was satisfying to know we’ve made a start undecorating ready for the New Year. The Butler’s Pantry was used as a store for decorations as they were carefully removed from the trees and organised ready for reusing next year. Having a separate bag for each of the three different colours of baubles on the Drawing Room tree helped.

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Caroline, Laura and Andy removing baubles from the Drawing Room tree

Removing the vintage teacups that were individually wired onto the branches of the Dining Room tree was particularly nerve-wracking. Unwinding the tree lights can sometimes be tricky, especially the ones that were cable tied to the trees!

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Laura taking the decorations off the Octagon Room tree

It was high time to remove many of the trees as they were dropping lots of needles. The needles falling off the Servant’s Hall tree as it was undecorated sounded like monsoon rain falling onto the plastic protection!

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Timber! The Drawing Room tree is down and on plastic protection to stop the historic carpet being damaged.

The warden team helped with removing the trees from the house and loading them into their trailer to take to burn on the estate. Some of the trees were so large that they needed to be sawn into smaller sections so that they fitted through the doors without causing damage. It was easier bringing them in when they were compressed in netting bags!

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The Boudoir tree loaded onto the wardens’ truck

With Christmas out of the way the house team are now deep cleaning the mansion and returning furniture moved over Christmas to the show rooms. You can enjoy guided tours of the mansion this winter and maybe see some conservation work in progress. Winter Mansion Tours take place at timed intervals on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until the 11th of February and can be booked via the National Trust’s What’s On web page for Attingham, or call 03442491895.


Cooking for a 1940s Christmas

Hi I’m Jenny and I started as a volunteer Basement Costume Guide in July 2016.


Jenny in her 1940s land girl outfit stood by the Servants’ Hall tree. (c) National Trust

Christmas is just around the corner and this year we are celebrating as though we’re in the 1940s; this was chosen to celebrate 70 years since the National Trust began running Attingham Park. We have used homemade decorations around the property to illustrate the motto of the 1940s, “make do and mend”.

Following the death of the 8th Lord Berwick in 1947, the 8th Lady Berwick continued to be a pillar of the community through her work within the local branch of the Women’s Institute (WI) in Atcham. At this point, Lady Berwick was employing relatively few members of staff in the mansion; Mrs Durwood (Cook/ Housekeeper) and a maid, with occasional extra help. Greater numbers of volunteers are working in the Kitchen as it was decided we would be members of the WI that have come in to help Lady Berwick prepare for the afternoon tea party set up in the Dining Room.


A volunteer preparing a 1940s recipe. (c) National Trust 

Instead of the food the volunteers make being used for the afternoon tea party in the Dining Room the food is offered to visitors as ‘tasters.’ These are made using recipes from the WI during the 1940s; the recipes were created during a time of rationing when they ‘bulked out’ their ingredients. The most notable method was using mashed potatoes in pastry so less flour is needed; when visitors tried jam tarts made with potato pastry they said how hard it was to tell the difference from normal pastry. 

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A 1940s display in the kitchen. (c) Holly Kirby

In 1943 the Shropshire WI became infamous for producing more jam than any other county. During this frugal era sugar was distributed via permits and they had to come up with creative flavours based on the limited food available. In honour of this achievement we have been making jam using their original recipes, ranging from relatively normal flavours like blackcurrant and gooseberry to the more unusual ‘High Dumpsie Dearie’ (derived from the phrase “I dumps it all in ‘ere dearie,” this flavour is made up of whatever they could find, we used apples and plums). One of the most surprising flavours was ‘Carrot Jam’ used in jam tarts as ‘tasters.’ The visitors were impressed with the flavour of the jam, remarking they would never have known it was carrot as it tasted of apricots.


Some of the jams made using 1940s recipes. (c) National Trust

Other ‘tasters’ made include mince pies, scones, rock buns, chocolate pinwheels and carrot cookies, all made using wartime recipes and all thoroughly enjoyed by the visitors! 

The last day to see us in the Mansion is Saturday 23rd December then in 2018 the Mansion will reopen on the 17th February.

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Attingham’s kitchen set out for a 1940s Christmas. (c) Holly Kirby

Decorating Frenzy


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Many visitors come to Attingham during December to see our spectacular Christmas trees and beautiful flower arrangements.  In order to put this all together a small team of staff and volunteers worked tirelessly through November putting up themed decorations, draping paper chains, and adorning each tree with hundreds of twinkling fairy lights.

We start planning Christmas months in advance to make sure we get every detail right.  This year our theme is a 1940s Christmas. Each Christmas tree inside the Mansion has its own theme that reflects a story about what happened at Attingham and in the wider world during the 1940s.


Putting the lights on the Entrance Hall tree


Before we could start putting up decorations we had to move some fragile items in our collection like ceramics and textile chairs due to the high numbers of visitors at this time of year.  We also needed to completely clear the 1830s Dining Room table setting ready for its seasonal redisplay as a 1940s Christmas tea.  We packaged away the fake food on the table, and protected the ormolu centerpieces which we moved to a safe and secure location.


Katie and Holly packing away the Dining Room table


The large Axminster carpet in the Dining Room needed to be moved.  First we gave it a very gentle low-suction vacuum to get rid of dust on the surface, then we covered it in acid free tissue paper (for protection)and rolled it in the direction of its pile.  Because of its size we had limited options for storage!  After much debating we decided to house the rolled-up carpet along one wall of the Picture Gallery so that we could have the shutters open in the Dining Room and so that it would not be in people’s way.


Members of the house team rolling up the carpet


We also had our talented volunteer flower ladies making displays around the house.  They were based in the Picture Gallery for the last week in November and created flower arrangements of all shapes and sizes for the various rooms in the house, linked in with the themes for each space.


The flower ladies’ base: the Picture Gallery


After the chaos of decorating, we had a day to clean up the mess that we had made before the house opened.  We gave everything an extra dust and vacuum, and then we were able to sit down and have a relax after a month of hard work.


The tree in the Inner Library


It’s been lovely to hear visitors’ comments about the mansion decorations this year.  You can come and see us through December until Saturday 23rd December.

Thinking of visiting for Christmas next year?  In 2018 we’ll be asking everybody to book tickets to their Mansion visit in advance through the website, so please keep and eye out for more details next year.



Christmas is coming


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With Christmas just around the corner, we have started decoration production in the mansion. Considering this year’s theme is 1940s (a time of thriftiness and ‘make do and mend’), we are hand-making a lot of our decorations which means that we had to start early to get them done in time.  We started making at the end of August, and made enough decorations for the 11 sensational trees in the mansion.


Creating paper baubles

As well as the overall 1940s theme throughout the house, each room will have its own more personal theme.  In the Drawing Room the decorations will be inspired by music.  For this tree we made a large treble clef as a tree topper and will decorate the tree with baubles made out of sheet music.  On top of that we have been making metres upon metres of paper chains which we plan on hanging from the ceiling to make it look like a canopy of music.


Papier-mâché tree topper and baubles

The theme for our largest tree in the Picture Gallery is inspired by a girl from Hiroshima called Sadako Sasaki who was affected by the atom bomb dropped on the city at the end of the Second World War.  She heard the ancient Japanese legend that if she made 1,000 origami cranes then she would be able to have a wish.  Unfortunately, she died before her 1,000 were completed, but her classmates continued making them in her memory.  We have spent the past few months making as many paper cranes as we could to decorate our tree which will represent peace and those whose lives were affected by the Second World War.



A box of origami cranes

The Inner Library will have the theme of books.  We have acquired some books which cannot be sold from our Second Hand Bookshop, cut out the pages, and turned them into decorations.  This meant that we had different shades of paper on the tree, which really helped to add an interesting effect.  The main decorations for this tree were the lattice baubles which we made by stapling paper together in various shapes.  It was very simple to make and looks really beautiful on the tree.



Some of our library bauble prototypes

Other tree themes in the house this year contain our dried flower tree (which our flower team have been drying in preparation), a crystal chandelier theme for the Boudoir, and a 1940s tea party for the Dining Room.



A collection of some of the dried flowers



Converting a watering can into a tea pot for our Dining Room tree topper

The Mansion reopens on Saturday 2nd December for visitors and the last day of opening will be Sunday 23rd December, so make sure you come along and see all the beautiful festive decorations.  Please see our website for details:




Copper Cleaning


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With the summer holidays over and done with we decided to make a start on cleaning the copper in our kitchen.  We clean the copper once a year to remove dirt and fingerprints which corrodes the metal.



Tarnished copper pans next to a freshly polished pan


Finger prints are a big problem with copper, as a good deal of our collection is within reach.  As a shiny and attractive metal, people want to touch our pots and pans, and do so frequently.  This leaves dark tarnished patches on the surface of the copper, and sometimes even fingerprints are left corroded into the pan.


A handprint corroded onto the copper


It isn’t just our skin that corrodes the metal though, copper turns dark brown over time which is due to sulphide gases in the air.  This tarnish is a natural protective coat that stops any damage being done to the copper underneath.


The line between tarnished and clean


Copper can also tarnish by producing green crusty or powdery spots, which is caused by the presence of moisture, organic acids (like those in our skin), or by other pollutants in the air.  This means that if you keep your copper in a damp place, it will be more likely to tarnish faster and more intensely.


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A collection of our copper pans and molds. Photograph National Trust Charles Gibson


If you wanted to browse Attingham’s collection of kitchen objects, go to:


Select ‘Attingham’ as the property and select ‘Historic Services / Food & Drink preparation’ as the category.

Picture Store Stories


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One of my current projects is inventory checking the storerooms, a task usually done every five years. However, a number of items in the Picture Store have not been catalogued on the National Trust Collections website so this means an extra thorough inventory check is needed this year to get everything sorted. Another project is rehousing the photograph collection to a special Photograph Store and I am assembling photographs in the Picture Store to take there.

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Engagement & Conservation Assistant Laura working in the Picture Store

The inventory check provides an ideal opportunity to examine the condition of stored objects. Some need their acid-free paper packaging renewing. This paper is used to protect items from dust because it does not transfer damaging acids, which cause permanent damage and decay, to historic objects that it is in contact with.

Some of the most impressive items in the Picture Store are the panels of early nineteenth-century French wallpaper depicting Indian scenes. These once decorated the 8th Lady Berwick’s bathroom and she left instructions that the window should be kept open to ensure the paper was well ventilated to preserve it. Today we monitor humidity levels in the stores as too much moisture in the air might cause mould growth on the paper.

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A panel of ‘Tiger Hunt’ wallpaper by Velay © National Trust / Claire Reeves

More wallpaper is housed in a map chest but this time it’s tiny fragments taken from various rooms. These offer evidence of how the rooms were decorated over the years. These wallpaper fragments are from Attingham’s First Floor and might help inform how we redecorate these rooms in future.

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Wallpaper fragments in the Picture Store

Our volunteers researching the ancestry of the Berwick family were thrilled to see this heraldic shield together with a list of the names of families from whom the Berwicks claim descent.

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The heraldic shield of the Noel-Hill family

The Picture Store offers a treasure trove of information about the families the Berwicks married into, notably Teresa Hulton later the 8th Lady Berwick. As a girl Teresa dreamed of becoming a concert pianist and trained at Munich. Her music manuscripts are beautifully bound and are interestingly shaped more like books than the A4 manuscripts used by musicians today.

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Music books owned by the Hulton family

Teresa never became a professional pianist, although she continued to play at charity concerts throughout her life. She met Thomas Henry Noel-Hill, 8th Lord Berwick, before the First World War and corresponded with him throughout the war years. Their letters reveal their shared love of the arts and in one letter Teresa mentions meeting ‘Bakst the ballet artist who to my astonishment has made two flattering and rather pre Raphaelite pencil drawings of me! Quite small, done in two mornings.’ She sent one to Lord Berwick and he wrote back:

‘What a delightful new year’s gift you have sent me. A thousand thanks. I like the Bakst drawing immensely, it is a most charming and graceful portrait of you, and a very good likeness, as the artist has given you your eyes and expression, which is the essential I think to make a portrait like the sitter. You could not have sent me anything I liked better as a souvenir of you.’

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Teresa Hulton by Leon Bakst, 1916

Following her marriage Teresa wrote for magazines and the articles, kept in a box in the Picture Store, offer a fascinating glimpse into her life and interests. They include an account of attending the coronation of George VI, advice on dressmaking and discuss the dachshunds that she bred.

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The 8th Lady Berwick’s article in Eve, January the 11th 1928

Some items in the Picture Store are linked to sadder episodes in Attingham’s history. These are the memorial services for Gioconda, Teresa’s sister, and the 8th Lord Berwick. Gioconda died in France in a bus accident in 1940 on her way from Italy to England where she had arranged to live with her sister at Attingham. It was a tragic blow for Teresa. Following the 8th Lord Berwick’s death in 1947 Attingham was transferred to the National Trust to be enjoyed by the nation. It’s nice to think that my work in the Picture Store is continuing to deepen knowledge about the collection and make Attingham’s treasures more accessible.

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Memorial services of Thomas Henry Noel-Hill and Gioconda Mary Hulton