Chirk Castle cleaning will take 3 months

Visitors to Chirk Castle in Wales have the opportunity to see for themselves how specialist conservators and cleaners get to work on historical documents and priceless artefacts.

Using specialist tools and taking four highly trained people three months to complete the team at Chirk Castle are due to begin the delicate work of cleaning and preserving the castle and its belongings.

National Trust conservator Kate Berktenshaw cleaning chess pieces at Chirk Castle -Pic NT

National Trust conservator Kate Berktenshaw cleaning chess pieces at Chirk Castle -Pic NT

Due to the age and importance of so many of the pieces on display it is not a matter of flicking round a duster and plugging in a vacuum cleaner.

Joanne Thompson from the National Trust said: “We have to use special conservation vacuum cleaners that have very gentle suction and look a bit like something out of Ghostbusters.

“They have very delicate nozzles and have a series of nets to catch any fibres that would need to be reattached.

“Even the brushes we use have to be made of pony hair to ensure they are as soft as possible and don’t damage the ceramics.”

Most galleries, museums and historic buildings would do this work behind closed doors, but Chirk Castle will give visitors the opportunity to see this conservation work in action, and discuss the delicate work with the experts.

“In years gone by most of the grand houses and castles were closed up for the winter and the valuables cleaned and packed up. But many of the chemicals and methods used to clean were harsh, abrasive and damaged the items, so we have to be so careful about how we look after each piece,” said Joanne.

“We use swabs and cotton buds for the most fragile pieces and amazingly the best and kindest substance to use is not some new and expensive chemical, but spit. “

One of the most delicate jobs at the castle is to look after the almost 2,000 rare and ancient books including the original 1630 copy of Y Beibl Bach (the small bible) that Thomas Myddleton of Chirk financed.

Joanne added: “Each book has to be very carefully cleaned and checked for damage, mould and pests like bookworms and paper mites.”

Conservation in action at Chirk Castle, Wrexham, 31 October to 6 November 11am – 4pm

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