Why is it so cold?

This week sees many National Trust places changing to winter opening hours. For us, this means the house closes on weekdays and our House Elves get busy putting the house to bed. But we do open the house on weekends, although some rooms are closed or have restricted access.

Opening hours are shorter to take account of the darker evenings and chilly weather (admission prices are changed to reflect this). Do check our website before visiting especially if you are travelling some distance. If we get very bad weather we are often in a position when we have to close the property but we will endeavor to update the website and our answer phone message.

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A wintry day at Charlecote

But that leads me to another point. National Trust houses are notoriously cold – even in the summertime they can be chilly – but they are especially so in the winter. So why don’t we just bung up the heating and get the place nice and cosy? We’re not being tight by leaving the heating turned down. Honest. But there is a reason for the chill and it is quite a balancing act for us.

Beth, our Visitor Experience Officer, explains more…

detail of cast iron radiator in Charlecote Park

The radiators in the house are very decorative, but do they warm the rooms much?!

“It’s coming to that time of year once again, when the temperature in the house is a bit of a talking point, so we thought we’d explain how we go about the balancing act of comfort heating verses conservation heating.

During very cold weather (throughout December, January and February), we do ensure the heating is turned up during opening hours. However, as all of our Room Guides will know, the radiators do not heat the house very efficiently! Whilst we try to keep doors closed as much as possible, with the large unshuttered windows, and without the open fires of old, it’s a bit of a battle to keep in the warmth.

During the shoulder months (autumn and spring) we do need to try and stick to conservation heating standards as much as possible. This means that when it is damp, the heating will be on to try and drop the humidity levels inside the house.

In the coldest weather conditions, humidity levels are very low and excessive heating makes this worse, so this is why we limit the comfort heating to opening hours only (although we still maintain a minimum temperature to help stop pipes from freezing).

Our House Elves closely monitor the humidity levels in the house.

Our House Elves closely monitor the humidity levels in the house. Find out how here.

Our aim is to try and keep humidity levels as constant as possible throughout the year. As many of you will know fluctuating humidity levels are a major threat to historic materials, particularly furniture, as the resulting swelling and retraction results in terrible damage over time. High humidity also allows mould to thrive (a particular threat to our Library and textiles) and pests like warmer, damper conditions.

It’s a tricky balancing act, but the damage caused to objects by not controlling the environmental conditions is real and serious. The comfort of our team and visitors remains our highest priority, however in large old houses it’s always cooler than we’re used to at home. Please come wrapped up well, and we’ll all keep our fingers crossed that this mild weather continues.”

Charlecote Park: A chef cooking in the kitchen

The kitchen fire can be a popular spot on a cold day!

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