Hello from the House Elves!

The Charlecote house elf blog has been quiet recently as the team have said goodbye to Sam and welcomed two new elves- Jess and Nic.

As new house elves we’ve been here for 3 months and as well as getting to know everyone we’ve been keen to get stuck in- as you can see from these lovely photos of us hunting for mould in the Drawing Room!

Jess & Nic

Jess & Nic

We’re not the only new starters though. To welcome our new conservation volunteers we had a busy training day to cover the basics of preventative conservation and get to know the new team. The day was a great success, not least because of the very educational Charlecote conservation themed cakes baked by one of our house elves (though there were not many takers for the mould cake)!

ntcakes12

We’ve also been getting to grips with the daily conservation tasks, from dusting and vacuuming the house, to building a Christmas tree and hosting a film crew (keep an eye out for the RSC’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost & Won) – every day has been different.

We’re both looking forward to our time here at Charlecote and hope to keep you updated with what’s going on in the world of the house elves.

Jess & Nic

Work with us: Become a house elf!

These jobs don’t come up very often at Charlecote …

Sam, our wonderful House Elf, has left us to take up a new role at Mary Arden’s Farm. Whilst we’re incredibly sad to see her go, we are really pleased she’s staying nearby and joining our pals at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. But, you see, Sam leaves some pretty big boots to fill… which is why we’re not just looking for one new house elf to join the team but TWO!

Sam (right) during the winter clean!

Sam (right) during the winter clean!

It is quite a varied and hands on role. Working behind the scenes but also in front of our visitors too.

Our ideal house elf must:

– be a team worker, although they must be equally comfortable with working alone on occasions, such as at weekends. 

– be prepared to get stuck in! This is a very physical job which requires much stamina and energy.

– not be afraid of heights! Our elves carry out lifting and carrying jobs and are often required to work from ladders, in confined spaces and in dusty conditions!

– warm blooded – or have good thermals! During the autumn and winter the conservation heating controls can result in cold working conditions within the house.

This role will include weekend (approximately alternate during house open season), Bank Holiday and occasional out-of-hours work. It will also include having to work early mornings throughout the year (with the house opening to visitors 6 days a week from 11am, we need to be early risers to get the jobs done).

Still interested? Want to know more about what the elves do each day? Take a look back at some of our blog posts from the House Elves – they’ll give you a great insight into the job!

Applications close on 7 March. Head to our jobs website and put ‘charlecote’ or job reference ‘IRC13635′ in the advanced search to apply.

Good luck!

Houseelves_w

Diary of a House Elf: Putting the house to bed

If you visited our house in November or December, you may have noticed that a few of the rooms were either closed off or had the furniture covered in white dust sheets. You might have spotted maids and footmen do this on some period dramas, such as Pride & Prejudice, when the family leave their houses for long-periods of time. But what on earth are they for? Let our chief House Elf explain…

During the last few weeks of the season we began cleaning the upstairs rooms and covering the furniture with dust sheets. This process takes place in every room as we carry out the deep cleaning of the house. This ‘putting the house to bed’ is an historical process and would have been carried out by the servants in a country house during the 18th and 19th centuries when the family were away for the season in London or visiting other houses. The purpose of this work is to remove all the dust and dirt that has accumulated during the year – and there is a lot of it!

 

The Drawing Room ready for bed

The Drawing Room ready for bed

Once all of the furniture has been cleaned we use the white covers (or little hats made of acid free tissue for the small ceramics) to stop the objects from getting dirty again whilst the rooms are closed. (They also help to limit the amount of light falling on the objects).  Even when the rooms are closed during the winter months, dust resettles from the air or from the work that we do such as building the scaffold or cleaning the picture frames. Protecting the objects from getting dirty means that they do not have to be cleaned again before we reopen the house in February. This prevents damage to the objects through wear and tear as each time we dust an object it effectively is being damaged in the same way as when people touch the objects. Therefore by putting the covers on we stop the need for more cleaning and thus help to protect the long term future of the objects.

This work is carried out at all of our houses during the winter months ©National Trust Images/Ian Shaw

This work is carried out at all of our houses during the winter months ©National Trust Images/Ian Shaw

In addition, putting the covers on the objects means that the house elves do not have to do the same work twice. It takes us us about 4-5 months to clean the whole house properly so those rooms cleaned in October and November are going to be dirty again by February if the objects are not covered. If we did not use the white covers we would be permanently cleaning the house!

House Elf Michelle cleaning the buffet

House Elf Michelle cleaning the buffet

You can find out more about how the National Trust cares for its collections on our website here.
This short video from Hill Top explains more about the process of putting the house to bed.

If there is anything else at Charlecote that you would like to know more about then please let us know.

Julie, Chief House Elf

Diary of a House Elf: Spiders in the cellar

Before we start we should probably warn you that this post contains images and information about spiders so best not read if you have a fear of these eight-legged creatures…

As a House Elf you have to deal with all sorts of creepy crawlies lurking in the nooks and crannies of an old house.  Whether its moths hiding in cotton blankets or mice shuffling around under the stairs we come across it all as we carry out our work.

Thankfully us Elves don’t scare easily but the creatures living in our cellars definitely give us nightmares from time to time! These shiny black spiders with bulbous bodies are  huge and hang over your head as you walk through the cellar—it is general protocol to always wear a coat with a hood up if we have to walk past them.

Our cellar (photo taken when it flooded last year)

Our cellar (photo taken when it flooded last year)

With the recent stories in the newspapers about poisonous spiders such as the false widow we were getting a bit concerned about the safety of staff and contractors onsite. Luckily for us, a few weeks ago we had our Natural History expert, Simon Moore, visiting us to check on some of our taxidermy in the gatehouse family museum. Now, when Simon mentioned he was a fan of spiders we thought we’d thank him for his hard work by taking him down our cold, dark, damp cellar to have a look at our colony of the scary creatures. Seeing as there has been a lot of talk about the false widow spiders in the news recently, we were keen to have our own spiders identified.

Our spiders do look a little like the false widows but they are actually Meta menardi – a type of cave spider and not poisonous.

He said;

they are monsters, as I’ve never seen them quite that big.  Better warn visitors to cover their heads as many females were there with large egg sacs right over our heads”

Tridaine Meta Menardi

Image from L.Capette on flickr
(click on image to see more)

The spiders may not be dangerous* but we will certainly be keeping our heads covered when we have to go down to the boilers!

If spiders are your thing too and you want to see more from the cellars, take a look at Jana – one of our volunteer photographer’s photos here.