The biggest objects in the collections

The historic buildings under Leeds Museums and Galleries care are the biggest objects in the collections. They are an assemblage of an almost countless number of separate objects of course, but their care needs to be looked at in the round. Listed Buildings, like Temple Newsam House, Grade One listing, are protected by legislation and their care, repair, modification etc. need to be done in prescribed ways. Reactive maintenance, planned programmed maintenance, periodic surveys by building experts, housekeeping inside and out are all typical actions. William Morris advocated a drip, drip “little and often” approach to the care of old buildings, an approach which the Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) also advocates. Our visitor assistants contribute to this cycle in a quiet way that is perhaps not appreciated enough, and they take a lot of pride in helping to look after what they know to be a very special building.

Here Les is renewing the oil finish that protects the oak North Hall door. First he has rubbed down, with an abrasive pad, the previous year’s coat, which also cleans the door and prepares it for the oil. After a thorough rub down and dusting off Les applied diluted tung oil, a drying oil that is highly effective in protecting wood outdoors, and dries to a matt finish. The wood is protected, the colour is saturated, and the whole appearance of the door is given a lift.

Here Lynne and Louise are weeding and clearing up leaves in the coal cellar area, just outside the north cellars. Exposed to the elements, and sheltered, makes it an area that is prone to plant growth. Unsightly, but also potentially damaging to pointing, and possible harbourages for rodents. These might all seem like minor tasks but someone has got to do them and, taken in the round, these sorts of tasks make a huge difference to care, presentation, and service delivery.

Even seemingly minor details are important to get right in the context of a Listed building, down to the correct repair of the exterior door handle of North Hall door. After decades of wear the pin, holding the wonderful Victorian handle, had worn close to the point where it would fall out, with the consequential loss of the handle. An effective repair was specified to a suitably skilled metalworker, who has a long-standing working relationship with Temple Newsam’s metalworking needs. Continuity of care is of paramount importance when looking after heritage assets.

Posted by Ian Fraser

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