SLIDESHOW: Winter cleaning at Brodsworth Hall

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For most people, this time of year means putting the garden to bed until spring.

But for one grand Victorian hall near Doncaster, it’s the house that is being given a rest - as it undergoes its annual deep-clean.

18 Nov 2015......Brodsworth Hall near Doncaster is expertly cleaned and 'put to bed' for the winter. Robin Matthews (collections care assistant) cleans the ornate ceiling in the Entrance Hall. Picture Scott Merrylees SM1010/19d

18 Nov 2015......Brodsworth Hall near Doncaster is expertly cleaned and 'put to bed' for the winter. Robin Matthews (collections care assistant) cleans the ornate ceiling in the Entrance Hall. Picture Scott Merrylees SM1010/19d

Brodsworth Hall, one of the most spectacular houses in South Yorkshire, is using the quieter time to undertake some much-needed conservation work. Each room will be swathed under ghostly white covers as staff at the Hall clean from the ceilings to the original Victorian carpets.

The hall, built in the 1860s, is run by English Heritage, and sees thousands of visitors every year enjoy its original period furniture rooms and beautiful gardens.

But now it will be closed for the winter while the cleaning takes place - although visitors can still visit the grounds.

This week, Collection Care Assistants are working in the morning room, and next week they will move to the grand entrance hall, where the plaster mouldings will all be given a gentle brush to remove dust from the past year.

Collections Conservator Caroline Rawson said: “It’s a big undertaking. There are just two staff members doing the whole deep-clean - in Victorian times we think there were at least 15 house servants, so we have greatly reduced numbers nowadays. But, then again, Victorians didn’t have vacuum cleaners.”

Staff will also get a chance to clean the original hand-knotted carpets, which are particularly fragile, and are described by English Heritage as a “remarkable survival”.

The carpet cleaning now is very different to how housemaids would have gone about it in the Hall’s heyday. Back then, maids would take the carpets out and drag them across the house’s damp lawns to wash them.

But as the household staff dwindled in the twentieth century, the carpets became faded, dirty and infested with insects.

When English Heritage took over the house from its last owner, Pamela Williams, in 1990, staff froze the carpets to kill the pests, before being given a long overdue wash.

Now, staff annually vacuum the carpets through a mesh screen to protect the delicate fibres from being abraded - and their condition is especially monitored to spot any moths or carpet beetles.

There are at least 35 showrooms to clean - including the magnificent Drawing Room, where extra care is taken to gently remove the cobwebs from its huge chandelier. Cleaning is expected to take until Easter, with the house re-opening in March.

As well as the indoor work, the ornate statues in the garden will also be sprayed with a special biocide which prevents the growth of lichen and algae staining the marble.

In the Edwardian period, maids at Brodsworth Hall would spend up to a day cleaning just one of the larger statues, using a paste concocted to a secret recipe by the housekeeper, Miss Langton.

Ms Rawson said: “Despite the house and its contents being put to bed’ over the winter, the Collections Team are busy making sure that Brodsworth Hall is safeguarded for future generations. The house is enjoying a hard earned rest but our gardens are still open for all to enjoy.”

FACT FILE

The imposing Brodsworth Hall was built in 1861, although there has been a manor on the site since, five miles north of Doncaster, since the 12th century. The first owner of the current Hall, Charles Thellusson, demolished the old Georgian building when he inherited, and had a new house built in an Italianate style. In 1905, a mining pit was sunk in the grounds which operated until the 1990s. The house was inherited by Charles Grant-Dalton in 1931, but the economic depression and payment of death duties meant that it fell into disrepair. His widow Sylvia lived at the Hall alone for 30 years after his death, but her daughter Pamela entrusted it to English Heritage in 1990, who now preserve it for visitors.