Pride & Petworth Petworth House: The Big Spring Clean


Download Subtitles

SRT

ASS


Pride & Petworth

Andrew Graham-Dixon learns how to vacuum-clean sculptures, polish banisters, preserve Capability Brown's immense parkland and buff-up baroque angels in the chapel.


Similar Content

Browse content similar to Pride & Petworth. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!

Transcript


LineFromTo

In an idyllic Sussex landscape,

0:00:020:00:04

created by master gardener Capability Brown,

0:00:040:00:06

sits one of Britain's finest stately homes - Petworth House.

0:00:060:00:12

Thanks to the National Trust, it's now open to us all,

0:00:130:00:18

except during winter when, like all the Trust's homes,

0:00:180:00:21

Petworth shuts the public out.

0:00:210:00:24

When the house is closed, however, it's far from quiet.

0:00:250:00:29

Normally, nobody gets to see what happens here in the winter months.

0:00:320:00:36

But this year, I've been given unique, privileged access

0:00:360:00:39

to see what really goes on behind the scenes.

0:00:390:00:41

When the public has gone,

0:00:410:00:43

the National Trust's expert conservation teams get the chance

0:00:430:00:48

to do some housekeeping on an epic scale.

0:00:480:00:51

We see things up close that people don't see.

0:00:510:00:54

It's amazing - who else gets to do it?

0:00:540:00:56

I had no idea, until I took on this task,

0:00:570:00:59

quite how filthy the visitors were.

0:00:590:01:02

'And this winter, Petworth's got a new cleaner.'

0:01:040:01:08

-I've made a difference.

-Have you waxed it?

-No.

-No.

0:01:080:01:11

'It's a rare chance to get hands on with history...'

0:01:110:01:15

Ooh! It's heavy.

0:01:150:01:17

'..and glimpse the secret life of a great country house.

0:01:170:01:21

'On this visit, I'll discover how Petworth became a private palace,

0:01:220:01:27

'why baroque cherubs have to go undercover

0:01:270:01:31

'and how to conserve 700 acres of horticultural heritage.

0:01:310:01:35

'I'm joining perhaps the biggest spring clean in the world,

0:01:370:01:41

'which all takes place during the freezing months of winter.'

0:01:410:01:45

It's mid-November.

0:01:580:02:00

Petworth House may now be closed to the public

0:02:000:02:03

but the real work of the winter is about to begin -

0:02:030:02:06

somewhere highly appropriate.

0:02:060:02:08

From the late 17th century,

0:02:080:02:11

the Marble Hall was the first room visitors entered.

0:02:110:02:14

Now it's the first place where I'll be working,

0:02:140:02:17

under instruction from house steward, Sue Rhodes.

0:02:170:02:21

So what are we going to do today?

0:02:250:02:27

Today's the start of the room-by-room clean.

0:02:270:02:29

I thought we would do it by categories, so do sculpture next.

0:02:290:02:32

No, most of it's pretty big and immoveable and it makes more sense

0:02:320:02:36

to clean a room, shut it down and move on to the next one

0:02:360:02:39

so there's not people coming back and forth.

0:02:390:02:41

So it's like a military campaign - you secure an area and then move on.

0:02:410:02:46

We'll start at the top, work our way to the bottom

0:02:460:02:48

and condition check and clean everything.

0:02:480:02:51

Petworth's high ceilings mean the six-strong conservation team

0:02:550:02:59

have to double as builders.

0:02:590:03:01

I doubt people would think you'd have to know how to put scaffolding up.

0:03:010:03:05

I like the hat.

0:03:110:03:12

Was that a dare?

0:03:140:03:15

'Because the team must check and clean

0:03:160:03:19

'every last inch of Petworth House,

0:03:190:03:21

'over the next 18 weeks they'll be building two scaff towers

0:03:210:03:26

'up to a height of 25 feet in each of eight different state rooms.'

0:03:260:03:31

Go, Tom.

0:03:340:03:35

But every journey must begin with a single step.

0:03:350:03:38

So these are our hoovers.

0:03:410:03:42

You can pass them up to me, up the scaffold.

0:03:420:03:45

Why have we got hoovers?

0:03:450:03:47

I thought we would have Ken Dodd-style feather dusters.

0:03:470:03:50

We use hoovers cos it will remove the dirt

0:03:500:03:53

whereas a feather duster will just disperse it.

0:03:530:03:55

-You got it?

-Yep, got that.

0:03:570:03:59

I feel as safe as houses.

0:04:060:04:09

It feels a bit wobbly but it is perfectly safe.

0:04:090:04:12

So we are going to condition report.

0:04:120:04:13

Make sure everything's here that's supposed to be.

0:04:130:04:16

What about this, is that worth noting?

0:04:160:04:19

-This is on here, "Chip off crown on figure in centre".

-OK, yep.

0:04:190:04:22

There's a tiny bit of... would you say that's damage?

0:04:220:04:25

That is a tiny bit of damage.

0:04:250:04:27

These aren't recorded on the condition report so we will record that.

0:04:270:04:30

I don't think it's new but it hasn't been recorded.

0:04:300:04:33

-Do you have the brushes?

-I've got the brushes.

0:04:330:04:36

These are hogs-hair brushes,

0:04:360:04:38

which we use for slightly more robust objects such as painted wood.

0:04:380:04:41

They're stiffer and lift the dust off much easier

0:04:410:04:45

than some of the softer brushes.

0:04:450:04:47

And then switch it on.

0:04:470:04:49

So you start in one area and flick it into the nozzle.

0:04:490:04:53

With something like the unicorn's horn, which is quite loose,

0:04:530:04:57

we want to be incredibly careful.

0:04:570:05:00

-There's a lot of dust on that unicorn's horn.

-There is.

0:05:000:05:03

'Any dirt on the unicorn originates from less mythical beasts - us.

0:05:030:05:08

'Flakes of visitors' skin and clothing fibres

0:05:090:05:12

'are carried this high by air convection.'

0:05:120:05:14

-Right, did you want to have a go?

-Yeah, absolutely.

0:05:140:05:17

OK, so where had you got up to?

0:05:210:05:24

I've done the head and to this shoulder here.

0:05:240:05:27

You've left me the unicorn's bum.

0:05:270:05:30

-I don't know.

-Be careful of the horn.

-Oh!

0:05:310:05:34

So, gently stroking into the hoover head and removing the dust.

0:05:340:05:40

Do feel free to shout at me.

0:05:400:05:43

You've definitely got the technique. I'll leave you to it, you're doing a great job.

0:05:430:05:48

The rest of the team have also started on their gargantuan task.

0:05:500:05:55

Anna's on the first of the winter's 282 paintings...

0:05:560:06:01

..while Judy's got under way on one of Petworth's 116 sculptures.

0:06:030:06:07

Once cleaned, objects need to be kept free from damaging dust

0:06:100:06:14

until the house reopens in March.

0:06:140:06:16

So each statue has its own tailor-made winter outfit.

0:06:160:06:20

'The sculpture I'm cleaning may look like stone

0:06:270:06:30

'but this beast is in fact painted wood.'

0:06:300:06:34

When you get up close to it, you can see

0:06:340:06:36

what a wonderful piece of work it is.

0:06:360:06:39

It's created by a man called John Selden

0:06:390:06:41

who spent 25 years as a woodcarver to Petworth House.

0:06:410:06:44

He's not very well known but deserves to be because - so the story goes -

0:06:440:06:48

he literally gave his life

0:06:480:06:50

in the service of the house and its woodcarvings.

0:06:500:06:53

In 1714, a fire broke out which ravaged Petworth.

0:06:530:06:58

Tradition has it that Selden died

0:06:580:07:00

trying to save his life's work from the flames.

0:07:000:07:04

The coat of arms I've been cleaning belonged to the 6th Duke of Somerset.

0:07:060:07:11

The Marble Hall reflects his taste and character.

0:07:110:07:16

as does much of the Petworth people visit today.

0:07:160:07:19

Although there had been a manor house here since medieval times,

0:07:210:07:25

from the 1680s onwards, the 6th Duke almost completely rebuilt it,

0:07:250:07:30

on a much grander scale.

0:07:300:07:32

It's one of many reasons he was usually called the Proud Duke.

0:07:320:07:39

The English aristocracy weren't exactly known for their humility,

0:07:390:07:43

so to earn yourself the nickname the Proud Duke

0:07:430:07:46

you really did have to be pretty proud.

0:07:460:07:48

There are many stories about his immense arrogance and self-regard.

0:07:480:07:54

He is said to have ordered all the paths on the estate

0:07:540:07:58

to be cleared when he travelled along them in his coach

0:07:580:08:01

because he did not want to be exposed to the gaze of the vulgar.

0:08:010:08:04

The story goes that on one occasion a swineherd refused to be moved along,

0:08:040:08:10

and said, "I will look at him and my pigs will look at him too."

0:08:100:08:14

History doesn't relate what happened to that swineherd

0:08:140:08:17

but I think, given the Proud Duke's record, it probably wasn't good.

0:08:170:08:21

Prominent at court and with distant royal blood,

0:08:230:08:27

the Proud Duke was determined his home should reflect his rank.

0:08:270:08:31

So this space was intended to be much more than a lobby.

0:08:310:08:34

His records refer to it as the "Hall of State".

0:08:340:08:38

A large part of the grandeur is underfoot.

0:08:400:08:44

However, the conservation team have noticed an increasing number

0:08:450:08:49

of dents, scratches and holes.

0:08:490:08:52

So they've called for the advice of the National Trust's stone consultant -

0:08:520:08:56

the aptly-named Trevor Proudfoot.

0:08:560:09:00

So you're concerned about the floor.

0:09:000:09:02

We'd like you to have a look at the surface

0:09:020:09:04

or, generally, the whole floor.

0:09:040:09:06

There is a hole here in the corner.

0:09:060:09:09

Oh, a big hole.

0:09:090:09:10

-That's not good.

-That's not good, no.

0:09:120:09:14

Apart from that, the surface is really getting badly scratched.

0:09:140:09:19

-Is this the high-heeled-shoe brigade?

-No.

0:09:190:09:22

-We don't allow high heels.

-Oh, you don't.

0:09:220:09:24

They have to wear foam slippers when they come in in high-heeled shoes.

0:09:240:09:28

-Oh, really. Please note!

-That's a warning.

0:09:280:09:30

We've got some tiles here, this one's dropped.

0:09:300:09:33

And you can see another there.

0:09:330:09:35

-Which is pinching, so that's a sign of movement.

-What's pinching?

0:09:350:09:39

Well, you can see where you would expect to find pointing

0:09:390:09:43

or plaster between the stones and that's been lost.

0:09:430:09:47

And also there seems to be a general movement

0:09:470:09:50

which has now caused the stones to push up against each other.

0:09:500:09:53

At the moment, we're hoovering it on a daily basis when we're open

0:09:530:09:57

and washing it only when it's necessary during the open season.

0:09:570:10:00

-Do you hoover it in order to reduce scratching?

-Yes.

0:10:000:10:03

So no waxing, no polishing, nothing?

0:10:030:10:06

Only if it's necessary, we use damp cloths.

0:10:060:10:09

That should be enough because it's Kilkenny

0:10:090:10:12

or it's Belgian black marble -

0:10:120:10:14

but the white is generally Italian carrara - and as we know,

0:10:140:10:17

on it's own, marble is fairly resilient to wear and tear.

0:10:170:10:21

To calculate just how quickly the floor is deteriorating,

0:10:240:10:28

conservation assistant Jacky Brown has come up with a plan -

0:10:280:10:31

trace every tiny mark and chip that currently exists.

0:10:310:10:36

Basically, you're making a map of the floor.

0:10:360:10:38

A year later, they'll repeat the whole exercise

0:10:380:10:41

and so will be able to count up every single mark

0:10:410:10:44

to have appeared during the intervening period.

0:10:440:10:48

-A sort of damage diary?

-Yes, but we've then got the history of that floor over a period of time.

0:10:480:10:54

What kind of use can you make of that information?

0:10:540:10:57

That'll give us the trends of what's happening.

0:10:570:11:00

We'll be able to see areas where tiles are coming loose.

0:11:000:11:04

Hopefully, there will be some story there which we can understand.

0:11:040:11:08

I imagine it's one of the things people don't notice as much.

0:11:080:11:12

They don't. They walk across it.

0:11:120:11:14

They walk across it. It's what they put their feet on.

0:11:140:11:17

They're looking at the sculptures and the paintings but not thinking

0:11:170:11:22

-that the floor is itself a great work of art.

-Exactly.

0:11:220:11:25

After three days, the Marble Hall is done and dusted for the winter,

0:11:340:11:39

with just one last Roman to be tucked into his togs.

0:11:390:11:42

The room's ghostly inhabitants will now be left to rest in peace

0:11:480:11:51

for the next four months.

0:11:510:11:54

Next, on my housekeeping tour of duty,

0:12:000:12:02

is a still more imposing part of Petworth.

0:12:020:12:04

The tragic blaze of 1714

0:12:040:12:07

cleared the way for the Proud Duke's most extravagant creation -

0:12:070:12:12

the Grand Staircase.

0:12:120:12:14

So what style did the Proud Duke choose

0:12:140:12:17

when he came to redecorate after the great fire?

0:12:170:12:21

Well, predictably enough, he chose the art of the baroque,

0:12:210:12:24

the art of power, the art of the gobsmackingly grandiose.

0:12:240:12:28

I think what he wanted was a centrepiece

0:12:280:12:31

to stun and amaze every visitor and he certainly got it.

0:12:310:12:34

Being in here you feel as if you've been plunged

0:12:340:12:38

into a spaghetti bolognese of allegory.

0:12:380:12:41

One wall even includes the Proud Duke's missus,

0:12:430:12:46

Elizabeth Percy, chasing evil from the world.

0:12:460:12:50

Well, everyone needs a hobby(!)

0:12:500:12:52

As visitors gaze at these arresting images,

0:12:540:12:57

they steady themselves by gripping the oak banisters.

0:12:570:13:01

Tens of thousands of mucky mitts create a housekeeping chore

0:13:010:13:05

that's not for the squeamish.

0:13:050:13:08

All these black lines you see here are actually dirt marks.

0:13:080:13:12

This isn't in the grain of wood, it's on the surface of the banister.

0:13:120:13:17

If I very gently just scratch...

0:13:170:13:20

that is actually a mixture of old wax, dirt and people's sweaty palms.

0:13:200:13:26

To get this lot off, the conservationist's usual mix of water

0:13:260:13:31

and gentle detergent won't be strong enough.

0:13:310:13:33

It's time for some paraffin-based solvent.

0:13:330:13:38

Using the cotton wool with the white spirit, rub it.

0:13:380:13:42

You can see how much dirt I'm getting off.

0:13:420:13:45

And then, using this cloth, rubbing it off.

0:13:450:13:47

And in actual fact you can see a difference straight away.

0:13:470:13:51

There you go.

0:13:510:13:52

The white spirit is taken off so quickly,

0:13:540:13:57

there's no danger of it damaging the wood.

0:13:570:13:59

Which is a good thing, since this balustrade

0:13:590:14:02

was designed in 1827 by no less a man than Charles Barry,

0:14:020:14:06

who went on to build the Houses of Parliament.

0:14:060:14:10

I had no idea until I took on this task

0:14:100:14:12

quite how filthy the visitors were.

0:14:120:14:16

This is why we don't want people to touch objects in the house.

0:14:160:14:19

After a few hours, any last trace of white spirit has evaporated,

0:14:210:14:26

so conservation assistant Anna Ward

0:14:260:14:28

starts working down the banisters all over again,

0:14:280:14:31

this time rubbing in natural beeswax.

0:14:310:14:34

Wood is still like a living thing

0:14:340:14:37

and the white spirit has left it very dry

0:14:370:14:40

and we don't want it to dry out cos it'll crack

0:14:400:14:43

and the surface will be quite rough.

0:14:430:14:46

So we feed it with this wax which soaks in to the wood

0:14:460:14:50

and the colours are different just because it's been moisturised.

0:14:500:14:54

And then we're going to buff it off with a some of this cotton cloth

0:14:540:15:00

and that should give it a nice...

0:15:000:15:03

..shine.

0:15:040:15:05

Cleaning the banisters

0:15:050:15:07

is probably the most satisfying job I've done this winter

0:15:070:15:10

which sounds rather sad, cos I don't think anyone will notice except me.

0:15:100:15:14

The grandness of the Proud Duke's vision

0:15:190:15:21

has bequeathed 42 brass stair rods. Which all need polishing.

0:15:210:15:26

So the conservation team have enlisted some extra help

0:15:260:15:29

from amongst the vast army of National Trust volunteers.

0:15:290:15:34

When the house is open, they're the main people who guide the public.

0:15:340:15:38

I think you'll find a lot of them are stained, damaged and so on.

0:15:380:15:43

Some of us avoid housework like the plague

0:15:430:15:47

but these people are actually are giving up their free time

0:15:470:15:50

to do someone else's.

0:15:500:15:52

If you have visitors to your own home you do a spick-and-span job.

0:15:520:15:57

It's the same - this is the way to look at it.

0:15:570:15:59

We're just cleaning up the house for our visitors.

0:15:590:16:02

It's very important work,

0:16:020:16:04

an awful lot to be done so all hands to the pump.

0:16:040:16:08

It starts off something like... if you compare the two...

0:16:100:16:14

-See, that's absolutely filthy.

-This has gone the whole season.

0:16:140:16:18

Vast difference, isn't it?

0:16:180:16:20

It's preserving something that's been here for years.

0:16:200:16:24

-Do you not think so, Betty?

-Yes, I do.

-I do.

0:16:240:16:26

And it's lovely at the beginning of the season

0:16:260:16:29

when everything is bright and shiny and sparkling.

0:16:290:16:36

You're very aware of all the hands who took this stair rod down

0:16:360:16:39

and cleaned it years ago.

0:16:390:16:41

I think one's very aware of all the people who've trod here before.

0:16:410:16:45

Some of my family worked here.

0:16:450:16:47

I had a great aunt. She was in the laundry and her husband

0:16:470:16:52

used to deliver vegetables to the kitchens.

0:16:520:16:56

I think that's probably why I come here to do this.

0:16:560:17:00

I think Petworth's the place that I have to come and help.

0:17:000:17:05

Although the west front of the house

0:17:100:17:12

still looks the way the Proud Duke intended,

0:17:120:17:15

the parkland around it has changed.

0:17:150:17:17

The Duke's successor, the 2nd Earl of Egremont,

0:17:170:17:21

hired Capability Brown to landscape Petworth in the 1750s.

0:17:210:17:25

Some 700 acres are now looked after by the National Trust.

0:17:250:17:31

Over the winter, there's as much conservation work to be done out here

0:17:340:17:38

as there is inside the house.

0:17:380:17:41

It's not a bad view.

0:17:460:17:48

It's absolutely glorious.

0:17:480:17:51

-The technical term for it, I think, is a panorama.

-It certainly is, yes.

0:17:510:17:55

It really puts into perspective what Brown wanted to achieve.

0:17:550:17:58

When you look at it at first sight

0:17:580:18:01

you think what a beautiful piece of untamed nature

0:18:010:18:04

but this is actually very tamed nature, isn't it?

0:18:040:18:06

It's very contrived, yes.

0:18:060:18:08

It looks natural, like a pristine part of the English countryside

0:18:080:18:13

but there's a lot of man-made influence in here.

0:18:130:18:15

This landscape is, in a sense, a work of art

0:18:150:18:19

like all the works in the house.

0:18:190:18:20

It is, yes, and from my point of view

0:18:200:18:23

it's somewhat better, as that's my field of expertise.

0:18:230:18:27

Tell me about the water features.

0:18:270:18:29

Is that lake natural or did he put it here?

0:18:290:18:31

It's man made.

0:18:310:18:32

Brown built both the lakes in the park by massive excavation.

0:18:320:18:36

It equated to 7,000 lorry loads - that's 20 tonne lorry loads.

0:18:360:18:41

It wasn't only the grand old Duke of York who marched an army up and down.

0:18:410:18:45

It certainly wasn't. Huge, huge landscaping works.

0:18:450:18:48

Fantastic.

0:18:480:18:49

It's a pretty unusual job, your job.

0:18:490:18:52

You've been given care of this planted painting

0:18:520:18:55

and yet you've somehow got to keep that 200-year-old project going

0:18:550:19:00

and then add to it for the future.

0:19:000:19:02

I pretty much consider myself the custodian of it, while I'm here,

0:19:020:19:07

and I'll hand it on to whoever follows in my footsteps

0:19:070:19:10

in the best possible condition that I can.

0:19:100:19:13

Many of the gardening team's tasks are informed

0:19:180:19:20

by this immensely long-term perspective.

0:19:200:19:24

Some of their winter's work

0:19:240:19:25

takes place in copses planted after the great storm of 1987.

0:19:250:19:30

The sweet chestnuts here,

0:19:310:19:33

intended to replace the hundreds of trees destroyed by that hurricane,

0:19:330:19:38

now, in turn, have to be guarded from the deer.

0:19:380:19:41

If the trunks can be protected from the damage antlers can do,

0:19:430:19:47

they'll carry on growing for several centuries.

0:19:470:19:51

But even when your goal is conservation,

0:19:510:19:54

not every aspect of the past can be saved.

0:19:540:19:57

This is 150 years old, approximately. It's a beech tree.

0:19:580:20:02

We've noticed, recently, that it had a particularly nasty fungus

0:20:020:20:06

and this could make the tree very unstable.

0:20:060:20:09

So unfortunately - it's a very sad occasion -

0:20:090:20:11

this tree is will have to come down.

0:20:110:20:13

Only an expert eye would spot evidence of the Meripilus fungus

0:20:130:20:17

but underground it devours the tree's roots,

0:20:170:20:21

which means this 120-foot-tall beech is in danger of falling at any time.

0:20:210:20:26

So woodsman Martin Sadler is taking a pre-emptive strike.

0:20:280:20:32

This is highly-skilled work

0:20:340:20:36

and a rather more dangerous side of conservation than hoovering statues.

0:20:360:20:42

Martin has to make sure the tree falls onto open ground

0:20:420:20:46

rather than onto other healthy foliage, or himself.

0:20:460:20:49

Well, that went well.

0:21:000:21:01

What we can see now we've felled it,

0:21:010:21:03

it was critical that this tree came down when it did.

0:21:030:21:06

We have a section of rot here which would have weakened the tree.

0:21:060:21:10

And what you can see here where the trunk has shattered -

0:21:100:21:13

the tissue there, which was holding up several tonnes of branch,

0:21:130:21:18

is just falling to pieces.

0:21:180:21:20

I'm very happy now that this tree is on the ground

0:21:200:21:24

and not posing a threat to any of our visitors.

0:21:240:21:26

Most of the tree will be recycled as building materials.

0:21:300:21:34

It's just the brushwood that's burnt on site.

0:21:340:21:36

Although a little bit of history has been lost,

0:21:400:21:43

it's necessary in the service of a greater goal -

0:21:430:21:45

keeping alive gardens planted centuries ago

0:21:450:21:48

and preserving them for future generations to enjoy.

0:21:480:21:52

In the house, too, conservation work is gathering pace.

0:21:570:22:00

Next on the schedule is Petworth's very own place of worship.

0:22:010:22:06

Here you get glimpses of what the house would have been

0:22:090:22:12

when it began life in the Middle Ages.

0:22:120:22:14

What I really love about the chapel, is how it puts you in direct touch

0:22:180:22:23

with the different layers of history that make up Petworth House.

0:22:230:22:26

The structure of the building is entirely Gothic, early 14th century.

0:22:260:22:31

And yet, into that medieval skeleton

0:22:310:22:33

has been shoehorned one of the great baroque interiors.

0:22:330:22:36

Perhaps the most complete baroque interior in all of England.

0:22:360:22:40

And it was all done at the behest of the Proud Duke.

0:22:400:22:44

Pride of place is given to the Proud Duke's coat of arms.

0:22:450:22:49

The angels hover above the very spot

0:22:490:22:51

from which his Lordship would survey proceedings.

0:22:510:22:55

Standing here, dead centre,

0:22:550:22:58

you can see why they called him the Proud Duke. You can feel it.

0:22:580:23:01

There's something fantastically theatrical and swaggerish about it.

0:23:010:23:05

Look at those painted curtains.

0:23:050:23:08

I think the chapel itself is a kind of microcosm

0:23:080:23:11

of what the Proud Duke wanted Petworth House itself to be -

0:23:110:23:15

a stage set for his own glorification.

0:23:150:23:18

But for the modern custodians of Petworth House,

0:23:180:23:23

the chapel's yet another dust trap.

0:23:230:23:26

After eight months without a scrub,

0:23:300:23:33

these really are angels with dirty faces.

0:23:330:23:36

But they won't be once the conservation team has done its duty.

0:23:360:23:40

-And there's your brush.

-That's my brush.

0:23:430:23:47

Just putting it to the chin test.

0:23:470:23:49

This is softer than the brush I was using before.

0:23:490:23:51

Yes, it is. This is a pony-hair brush

0:23:510:23:54

and the brush you used in the Marble Hall was a hogs-hair brush.

0:23:540:23:57

You're going to use it on this surface cos it's much more delicate,

0:23:570:24:01

so you want to be very careful with the paintwork.

0:24:010:24:04

OK, I will be careful.

0:24:040:24:06

I feel slightly sacrilegious

0:24:080:24:11

buffing up an angel.

0:24:110:24:13

This is probably another creation of John Selden,

0:24:150:24:18

the unfortunate woodcarver who died in the fire here at Petworth.

0:24:180:24:25

It's actually a really beautiful piece of carving.

0:24:250:24:28

I think they're very sweet. I like the finish - that gilding effect.

0:24:280:24:31

They've got quite a strong sense of real life about them.

0:24:310:24:35

They're angels but maybe they were modelled on the artist's children.

0:24:350:24:40

I feel like I'm in the presence of a real little boy.

0:24:400:24:42

Everything needs protection until the spring.

0:24:530:24:56

Even the altar must be shrouded.

0:24:560:24:59

To wrap around the corner,

0:24:590:25:00

the team first needs to lower the flag which hangs there.

0:25:000:25:04

This standard was a gift from the Life Guards, the regiment in which

0:25:040:25:08

several generations of Petworth's family served.

0:25:080:25:11

Sewn on here you've got the names of the various battles.

0:25:130:25:16

They fought at the Battle Of The Somme!

0:25:160:25:18

You've got Waterloo, South Africa, France and Flanders here.

0:25:180:25:22

-So why do you have to take it down?

-To give it a rest.

0:25:220:25:26

It hangs for about 7 or 8 months at an angle and it's folded

0:25:260:25:30

and the longer it stays in one position, folded,

0:25:300:25:33

it'll start cracking and falling apart.

0:25:330:25:35

It's the most amazing bit of needlework.

0:25:350:25:38

They lay a thread down and then little tiny stitches are sewn over.

0:25:380:25:44

So you go over and under and over

0:25:440:25:47

so you held down with what's called couching stitches.

0:25:470:25:50

So you end up with a lion that's got almost a hide of stitching.

0:25:500:25:57

They've done it so that it follows the haunch of the lion.

0:25:570:26:01

-That's right.

-And he's got such a sweet face.

0:26:010:26:03

It strikes me this is a very good example

0:26:030:26:06

of the kind of object that you only really, really see

0:26:060:26:09

and appreciate when you are taking it down and cleaning it.

0:26:090:26:12

-It is.

-It really is a piece of history.

0:26:120:26:14

-Yes, very, very definitely.

-And such a beautiful one.

0:26:140:26:17

The delicate silk is vacuumed through fine mesh

0:26:230:26:26

to ensure none of its fibres are sucked up.

0:26:260:26:30

The flag will rest flat for the remainder of the winter,

0:26:300:26:33

covered in tissue paper - like everything else in here.

0:26:330:26:36

It's quite a big thing to wrap, an entire baroque chapel.

0:26:360:26:40

-It is, but it looks so Christmassy.

-Yes, just in time for Christmas.

0:26:400:26:44

As usual at Petworth, the paper used is conservation grade,

0:26:470:26:51

which means it won't release acids, chemicals or gasses

0:26:510:26:54

which could tarnish or stain the wood.

0:26:540:26:58

You slip it over the top like a little hat,

0:26:580:27:01

then if you tuck the side bits around the back of the urn

0:27:010:27:04

and then we'll stop any dust.

0:27:040:27:07

Ta-da!

0:27:070:27:08

You've turned it into a Christo -

0:27:130:27:15

you know that artist who wraps everything up?

0:27:150:27:18

It looks just like one.

0:27:180:27:19

Having spent so much time cleaning, wrapping, dusting and hoovering

0:27:230:27:27

the grand baroque spaces of Petworth, I've really been struck

0:27:270:27:30

by the sheer force of the Proud Duke's personality.

0:27:300:27:34

I mean, he left his mark on this place.

0:27:340:27:37

But there's one other person who has come back to life for me

0:27:370:27:41

and that's John Selden, the heroic woodcarver.

0:27:410:27:44

And that makes me think about the sheer amount of labour

0:27:440:27:48

that went into creating the great opera of the Proud Duke's house.

0:27:480:27:52

For every Proud Duke there are a thousand John Seldens.

0:27:520:27:57

The great irony is that if the Proud Duke could come to the house today

0:27:570:28:01

and he could watch all of us beavering away,

0:28:010:28:03

I think he'd be rather horrified - all of that labour for what?

0:28:030:28:07

So that ordinary people, people like you and me -

0:28:070:28:10

commoners - could enjoy the great spectacle that he created.

0:28:100:28:13

I think he'd be horrified.

0:28:130:28:16

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:28:290:28:31

Andrew Graham-Dixon uncovers the history of Petworth House, as he learns how to vacuum-clean sculptures, perfectly polish banisters, preserve Capability Brown's immense parkland and buff-up baroque angels in the chapel.