Responsible to: House Officer  

Time commitment: 2 hours per fortnight on a Tuesday or Thursday morning.

Role Description

As a Conservation Cleaning Volunteer you will help to ensure that West Horsley Place and its contents are maintained and cared for to an exemplary standard. West Horsley Place is a very dusty environment. Objects on continuous display very rapidly develop a covering layer of organic and inorganic dust, brought into the house from outside and generated by visitors. Build-up of dust on historic interior surfaces and objects causes deterioration in several forms. Potential for scratching is increased where surfaces are handled, insect pest activity is increased and where moisture is present mould growth may be observed. Metal objects will deteriorate more rapidly, and visitor experience is diminished. It is of great importance that regular cleaning of specific objects and surfaces in the manor house is carried out. 

Volunteers in this role will support the trust in maintaining high standards of collections care. The primary activity of this role is cleaning of the historic rooms, fixtures and objects. We are looking for individuals with good practical skills and an interest in conservation cleaning. A deep clean of a single room will be carried out monthly, resulting in a full annual clean of the public rooms of the house each year.

Volunteers will use a back-mounted vacuum cleaner in conjunction with various types of conservation cleaning implements. Historic materials will not be vacuumed directly. Volunteers will use animal hair brushes to lift dust from surfaces, catching it in their vacuum cleaner. Instruction will be provided when training sessions are held at the manor house. Not all materials will be cleaned by volunteers due to fragility.

Cleaning will be for conservation purposes only. Volunteers will not be asked to clean modern facilities or surfaces, and it is hoped that this will be an interesting opportunity to work more closely with historic objects.

Materials that volunteers will be asked to clean include, but are not limited to:

  • Wooden furniture.
  • Textiles, including carpets, curtains and cushions.
  • Metal objects.
  • Interior features, such as fireplaces, skirting and dado, and plaster.

Person Specification

Volunteers in this role will need to be careful and methodical. When working with historic objects and materials it is always of primary importance that no damage is done as a result of the activity. Completion of the task is secondary to ensuring proper observance of the sensitivity of the object and necessary care has been taken. This is not a task to be carried out quickly and volunteers should take as long as they need.

Volunteers will need to practice good attention to detail. Observing the condition of surfaces before initiating cleaning is essential to avoid causing new damage. Surfaces may have vulnerabilities that make cleaning challenging or impossible without specialist conservation skills. Volunteers must assess objects, identifying dirty areas and planning their cleaning around limitations of condition.

Volunteers must have good hand-to-eye co-ordination. When cleaning historic objects it is crucial to regulate contact and pressure. Sensitive objects are at risk of damage if cleaning is not done in correct areas and with delicate technique. Steady hands are essential for this role.

Volunteers must be physically able to crouch, crawl and carry for long periods. A lot of what requires cleaning is at or near floor level. Furniture will need to be cleaned in all areas, carpets will be lifted to remove dust underneath and some objects will have to be moved under the direction of the house officer to facilitate cleaning. Volunteers will not be asked to carry out any working at height, so all materials to be cleaned are comfortably within reach. A backpack vacuum cleaner, whilst relatively light, may not be suitable for all during prolonged use. Knee pads will be provided to volunteers, as will ear protection where required.    

At this stage we would like people to register their interest in one of 6 available conservation cleaning roles. Training will be held later in the year.