Heritage science gives visitors unique insight into roof conservation project at The Vyne

Scientists and archaeologists at National Trust mansion The Vyne in Hampshire are giving visitors a unique insight into their work as part of a £5.4 million project to save the former Tudor ‘power house’.

The Vyne, whose famous visitors included Henry VIII and Jane Austen, is undergoing an ambitious 18 month project to repair its leaking roof and crumbling chimneys, severely damaged in the storms of recent years.

As part of the project, partners including archaeologists, dendrochronologists and heritage science researchers from the University of Oxford are using high and low tech equipment to discover how this complex 500 year old building was constructed, then re-arranged over the centuries.

This is the first time the conservation charity has combined science and technology to this extent alongside centuries-old craft skills, which are being used to produce thousands of hand-made tiles and bricks for the project.

Visitors on rooftop walkway and contractors on roof below, © National Trust Images, Karen Legg

Visitors can watch the conservation work as it progresses from an all-access, 360° rooftop walkway. Protected by a huge weatherproof ‘shell’, the walkway looks down on dramatic views of The Vyne’s rooftops.

Monthly visits from a mobile heritage laboratory will also give visitors an opportunity to work alongside scientists from the University of Oxford, using a range of equipment to find out how they measure deterioration in historic building materials, and protect the nation’s heritage from decay.

National Trust archaeologist Gary Marshall says: “Through extraordinary scientific and technological equipment we’re finding out so much about The Vyne’s construction and we’re sharing our discoveries with our visitors.

“With a variety of different methods and technology we are able not only to pinpoint more accurately the date of The Vyne’s construction, and the materials the original builders used to create tiles and bricks, even insulation, but also show how we have made these discoveries and give visitors a chance to explore the science involved.”

Professor Heather Viles from the Oxford Rock Breakdown Laboratory explains: ‘We’ve developed a range of high and low tech kit that allows us to investigate the very serious problem of water ingress at The Vyne.

“We’ll be able to show visitors that by combining quite simple tools such as hand held moisture meters and Karsten tubes with more complex tech methods like 2D resistivity surveys, we can probe into the walls and locate areas of heavy moisture, but without causing damage.”

New dendrochronology analysis – the science of tree-ring dating – has revealed that some of The Vyne’s 16th-century timbers were recycled from an earlier building, most probably the ‘lost’ north forecourt. This was part of a larger estate that now lies beneath the north lawn.

Gary Marshall adds: “We have made some rather delightful discoveries too, such as a number of clay tiles sporting animal paw prints. Around 15 prints have been found to-date, made by Georgian and Victorian dogs of various sizes who must have walked in the wet clay while the tiles were being made all those years ago and been preserved for posterity!”

Close up of dog paw print on tile, ©National Trust Images, Karen Legg

The story of The Vyne’s roof continues inside the house where the spotlight is shone on 19th century owner William Wiggett Chute who inherited a building in great disrepair. However his extraordinary determination to save the neglected mansion secured its future.

 

Two of the Arts & Crafts movement’s finest artists are celebrated in new De Morgan exhibition and gallery at Wightwick Manor

From Saturday 6 May, visitors to the National Trust’s Wightwick Manor in Wolverhampton will be able to discover ceramics and paintings by William and Evelyn De Morgan in a new exhibition, launching the conservation charity’s 10-year partnership with the De Morgan Foundation.

Hosted in The Malthouse, a new purpose-built gallery space, the exhibition will show over 100 ceramics by William and 18 paintings by Evelyn, loaned from the De Morgan Collection.

Night and Sleep by Evelyn De Morgan, De Morgan Collection, courtesy of the De Morgan Foundation

Specially commissioned new works that can be handled by visitors will also be on display showing how William De Morgan rediscovered the lustreware technique for which his ceramics are most famous.

William and Evelyn De Morgan were one of the most energetic and creative couples of the late 19th and early 20th century. He worked with William Morris, supplying Morris & Co with iconic red lustre tiles and decorative ceramics. She studied art at the Slade School and developed a vivid technique in the later Pre-Raphaelite style.

When building Wightwick Manor in 1887, Theodore Mander and his wife Flora were heavily influenced by the Aesthetic Movement and took inspiration from a lecture on ‘the House Beautiful’ by Oscar Wilde, decorating the Manor’s interiors with the designs of William Morris and his Arts & Crafts contemporaries, including the De Morgans.

Wightwick Manor was given to the National Trust in 1937 by Sir Geoffrey Mander, Theodore’s son and close friend of Mrs Wilhelmina Stirling, the younger sister of Evelyn De Morgan. Mrs Stirling would later go on to start the De Morgan Collection to safeguard, maintain and provide access to the work of the De Morgans.  Following her death in 1965, the De Morgan Foundation was established to continue to care for the collection.

Exterior view of Wightwick Manor and Gardens, West Midlands. National Trust Images-Robert Morris

Called A Better, More Beautiful World? the new exhibition will demonstrate the breadth of the De Morgans’ artistic achievements. Exploring the relationship between the artists, their social and creative inspirations, and their vision for a world without conflict, the exhibition will also highlight the links between the works of the De Morgans, Morris & Co and the Pre-Raphaelites that are displayed in the Manor.

A key part of the De Morgan Foundation’s aim is to continue to provide access to the collection by developing a network of strategic partnerships with like-minded organizations across the country. To continue the close ties between the Foundation and Wightwick Manor, a partnership has been launched that will see Wightwick as the Midlands centre for the De Morgan Collection for the next 10 years.

John Wood, Wightwick’s Conservation & Engagement Manager said: “The Mander family offered space for Mrs Stirling to store the De Morgan collection at Wightwick during the Second World War, so we are thrilled to welcome such a significant collection of De Morgan works back to Wightwick. The new display will also brilliantly complement the works by William and Evelyn already on display in the house.

“This is the first of a number of exhibitions celebrating the work of the De Morgans at Wightwick. We hope that through this exciting 10-year partnership with the De Morgan Foundation our visitors will be inspired by the artistry and output of this remarkable couple, the wider Arts & Crafts movement and the society in which they worked.”

Galleon Vase by William De Morgan, De Morgan Collection, courtesy of the De Morgan Foundation

Jean McMeakin, Chair of De Morgan Foundation said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with the National Trust to share the De Morgan Collection in the superb setting of Wightwick Manor in this the centenary year of William’s death.”

The funding for the purpose-built gallery space at Wightwick cost £170,000 and was funded thanks to gifts from private charitable trusts and generous public donations.

For opening times and further information Wightwick Manor and Gardens

 

Statement in response to reports over Easter Egg Hunt events

A National Trust spokesperson said: “It’s nonsense to suggest the National Trust is downplaying the significance of Easter. Nothing could be further from the truth. We host a huge programme of events, activities and walks to bring families together to celebrate this very special time of year.
“A casual glance at our website will see dozens of references to Easter throughout.
“Our Easter events include our partnership with Cadbury, which has been running Easter Egg Hunts with us for 10 years. They’ve proved consistently popular with our members and visitors. As part of its wider marketing activity at Easter, Cadbury will always lead on the branding and wording for its campaigns.”

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Two thousand ticking clocks form art installation at Nostell to celebrate one of England’s greatest inventors

From Saturday 25 March, the last day of Greenwich Meridian Time before the clocks spring forward an hour, visitors to the National Trust’s Nostell in Yorkshire will be able to see – and hear – an extraordinary art installation celebrating one of England’s greatest inventors, John Harrison.

Harrison’s Garden by internationally renowned artist Luke Jerram has been inspired by clockmaker Harrison, who created the marine chronometer and was born at Nostell in 1693, the son of the estate carpenter.

The exhibition is a display of 2,000 working clocks that will take over an entire room on the ground floor of the 18th-century house from 25 March – 9 July. In a fitting celebration of this local boy, Harrison’s Garden includes 500 clocks that have been donated by Nostell’s community, its staff and volunteers to add to those gathered by the artist.

Harrison’s Garden by Luke Jerram, credit National Trust/Simon Dewhurst

With no formal education, Harrison spent his earlier years crafting clocks entirely from wood and Nostell is home to one of his only three surviving early wooden longcase clocks, created 300 years ago in 1717.

This significant piece of horological history is at the heart of a second exhibition, The Clock Stops, which opens alongside Harrison’s Garden at Nostell. Visitors will be able to view the original clock up-close, alongside a specially commissioned film about the clockmaker and a series of displays which celebrate his work.

Chris Blackburn, project curator said: “At Nostell we celebrate the work of ordinary people crafting the extraordinary. We’re very proud to look after one of John Harrison’s early handmade wooden clocks and we’re looking forward to telling his story through this fascinating contemporary installation.”

The clocks in Harrison’s Garden are clustered to form patterns and shapes along the floors and surfaces, with each one set to a different time so that visitors will hear a musical delight of ticking, clicking and chiming throughout the day.

John Harrison, credit National Trust/Simon Dewhurst

Just as Harrison’s creativity started to tick at Nostell and developed over his lifetime, the contemporary installation will grow in size as it tours three other National Trust places across the country from 2017 – 2018.

Following its debut at Nostell between March and July, Harrison’s Garden is set to appear at Castle Drogo in Devon, Gunby Hall in Lincolnshire and Penrhyn Castle in Wales, with each place asking their local communities to donate 500 additional clocks to this growing installation. Jerram, a creator of sculptures, installations and live arts projects across the globe, is excited to see Harrison’s Garden expand in size and sound as it spreads into these historic spaces.

Luke said: “For me, Harrison’s Garden is an imagined landscape; a garden of clocks. It is a glimpse of a surreal fictional world or perhaps an image from one of John Harrison’s dreams. Like a garden, the installation is a living and growing collection of different clock ‘species’.”

The clock at Nostell that was created 300 years ago by John Harrison, credit National Trust/Simon Dewhurst

 

The touring installation is a Trust New Art project, a programme that enriches experiences for regular visitors and attracts new audiences who may not have the opportunity to encounter world-class contemporary art where they live.

Grace Davies, the National Trust’s Contemporary Arts Programme Manager said: “We are very pleased not only to host, but also grow Harrison’s Garden, which will be a remarkable feast for the eyes and the ears, and so fitting to the birthplace of John Harrison, reminding us both literally and metaphorically of the passage of time. It is part of a season of inspirational work by artists that shines a new light on the places we look after, giving fresh perspectives that remain rooted in our rich and varied heritage.”

 

Membership price rise will help fund record conservation spend and deliver better experiences for visitors

  • Average rise of 15p a month to help fund record conservation investment
  • Charity responds to feedback with improved facilities, longer opening times and more visitor programmes
  • Over one million members pay discounted rate
  • Members benefit from unlimited access to 500 places and free parking

Annual membership of the National Trust will increase from March 1, 2017, by an average of £1.80 a year to help the charity fund record levels of investment in vital conservation work, and improve visitor facilities and experiences.

Money raised from memberships is vital not only to help the Trust care for 300 historic properties, 775 miles of coastline and 250,000 hectares of countryside across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but also provide access to them for ever for everyone.

People walking, with Worms Head in the distance, Gower, Wales.

People walking, with Worms Head in the distance, Gower, Wales.

The Trust, which is largely funded through donations, memberships and legacies, spent a record £107m on conservation last year in maintaining, repairing and improving its houses, countryside and tenanted properties.

It also plans to spend an extra £300 million on addressing a backlog of conservation work by 2024.

The Trust said the extra funding would help it respond to what its members wanted including keeping its doors open for longer and at times which suit visitors. More properties than ever are now open for 363 days a year.

Members also benefit from free car parking at more than 170 additional countryside and coastal locations.

Members have also asked for increased numbers of events and more inspiring experiences along with better website and digital communications to keep them informed of what’s happening at Trust places.

In response, the charity is investing more money into visitor programmes and digital platforms, along with better parking, larger cafes and a greater range of activities at many sites.

Extra staff members have meanwhile been employed on the ground in the last twelve months to improve visitor experiences.

Visitors exploring the house at Lyme Park, Cheshire.

Visitors exploring the house at Lyme Park, Cheshire. Credit National Trust Image/John Millar

Individual adults will pay only £1.80 more for membership while Family membership increases by £3.60 a year.

The smallest increase in membership is for the Senior discounted category at an extra £1.10 for the year, rising from £47.50 to £48.60.

The Trust is continuing this discounted rate for Senior members who have held either an individual or joint membership for at least five of the last ten years, and is also continuing its Young Person’s concession for ages 13 – 25.

Currently, over one million members have taken up the discounted rate, which is the equivalent of one in five members.

Jackie Jordan, the Trust’s Director of Brand, Marketing and Supporter Development says:

“Our members’ support is absolutely vital to everything we do as a charity. The income from memberships helps us to look after the houses, coastlines, and countryside in our care on behalf of the nation.

“On average memberships will go up by around 15p a month and that will help us to plough money back into our biggest ever programme of conservation work, along with improving our facilities and visitor programmes.

“We’re responding to what our members tell us they want which will increase their enjoyment of our places. That’s why we’re opening more of our properties for longer and at times which better suit visitors, with many now open 363 days a year.

“We are investing in larger cafes and new shops, along with better car parking facilities and toilets, improved visitor reception areas, and more gallery spaces, events and outdoor activities.

“We couldn’t do all that we need to do without the support of our members and we want to thank them all for their continued support.

“We believe we offer great value for money. For around a fiver a month, a member can enjoy unlimited access to hundreds of Trust locations across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, whilst helping to look after them for future generations to enjoy.”

See here for more information on National Trust membership

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National Trust statement on grounds-only entry pricing

Tony Berry, visitor experience director for the National Trust, said: “We are not abolishing all grounds-only entry prices, but there are a few properties where we have simplified their admission prices and now offer one ‘whole property’ ticket price.
 
“We have only made this change in places where the majority of visitors were already paying for a full access ticket, and the new simpler prices have had no adverse impact on the number of people coming to enjoy a day out at our places. In fact, we’ve seen a significant increase in visitors taking out membership at these properties, generating extra income to help look after the buildings, grounds and facilities. Millions of people meanwhile continue to enjoy free access to hundreds of outdoor spaces in the countryside and along the coast managed by the Trust on behalf of the nation.”

Could you be the National Trust’s new Farne Islands ranger?

Fed up with the rat race? With no running water and thousands of puffins as your only neighbours, a new National Trust vacancy promises the ultimate escape.

Schmoozing business contacts will be tricky as a ranger on the remote Farne Islands, but it’s a wildlife enthusiast’s dream – promising jaw-dropping sunrises, a one minute commute and one of England’s largest seal colonies on your doorstep.

The National Trust has cared for the islands since 1925. Set a mile off the Northumberland coast, the islands have been protected for 189 years and are one of Britain’s oldest nature reserves.

Potential applicants will need to be hardy. Rangers on the islands must brave dive-bombing attacks from Arctic terns, no running water and harsh spring storms that can see them marooned on the islands for weeks at a time.

Gwen Potter, National Trust countryside manager for the Northumberland Coast, said: “This job isn’t the normal 9 to 5. Being good with PowerPoint isn’t a priority.

“We’re looking for someone with a passion for wildlife and conservation – and who wants to share that passion with others.

“Rangers have been based on the Farne Islands for almost 190 years, with scientists carrying out research here for decades. Last year a Springwatch-backed study found that a Farne Islands Arctic tern had made a record-breaking migration, flying 96,000km to Antarctica and back.

“Living here you truly feel like you’re on the edge of the world. It’s a wildlife-lover’s paradise: open the curtains in the morning and you’re greeted with crowds of fluffy seal pups or scampering Arctic tern chicks.

“As a ranger you’ll be in charge of monitoring the wildlife and seals on the islands – as well as assisting with scientific research.

“Every season is different and you’ll be doing everything from carrying out repairs and counting cute seal pups in October to blow-drying sickly Arctic terns or handling puffin chicks during our five-yearly count of the colourful birds.

“But it’s not a job for the faint-hearted. All our water on the island has to be brought in by boat – and we’ve not got a washing machine. Rangers can end up marooned in their cottage during the seal mating season and the island’s thousands of Arctic terns are known for diving at people’s heads in a bid to defend their chicks.”

As one of two full-time rangers, the successful candidate will live on the islands for nine months a year. They will be joined by 11 seasonal rangers over the summer, living on the remote islands 24 hours a day for five days a week.

Inner Farne, one of 20 islands that make up the Farne Islands archipelago, was once home to a string of hermit saints 1,500 years ago – most famously Saint Cuthbert.

But with 50,000 visitors to the islands every year, hermits need not apply for the position of ranger.

Gwen said: “Our Farne Islands rangers are a close knit team. Storms can shut the islands off for days. And with tens of thousands of visitors every year, you really need to be able to get on with people and show them how they can join us to help nature.”

Applications for the position of ranger close on 7 February, 2017. To apply visit: https://careers.nationaltrust.org.uk/OA_HTML/a/#/vacancy-detail/46353.