Andrew Graham-Dixon mucking in at Petworth

The Grand Staircase at Petworth. As Petworth House: The big Spring Clean shows, the handrail is cleaned and rewaxed every winter and all the stair rods are taken out and cleaned. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The BBC has recently been broadcasting a fantastic series called Petworth House: The Big Spring Clean, about the conservation work going on at Petworth during the winter season, when the house is closed to the public.

Conservation Assistant Anna Ward cleaning utensils in the kitchen. ©NTPL/Arnhel de Serra

Art historian and presenter Andrew Graham-Dixon is shown joining the National Trust staff at Petworth as they painstakingly clean the contents of the house and wrap the objects up to protect them from light and dust.

House Steward Susan Rhodes dusting a Greek vase in the Carved Room. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The issue of dust, in particular, becomes something of a running gag in the series, as Graham-Dixon is amazed at the National Trust’s scientific approach to analysing what dust consists of and the effects it has.

The Turners in the Carved Room, which Andrew Graham-Dixon helps to dust, are set low into the panelling so that they can be enjoyed when seated. They depict the Petworth park, which can be seen in reality through the windows opposite. ©NTPL/Bill Batten

Graham-Dixon waxes lyrical as he gets to gently dust one of the Turners, but he also ventures outdoors to join the gardens team in their maintenance work on ‘Capability’ Brown’s landscape.

One of the carved and gilded angels in the Chapel, which Andrew Graham-Dixon gets similarly close to when helping to prepare this room for its winter hibernation. ©NTPL/John Hammond

This series really conveys the beauty of historical objects in their original setting and the dedication and expertise that goes into looking after them.

9 Responses to “Andrew Graham-Dixon mucking in at Petworth”

  1. The Devoted Classicist Says:

    Of all the fabulous rooms at Petworth, I think my favorite might be the private sitting room on the ground floor with white leather shelf trim that protects the book bindings.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    It’s always interesting to hear people’s favourites.

  3. style court Says:

    Emile —

    Sounds fascinating. I’ll have to see if the program is available in iTunes.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    If not I hope it will be imported by one of your networks soon – Graham-Dixon is the ideal mixture of expert and entertainer.

  5. Michele from Boston Says:

    I’m so disappointed that our BBC America programming consists of nothing but Top Gear, bloody sci-fi programs and reruns of an old Star Trek series. They’ve even recently deprived us of the excellent Washington-based BBC America News. Too bad. Would love to see a lot of the programming here in the US! This program would surely be a treat for those of us professionally involved in historic building preservation.

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Michele, I am sorry to hear that – the limits of globalisation!

  7. Janet Says:

    I have been following along on twitter, hearing about this program. SO wish we could get it here in the States. I am off to lobby BBC America. . .

  8. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    And just to tantalise you, we are now having a series with Dan Cruickshank on the BBC about the economic, social and artistic ups and downs in the history of country houses over the centuries, including Easton Neston, Wentworth Woodhouse and Clandeboye.

  9. Mags muir Says:

    I liked agd’s observation that he wsnt sure that the original owner wd b so chuffed at the ‘commoners’ overrunning his stately home! Very enjoyable departure tho

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