In memoriam Hermione Sandwith

Good housekeeping: The Boudoir at Berrington Hall, Herefordshire, 'put to bed' for the winter. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

An obituary has just appeared about Hermione Sandwith, who was the first conservation adviser on paintings and sculpture for the National Trust.

Conservator using a miniature vacuum cleaner with a filtered nozzle on the headcloth of the King James II bed at Knole, Kent. ©NTPL/David Levenson

It is now difficult to imagine how scarce good conservation advice was in the early nineteen-seventies, when Hermione Sandwith joined the National Trust. She set about to change that, by first learning various techniques herself from reputable restorers, and then by beginning to define some professional standards for the care of National Trust collections. 

©National Trust

She eventually published these guidelines as the Manual of Housekeeping, written together with Sheila Stainton. The current, enlarged version of the Manual is the most comprehensive published compendium on conservation management.

A conservator using a fume cupboard to test solvents at the Textile Conservation Studio, Blickling Hall, Norfolk. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Hermione Sandwith also gradually recruited other conservators to look after different parts of the National Trust’s collections. Today the level of conservation expertise is fortunately high.

A conservator unpacking a watercolour from its storage box, Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd. ©NTPL/Paul Harris

There are always new challenges, however. There is currently an increasing emphasis on a more intensive use of historic houses, and so conservators are more necessary than ever.

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