Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Virtual housekeeping

It may be early days to declare this the year without a winter, although today's predicted high is 72 and it's beginning to seem that way. But it's never too early to think about spring cleaning. And "think" is the operative word.

I always think of the late Jensine Kloppen when thoughts of spring cleaning arise. Jensine once lived with her brother, Gordon, in the substantial Kloppen family home near Thompson in Winnebago County with her brother, Gordon, a prototype for Norwegian bachelor farmer. Her brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Gordon and Anna Mae Kloppen, lived in a tiny house just across the lawn.

Every spring, with the unfortunate Anna Mae in tow, Jensine scrubbed every inch of that big old house from attic to basement, primarily because "Ma" had always done it that way. It wears me out just to think about it.

My mother spring cleaned, too, but I prefer to read about it, and have become devoted lately to the results of a slight (but developing) trend among the conservators of Britain's National Trust stately homes to blog about the buildings and artifacts in their care. Obviously, these buildings are somewhat larger than the houses most of us deal with.

Nostell Priory (top), a Palladian mansion in West Yorkshire, is the traditional home of the Winn family, called "priory" because it was built on the site of a medieval one. Due to various issues, most involving inheritance, the Winns have ceded (in lieu of taxes) or sold Nostell in bits and pieces to the nation as years have passed, including its magnificent Chippendale furniture.

The Nostell Priory conservation team blogs about its charge, ranging in topic from books through bugs to bathrooms. here.

Knole House, in west Kent, is one of Britain's largest (formerly) private family homes with somewhere near 400 rooms (or, if you prefer to believe that it was built as a "calendar" house, 352 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances and 7 courtyards). It has been the traditional home of the Sackville family who continue to live in a corner of it.
Vita Sackville-West, married to Harold Nicholson and gardener extraordinaire as well as author and Virginia Woolf's friend and lover, grew up here, but could not inherit --- because she was a woman. That frustration sometimes is credited in part for her remarkable gardening efforts at Sissinghurst.

Like Nostell, Knole passed to the National Trust because the Sackville family was unable to maintain it or could not pay the inheritance taxes required to own it outright.

The conservation team at Knole --- parts of which always are threatening to fall down --- blog about their challenges here.

Attingham Park, in Shropshire, traditional home of the Hills (barons Berwick) since 1785, eventually passed into the care of the National Trust after 160 years of family occupation and several years as an adult education college. Its conservation staff blogs here about efforts to bring the old place back to life, most recently about the bugs to which old houses are prone.

Finally, Rob --- a conservator in training --- writes about his experiences at Dryham Park here. Dryham, located in Gloucestershire and traditional home of the Blathwayt family, was passed on to the nation during 1956 and has been maintained by the National Trust since 1961.

A showcase for Dutch decorative arts, Dryham also will be mildly familiar to those who watched Merchant Ivory's 1993 film, "The Remains of the Day."

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