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Hands-on Half Term at Harewood

Harewood House AutumnHarewood House, Autumn

Digging in the Walled Garden, creating a pin-hole camera to capture inspirational scenery, and enjoying behind the scenes activities in the Bird Garden, these are just a few of the sessions on offer as Harewood House Trust launches its first Half Term Holiday Club for 7-12-year olds.

As research continues to highlight the positive benefits on children of learning outdoors, Harewood is launching a week of full-time parent-free holiday activities for up to 15 children each day.

Kathryn Welford, Learning Manager, says; “We’re really excited to be launching our first Holiday Club this half term. Our recent Small Wonders Sessions for under-5s have been going well and as a trial we wanted to extend this amazing learning opportunity and tailor it to older children. There are so many opportunities for engaging learning at Harewood and the Holiday Club will be a relaxed and informal environment for kids to really learn about themselves and learn something new. It should be great fun.”

Whilst the sessions for the  Holiday Club will be based both inside and outside, the outdoor learning experiences will teach those taking part to not only adapt to new environments, but to develop their curiosity and independence, from games and play to making and creating. Where else can you see penguins and learn about their environment and the threats they face? How did the families of hundreds of years ago feed themselves and their communities from the land, in a garden that still grows and feeds today? And surely there are spooky stories to unearth from the big House on the hill?

Half Term Holiday Club runs 28 October – 1 November, from 10am-4pm. No adults allowed!

To find out more see here or email kathryn.w@harewood.org

Re-packing for delivery

Collections team packing Since March this year Harewood has been home to 26 of the most exciting British-based makers and creators, as part of the inaugural Harewood Biennial, Useful/Beautiful: Why Craft Matters.

Our role in the Collections Care team is to safely remove all the installations from across the State Floor and Below Stairs, before packaging each piece for transportation and sending back to the makers who kindly lent them for the exhibition.

Moving the objects around the House is in itself a complex job, as each one must be handled carefully and we must work around the visitor hours to the House, which remains open during this time. You can see in this image of blacksmith Leszek Sikon’s garden tools (cleverly created from old Second World War ammunition) how we have created “nests” from packing blankets and tissue paper, to protect the pieces ready for delivery. When re-packing, the team aims to reuse as much material as possible, in order to reduce waste. However, we have to ensure that there are no rips in any tissue or foam, or any deflated bubble wrap, as these could lead to objects being damaged in transport if they are bumped or knocked. Leszek’s pieces need additional protection on the sharp edges,  to make sure they don’t cause damage to the other items in the package.

Keep up to date with events and activities at Harewood on social media @HarewoodHouse

Behind the Scenes of Harvest Festival

HarvestFestival_HarewoodSenior Engagement and Projects Manager Zoe White is busy laying out the sunflowers.

‘Whilst the sun is shining and casting a golden light across Harewood and its surroundings, it’s more difficult to appreciate that the season is about to be in full change mode, and to mark this moment, we’re celebrating this weekend with Harvest Festival.

Traditionally a time to reap the benefit of the hard-working Walled Garden, the vegetables are in abundance and we’ve never seen such a strong crop of potatoes and beans. The Walled Garden is one of the oldest working gardens on the estate. It dates back to the 1700s and has endured intensive use and continuous change throughout its long history, including feeding the local community soldiers in the converted auxiliary hospital during the First and Second World Wars.

My role at Harewood is to create weekends such as this, which will not only bring visitors to Harewood, but also enhance their visit, encourage them to stay all day and then hopefully they will return time and again. We’ve decorated the Courtyard with flowers and garlands, which look lovely, the space is set and ready for the Makers to arrive on Saturday and Sunday and run their Makers’ Market, and the family activity trails are ready to run. You might be pleased to hear that we never like to waste anything and if we can re-use items from previous exhibitions of collections, then we will. So we’ve dusted off the sunflowers that formed part of the Yellow Drawing Room scene from Christmas last year, created by Artistic Director, Simon Costin. Over 100 sunflowers with their burst of yellow look incredible in the sunshine and have really lifted the space. We’re feeling in the festive mood already.

There is also a special event on each day:

Saturday – Lantern Walk with the Rusticus Theatre Company
Sunday – the fantastic Hope & Social perform live and then deliver a special Singing Workshop. If you haven’t seen them yet, they are well worth the trip.

There are also cookery demonstrations in the Old Kitchen and a Gardens Walk and Talk each day at 2pm.’

Follow @HarewoodHouse on social media to keep up to date with all the details across the weekend.

A night at the movies: Downton Abbey première

Walking down a red carpet will always be thrilling, but even more so last night at the Downton Abbey world première of the film in Leicester Square.

With the Earl and Countess of Harewood, I waited with bated breath to see Harewood on the big screen and it didn’t disappoint. From beautiful sweeping shots of the house outside, to gorgeous drawing room scenes with Princess Mary (6th Countess of Harewood), and the final ball scene with such glamorous costumes … The grandeur of Harewood was captured by moonlight for a final romantic scene, demonstrating just how beautiful Harewood is.

As a charity, filming always provides such a vital income stream, in order to keep the house and collections open. But it is also a juggling act as I am determined to try and keep as much of the house and grounds open to the public whilst filming commences. It does pay off though, as glimpses of Maggie Smith walking back to the Base unit of over a hundred people in our main car park, give visitors an unexpected treat!

You may notice that throughout the film, the characters pronounce ‘Har-wood’ as it would have been known at that time. Today we are all one ‘Hare-wood’ whether it is the village, house or family. The truth is also skewed for fiction as you see the relationship between the 6th Earl and Princess Mary unfold … it makes for a good storyline, but in reality we know there was actually a great deal of affection between these two. In over 170 boxes of Princess Mary’s personal letters, objects and diaries, which Harewood House Trust is now responsible for, the Earl refers to himself as Princess Mary’s little ‘owl’ (she loved these birds) and she was his little ‘canary’. We’ll be giving all of our visitors a very special glimpse into this personal archive in an exhibition in the house this autumn.

It’s a hard job of course (!) as we spent a rather glamorous few hours at the after-party chatting to actors Jim Carter (Carson) Kate Phillips (Princess Mary), to the Director and Producer and of course to writer Julian Fellowes. They all praised Harewood for its beauty and how well we managed the filming. The lavish scale and opulence of the film far outstrips the TV series.

As Julian Fellowes said, it has been ten years since the beginning of Downton and none of them could have predicted where it would lead. America is next as they all get on the plane next week to New York. In the meantime we’ve invited Kate Phillips back to Harewood to delve into her character’s life – Princess Mary, sister to two kings and a fascinating, thoughtful Countess of Harewood.

Photography © 2019 Focus Features LLC

Pest Busters challenge in an historic house

Pest_Control_FootstoolInsects, of all shapes and sizes, love country houses.

A Grade I listed building offers them their ideal home; lots of undisturbed, small, dark areas with old textiles and surfaces to feed from, and easy entry through old window frames and doorways. Outdoors they are not an issue but when they find their way indoors they use our collections as a source of food which can cause lasting damage. We call them pests.

One of the Collection Care team’s ongoing tasks is implementing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system with our Conservation and Technical Officer, Roger. We have pheromone and sticky traps in all the rooms of the House to help monitor pest activity, these are checked on a regular basis, but we also carry out rolling inspections of items that would appeal to pests. During these inspections you will find us crawling around with our torches checking carpets, curtains, and under chairs and sofas.

Rachel recently attended a course at the British Library with David Pinnegar, the pest management strategy adviser for English Heritage amongst others. Our knowledge on IPM has been updated and one of our latest endeavors is better identification of the pests we find, which we do using a microscope. It is important for us to know exactly what types of pests we are finding, so we can identify if they pose a risk to our collection, monitor vulnerable objects more closely for infestations, and take appropriate steps to eradicate any pests present before irreversible damage is done.

The pests that we come into contact with the most, carpet beetles, are only 2-3mm in length, making it hard to distinguish between the varying types without the aid of a microscope. Carpet beetles themselves won’t damage objects, however, their larvae, known as woolly bears, do. The woolly bears feed off the textiles leaving small holes behind, compromising the structure of the item. Textiles, especially organic ones, are very susceptible to pests, including carpet beetles and clothes moths, which can cause tremendous damage.

We recently found a woolly bear infestation in a calves’ foot stool, part of our natural history collection that is not currently on display. If we attempted to clear the infestation by vacuuming the calves’ feet, we would likely remove the fur and damage the stool. So instead we decided that the best course of treatment would be to freeze it, to kill off any pests living on or in it. We firstly removed any visible frass, the waste matter produced by the woolly bears, from the hooves of the stool, which are robust enough to sustain being handled unlike the rest of the calves’ foot. We then wrapped the stool in polythene and removed the air from the package using a vacuum. The stool was then placed in our conservation freezer at -180c for two weeks to eradicate the pests. It’s an ongoing task of monitoring for pests in an historic environment such as Harewood House!

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