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Arley Hall's big spring clean
BEESWAX, reverence and three months of elbow grease go into making a Northwich stately home fit for its public.
A team of three women make Arley Hall literally glow with pride ready for its opening at Easter each year.
The Guardian met Dianne Hewitt and Lynn Hickson, who clean the hall with their colleague Lynne Daniels, to find out the work involved preparing for the annual opening and keeping the mansion looking its best all year round.
“You want it to look nice, you want the public to come in and see it glowing,” Lynn said.
“We do feel honoured that we’re responsible for looking after it.”
The team are the latest in a long line of maids and cleaners who have cared for the hall and its funiture, blacking the grates, polishing the floor tiles and waxing the wood panelling, among a myriad of other jobs.
They work part time, for four hours a day starting at 8am, and look after the 10 rooms and two staircases that are open to the public.
Lynn said: “When the public are here we can dust round but during the big spring clean we move everything into the middle of the rooms and get round all the skirting boards.
“We start at the top of each room and work our way down, so there’s lots of ladders and dusters and we wax and buff all the panelled walls.
“It’s a big job and it keeps you physically fit, but its very satisfying.”
Lynn and Dianne said there is no part of the jobs that they dislike.
“You appreciate every room when you’re cleaning it,” Lynn said.
“When you clean the books you’re looking at them and when you’re cleaning the pictures with a paintbrush you’re weighing them up and learning the history as you go around.
“Each room has its own treasures.
“It makes you wonder how many hands have dusted this before you.”
They cannot use chemical products on the antiques and rely on traditional techniques, like beeswax to polish wood and vinegar to clean glass.
Dianne said: “They do work, these old fashioned ways, and it’s how we were brought up.”
There is also much more to the job than cleaning as the team also prepares rooms for the different functions held almost daily in the hall, from weddings and meals to antiques fairs or filming.
“It’s lovely because everything’s different every day with all the different functions,” said Lynn.
“It’s lovely to see people’s faces when they see it looking so different.”