Castle blows away the cobwebs for spring

NIck Lewis cleans the ship in Lindisfarne Castle.
NIck Lewis cleans the ship in Lindisfarne Castle.
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VISITORS to a north Northumberland castle will be able to take advantage of its extended opening times this year and get a glimpse behind the scenes at conservation work.

During the winter opening this year at the National Trust’s Lindisfarne Castle, house steward Nick Lewis has been carrying out conservation cleaning on one of its most intricate items – a wooden model of a 19th century schooner called The Henrietta.

Measuring an impressive one-and-a-half metres, the ship, which usually hangs above visitors’ heads in the Ship Room, takes about four days to clean and polish.

Nick said: “The level of detail in the ship is astonishing. The captain’s cabin, which is sealed and so was never aimed to be seen, is fully furnished.

“All of the functions of the ship are in working order and the rigging is made from string using different weaves of thickness so it’s all to scale.

“Visitors have really enjoyed watching the conservation cleaning this winter and we’ve really enjoyed having people around to see what we are doing.

“The Henrietta is the most complex item we have to clean.

“We start by giving it a thorough dusting using a selection of pony-hair brushes and vacuums which takes about 80 per cent of the time. I then used tiny amounts of renaissance wax for the polish.”

Staff have been working hard over the winter to get the place ship-shape ahead of an early opening this month.

The castle will open on Saturday and, unlike previous years, it will then remain open for the season.

This is a first for the castle, which usually closes for the period between February half-term and the start of the season in March.

Nick said: “Over the past few years, National Trust places have begun to increase their winter opening hours.

“At Lindisfarne Castle, we open for the days between Christmas and New Year and three years ago we started opening for alternate weekends in January and February which were really successful. This year we are offering two more weeks of visiting for the last two weeks in February.”

The Trust traditionally closes its doors during the winter months to carry out key conservation tasks, but with a desire to bring its places to life and show conservation work in action, the Trust has started to carry out some conservation tasks during visiting hours enabling it to share what goes on behind closed doors.

To keep up to date with what’s happening at Lindisfarne Castle, follow it on Twitter @NTlindisfarne, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lindisfarne or call 01289 389244.