Video and photo gallery: Toothbrushes at the ready for annual Blickling Estate statue clean

PUBLISHED: 10:58 10 June 2014

Blickling Hall statue clean. Conservation assistant Amanda Read.

Blickling Hall statue clean. Conservation assistant Amanda Read. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2014

Elbow grease and plenty of toothbrushes are currently being used in a spring clean of mammoth proportions at a north Norfolk country estate.

A tale of two statues

■The Hercules statue in the Blickling Estate orangery was made by Nicholas Stone in 1640 and bought by the 1st Earl of Buckingham, Sir John Hobart, for the grand house in 1732.

It is thought to have been put in Hercules wood before being moved to the garden of one of the estate’s farmyard cottages.

The statue was moved to the orangery in 1948.

■The headless statue of Diana, also in the orangery, was carved by Nicholas Stone around 1640 at the former Oxnead Hall.

Oxnead was the home of the Paston family seat and was five miles away from the Blickling Hall, before being demolished in 1731.

Sir John Hobart bought the statue, as well as others, from the former hall for Blickling.

The statue of Diana, which was damaged at some point and thrown into the estate’s lake, was discovered by RAF servicemen during the Second World War while they were excavating for an air raid shelter.

Staff and volunteers at the National Trust-owned Blickling Estate, near Aylsham, are part-way through the annual cleaning of stone features in the grand parterre garden and surrounding area.

The 11-strong conservation team is painstakingly cleaning and inspecting about 20 stone objects including a central fountain, urns and a statue of Hercules.

Principal stonework being scrubbed up also includes a pair of bulls in front of the Jacobean house, and other statues, some of which date back to the 18th century.

Ellie Hobbs, 25, who is on the team, said: “The toughest thing is knowing when to stop. It is lovely to see them from the house in good condition.”

Miss Hobbs, a conservation and engagement assistant for the estate, said it was a bit disgusting getting rid of some of the lichen and bird mess but added it was satisfying work.

The only equipment used so far has been soft brushes, toothbrushes, warm water, sponges and a non-perfumed detergent, as well as plenty of elbow grease.

So far nine stone features have been cleaned and work is due to finish this week.

Louise Green, assistant house manager on the Blickling Estate, said: “We are not trying to get the objects back to a pristine state. We are trying to get them so they still look weathered but cared for. It is time-consuming and quite a painstaking job. It is a bit like washing up.”

The annual clean-up started in 2008 and it allows the estate team to assess damage, which can include cracks caused by frost.

“The frost damage and harsh winters are the biggest threats,” Mrs Green added.

To combat that problem the National Trust has bought £500 covers for some of the objects to protect them over the winter.

She said: “You expect to see nice statues in a historic garden. The work is really important.”

Do you know of an interesting conservation project in north Norfolk? Email

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