Free Conservation Cleaning Workshop

It’s Cleaning, but Not as You Know It

Top Tips and Insights on Free Workshop

Cleaning might not be everyone’s cup of tea but add a conservation specialist and a fantastic venue to the mix and you might just enjoy it. Thanks to National Lottery players, 15 people had the opportunity to do just that at St Andrew’s Church, Soham, when they took part in a free conservation cleaning workshop.  

The group, consisting of volunteers and professionals all involved in the care of historic places of worship, joined Claire Fry a Preventative Conservator from Spencer and Fry, for “a good mix of information and hands on experiences”, as noted by one participant.  

The workshop covered just about everything from cleaning wood and metals to dealing with insects and bats.  

The venue, St Andrew’s, had plenty of ‘test items’ and possibly now holds the record for the most number or people to wax a table at one time.   It certainly looked better for it, though as the churchwarden noted “we now need to clean the legs to match”.   

Participants discovered best practice and understood why some traditional methods of cleaning might be doing more harm than good, for instance brass cleaners which contain ammonia, and yellow dusters which can snag on wood surfaces.  There were lots of top tips including the “huff and puff” – whilst dry cleaning of wood is preferred, sometimes a little moisture is needed and the best way to get it is to ‘huff’ on your cloth.  Participants also got some insights into the wider world of conservation and discovered that “druggets and stanchions are out of fashion”– these are the carpets and railings often used to guide visitors around a building.  All in all, it was a very successful day, as one participant summed up:

“It was all very useful and enjoyable. I learnt a great deal today.”

Cleaning is often an activity affectionately associated with churches, along with flower arranging and bellringing.  However, few volunteers are given the training and guidance needed to apply conversation practices to help objects, fixtures and fittings survive in as best state as possible into the future.  Unlike objects in museums and other heritage sites, many of these items are still in regular use in churches.  This workshop was designed to highlight best practice, whilst giving pragmatic advice.  

Clergy, and the volunteers who support them, are under increasing pressure in terms of what they are expected to do and fund in order to keep parish churches alive and used.  No matter what your belief, parish churches are public buildings and they need the support of the wider community to survive.  So please, pop into your local church to remember the fabulous history on your doorstep and spare a thought for the volunteers who care for it.

There is another opportunity to attend this workshop on the 10th September at St Clements’ Church, Outwell. The workshop is open to anyone looking after an historic place of worship as long as the buildings falls within the boundaries of the Diocese of Ely.  It is open to all faiths and organisations and free to attend thanks to support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Places are limited so please book by contacting Holly Isted, Historic Church Buildings Support Officer.

Tel: 07948 350211 or 01353 652705