Ever wondered why our historic house shuts for winter and what happens behind the closed doors?

Each year thousands of visitors enjoy looking round East Riddlesden Hall, which has been lovingly preserved to reflect its past and our heritage.

However, keeping the property in such great condition is a challenge, and the winter offers the perfect opportunity to address the many conservation issues that arise throughout the year.

The environment within East Riddlesden Hall is closely monitored, as a high level of humidity causes mould and encourages insect pests, such as woodworm and death-watch beetle.

We use low temperatures (on average five degrees above outside temperatures) to reduce humidity to safe levels. If we were to be open throughout the winter period, the heating used to make the buildings comfortable for visitors and volunteers would tip the fine balance of humidity control, with devastating effects on fragile materials, such as wood (causing shrinkage) and our delicate textiles.

Light is one of the most damaging elements we have to manage when preserving the house for the public. We have a carefully-planned light budget, which is calculated according to the light sensitivity of a variety of items.

Keeping our vulnerable items, such as the tapestries, covered during the closed period helps us reduce the amount of light exposure.

While the doors are closed to the public, we are hard at work behind the scenes.

One of the biggest tasks is removing the dust that has accumulated during the open season. If the dust is left, it can become cemented in place and is difficult to remove.

The closed period also offers us the perfect opportunity for taking a closer look at the condition of the buildings and collections. We use the time to look carefully for signs of general deterioration or insect damage, to see if any treatment needs to be planned or action taken to prevent further costly damage.

The other advantage of having the doors closed during winter is it provides a good amount of time for larger projects to be undertaken. These are typically a thorough cleaning of our collections and any building conservation work that affect large areas of the house that cannot easily be carried out whilst the property is open.

We are always looking for ways to share this work with the public, and offer a number of volunteer opportunities for people who would be interested in helping out with our conservation work. Once all this work is complete, we are then able to throw open our doors in February and begin welcoming visitors once again.

E-mail or call 01535 607075 for more details.