FOR MANY National Trust properties winter is the time for us to catch up with essential conservation and cleaning work.

At East Riddlesden Hall the winter season may mean fewer visitors but it’s certainly not a quieter time for Jackie Waters, House Steward, and her team of dedicated volunteers. From November to February they work tirelessly behind the scenes to dust and clean all the objects, furniture and rooms of this 17th century manor house.

A thorough but gentle clean is a critical part of the conservation work at East Riddlesden Hall, helping prevent damage and protecting the fragile collection. The team work only with dry cloths or horsehair brushes and use no polish.

The wooden floorboards also receive attention from the conservation team during the winter clean: 38,000 pairs of shoes tread the boards each year, bringing with them dirt, grit and wear and tear. The floors are dry-mopped daily during the open-season and at winter a special wax is applied to protect and condition the wood in preparation for re-opening on February 16.

Jackie and her team carry out most of the work that’s needed but there are some jobs that need specialist expertise. This year Skillington Workshop Ltd, one of the UK’s leading building conservation and restoration companies, were brought in to repair the 400-year-old decorative plaster ceilings in the Dining Room and His Own Parlour.

Over centuries people have lived and worked in the upstairs rooms causing movement on floorboards and cracking of historic ceilings below. It took four years of fundraising alone to allow us to commission the ceiling survey and ongoing support from members and visitors to continue with the necessary conservation work.

The floorboards in the rooms above were lifted to allow access to the ceilings below. Careful repair work was carried out over several weeks to close the cracks and reduce future movement.

Jackie said: “As house steward the winter months mean hard work, but it’s also a really satisfying time of year for me and the volunteers. We get hands-on with the house, dusting into every nook and cranny and have the time to look closely at the collection and check its condition.

“We had the excitement of the restoration work to the Jacobean ceilings and that gave us the chance to look under the floorboards too. None of this work would be possible without the much appreciated support of our members and visitors.”

East Riddlesden Hall re-opens for half-term on February 16-21, 10.30am-4.30pm. Families can make a bird feeder, take a welly walk and taste traditional gingerbread. Visitors can also head to the barn to see an exhibition of art connecting lives past and present.

Visit or call 01535 607075.