Wed, May 12th, 2021
Re-opening the Castle
We are thrilled to be re-opening the castle for guided tours from Monday 17th May. While we have been closed the castle has felt so empty! This week we will be very busy making sure everything is looking as good as it can for the grand re-opening. Maintaining a property of this size and with such an important collection takes a lot of hard work. You might be surprised to hear that Picton’s maintenance team is made up of only 3 people! Guy is the Maintenance manager and, as you can imagine he is always busy! You might spot him on the castle roof fixing the lead one moment then in the art gallery painting the walls the next. He has worked here for just over 20 years and is extremely skilled, we have a saying at Picton, if Guy cannot fix it then it really is broken! We also employ only 2 cleaners, Kate and Jane, who together have over 16 years’ experience of working at Picton. Kate and Jane are extremely dedicated and are very knowledgeable in their field. They are exceptionally careful with their cleaning techniques and only use the best products and equipment to ensure the collection remains preserved.
If you come into the castle for a tour this week then you might notice that the wooden floors are looking particularly shiny. They may also be a little slippery underfoot, so please be careful. This is because we have waxed them; a process that we carry out around twice a year. The beautiful inlaid wooden floor in our library looks particularly striking after it has been waxed. British castles were always seen to be inferior to European Castles as almost all had comparatively plain interiors with less decorative flooring. The Philipps family were certainly influenced by French Castles and this inlaid wooden floor with its complex geometrical pattern is extremely rare for Britain. Therefore it is imperative that we keep it in excellent condition and well protected from wear and tear. Before waxing each piece of furniture is carefully removed. Kate and Jane wax each floor by hand, applying a thin coat and leaving it to soak in for 24 hours before buffing it off with a cotton cloth. You might be surprised to hear that we have to store the tin of wax in the castle’s boiler room; where our giant boiler keeps our water hot throughout the year. This is because it is the only room in the entire castle that is always warm so keeps the wax liquid and prevents it from hardening.
If you visited the gardens on Thursday 6th May then you might have seen the Castle’s window cleaner hard at work. Cleaning the exterior windows at Picton takes around 4 hours so it is a task that puts any professional window cleaner through their paces. We have 111 glass windows on the actual castle building; that is not including any of the windows in our courtyard where the restaurant, galleries, gift shop and the Mansion of Mystery escape rooms are located. The castle has many different styles of windows. Our beautiful ornate stained glass windows in the chapel were made by Alexander Gibbs of Bloomsbury in 1894 and require a very light touch when being cleaned. Four of the windows located in the medieval part of the castle are arrow slit, where archers would have positioned themselves to launch arrows if the castle was under siege. Those panes of glass are very slim indeed so cannot be cleaned by the normal window cleaner. We also have many bricked up windows. In 1696, under King William III, window tax was introduced in England and Wales. This meant that the more windows a property had, the higher the rate of tax was for the owners. To reduce their tax bill, some property owners bricked up a number of their windows. You may notice 12 bricked-up windows at Picton, the most noticeable are on the Georgian wing of the castle, overlooking Old Port (our large rhododendron). It may seem odd that a family as affluent as the Philipps’s did this; especially when you consider just how many windows the property has! But the Philipps family were certainly not the only aristocrats to do this. It was extremely common practice and bricked in windows can be seen on many buildings including large stately homes and castles throughout the country. These bricked up windows are not noticeable from inside of the castle.
If you would like learn more about Picton Castle and its collection why not book in for a tour during your next visit to the gardens?
Thank you to Belinda Bean for her photographs of the interior state rooms.