The National Trust's Petworth house has one of the most stunning collections of any stately home in Britain. Visited by over 100,000 people each year, the property boasts some of the country's best paintings, wood carvings and sculptures. A vibrant hub of activity between March and November, the property offers a contrasting scene during the winter months when it closes to visitors so that its collections can be cleaned and restored. Before Petworth opened its doors again in March, Andrew Graham-Dixon went behind the scenes to uncover its secret life in the hands of conservationists.
Produced by Wall to Wall, Petworth House: The Big Spring Clean follows art historian and writer Andrew Graham-Dixon as he aids conservationists in putting Petworth House "to bed" for the winter. The same thing goes on at every one of the national trust's 300 properties - it is housekeeping on an epic scale, perhaps the biggest spring clean in the world. And it requires far more than just elbow grease - the conservation team needs specialist knowledge of each house, its history and collections.
The series, sees Andrew supporting the conservation team by learning to clean and care for a host of historical artefacts, from priceless paintings and Roman sculptures to clocks, carpets and Britain's oldest globe. The Big Spring Clean will also see Andrew set to work cleaning in the old servant's quarters and joining the gardening team amongst the 700 glorious acres of landscape created by Capability Brown.
With the doors closed, the daylight shut out and plunging temperatures, The Big Spring Clean sees Andrew become part of the team of conservationists that dedicate their lives to preserving Britain's heritage for future generations. Viewers have the opportunity to get up close and personal with history, while Andrew is privileged with the hands-on experience of cleaning some of the masterpieces from the National Trust's largest single collection of painting and sculpture.
Armed with brushes, scaffolding, enthusiasm and wit, Graham-Dixon wards off the dangerous pests that lurk in the bedrooms, vacuum cleans an original Turner and fully immerses himself in the intricate and fascinating conservation process.