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Behind the Scenes: Upstairs

February 1, 2013

There is often a lot more to National Trust properties than what the public get to see, and here at Plas Newydd there are a whole host of rooms behind the scenes; so I thought I would write a couple of blogs giving a backstage tour, starting with upstairs.

Firstly, our offices: here is where the House Team hang out.

The lovely Sarah, who so enjoys me taking photos of her.

The lovely Sarah, who so enjoys me taking photos of her.

Ok, so the offices are a little bit magnolia and dull, but the history of how they came to be plain and official looking is interesting. In 1949 the Merchant Navy training ship HMS Conway was moved from Birkenhead to the Menai Strait out of fear it would be bombed. The 7th Marquess, who was suffering from a few financial worries with regards to the upkeep of Plas Newydd, agreed to rent part of the North Wing of the mansion to the training ship. So this part of the building became accommodation for the cadets during their terms on the shore, and thus it ceased to be the servant’s quarters and family rooms that it had previously been.

So there is a good reason for the institutional feel of the offices, and our property manager Nerys has attempted to brighten up the staff room…

 Staff room 

Upstairs again is more of the same décor-wise. This floor now contains our stores rooms, although it was originally servant’s quarters and some of the children’s rooms. It then became dormitories for the Conway cadets and the sleeping compartment dividers still exist.

 Conway Dorms

In the 1960s a new building was built for the use of HMS Conway just down the Strait from Plas Newydd.  In 1968 Cheshire County Council, under whom the HMS Conway training was organised, decided to adapt this area into an outward bound centre for children. This part of Plas Newydd remained in the hands of the council until 2005, when it became the National Trust’s.

 We now use this part of the house for our conservation store rooms. This is where we keep our supplies and equipment for cleaning and caring for the house and collections.

Wax and polish

Wax and polish

Brushes and labelling equipment

Brushes and labelling equipment

The Ryan Room is where we currently store the fantastic collection of military uniforms, given to the property by Colonel Ryan, which are sadly not out on display at the moment. One day I promise to write a blog just about the military collection here.

Ryan Room stores

Ryan Room stores

The uniforms are carefully packed in acid-free boxes

Everything is carefully labelled

Everything is carefully labelled

Ryan uniform

We have a large furniture store, where we place furniture too delicate to be out around the house. We also store other large objects in here, like paintings we aren’t displaying and also a model church made from a hatbox by Rex Whistler, which had been away at a specialist conservator.

Paget and red leather chairs in storage

Paget and red leather chairs in storage

Paintings in storage

Whistler's hatbox church

Whistler’s hatbox church

In one room we currently have a theatre backdrop by Whistler, which was on display downstairs, but had to be moved to make room for the furniture taken out of the Saloon after it flooded in 2011.

Whistler Backdrop 

There are other pieces of Saloon furniture finding shelter in the stores, like the curtains and the chandeliers.

The Saloon lights are drying after the flood

 One of my favourite rooms in the stores contains the Ceredigion handling collection- a whole load of vintage clothing and accesories that we are allowed to wear! This is where our outfits for the 1930s weekend came from.

Ceredigion handling collection

Ceredigion handling collection

Next time I’ll give you a tour of behind the scenes downstairs. We are hoping to offer guided tours of these behind the scenes areas during this open season, so check the website for more details.

Chloe x

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