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  • - So this is Belsay Hall,

  • we're just a bit north of Newcastle in Northumberland,

  • and we've got a lovely hall, we've got a castle,

  • we've got quarry gardens as well.

  • (Cheerful music)

  • It's a really interesting example of Grecian architecture.

  • You can't see that at the moment,

  • 'cause we've got the scaffolding up.

  • But what people really come here for is our quarry gardens.

  • They're really unique.

  • The walls create a little microclimate,

  • and it means you'll see plants here

  • that you'll not see anywhere else in England.

  • So the Middleton family, who owned Belsay,

  • they used to live in the castle section of our site,

  • which is at the far end,

  • and what they decided to do after a tour

  • of Europe, inspired by Grecian architecture, is

  • to build themselves a new home.

  • So they quarried where our quarry gardens are now,

  • and on Christmas day, so the story goes,

  • they moved from the castle to the new hall.

  • And they actually very deliberately did the quarry so

  • that they could build gardens there,

  • so they had this horticultural plan in mind,

  • and that's how we get the beauty that we've got today.

  • (Cheerful music)

  • Belsay Awakes is a fantastic project.

  • It's been in the works for about 10 years now,

  • and it's taken loads of different forms in that time,

  • but now we're getting to the final iteration

  • of that project.

  • We've got major conservation works,

  • we've got the hall, we're going to put a new roof on it,

  • we're also going to have a new car park,

  • so we're going to have some new infrastructure,

  • we've redone our toilets,

  • so that the visit really lives up to visitor expectations.

  • In amongst that, we're going to have a new cafe,

  • we're going to have a new café down at the castle site,

  • a new play area for the little ones, and that'll just mean

  • that people can really get the most out of their visit.

  • It's really important that we conserve these sites

  • for future generations,

  • and this project covers that in both ways.

  • It makes sure that we are conserving it for the future,

  • but also that people can really enjoy their day out here.

  • (Cheerful music)

  • So every aspect is getting a bit

  • of attention at Belsay here,

  • it really is an awakening for the whole site.

  • (Birds chirping)

  • - It's an impressive view, isn't it?

  • Treetop height and everything.

  • So the project is really important for Belsay.

  • There's some key conservation works

  • that need to happen, some repairs.

  • So the hall, for example, is a huge element of the project.

  • The roof has a really low pitch in its original design,

  • and the guttering and the drainage were all put

  • on the inside of the building,

  • which meant that water was actually going inside,

  • and over 200 years, needless to say,

  • that's going to cause some problems.

  • So, Paul, is this just the old felt?

  • - [Paul] That's the old felt, yes.

  • - Is it rotten then? Is that-- - It's just rotted away

  • over the years, and that's what we'll be replacing

  • with a bat-friendly, more breathable, longer-lasting felt.

  • - So damp, wet rot, dry rot have all caused all these issues,

  • and the slate now needs to be replaced.

  • - We'll do the joinery works on it,

  • and then we'll follow them round,

  • round and round, - Right.

  • - and then they'll be putting the slate back on

  • as we go around. - Okay.

  • - The roof's got several leaks at the moment,

  • due to how long it's been on, the damage,

  • the pitch of the roof.

  • Now when we strip the slates off,

  • we don't know what condition the timbers are underneath,

  • so that's going to be quite challenging

  • when we do remove it to see what we actually need to do,

  • and then we'll have it surveyed by the architect

  • and the structural engineer, and then we'll get cracking on

  • with the timber repairs and re-roof it.

  • You've got to be a lot more sensitive

  • with what you're doing: bats, for instance.

  • We'll be here doing a dawn survey

  • before we even lift any slates,

  • just to see where the bats are actually going,

  • so when we do lift the slates,

  • we're not injuring any of the animals.

  • - So while all the works are happening on the project,

  • the site's still open, so visitors can still come,

  • and we're doing a whole range

  • of different activities and events and tours,

  • so that visitors can learn about what's happening.

  • - It's great to have visitors when we're on a live project.

  • - So we're going be running scaffolding tours,

  • which are hard-hat tours with high vis,

  • so it'll all be quite exciting,

  • but it comes up above the height of the roof,

  • so visitors will be able to come up

  • and stand and have volunteers

  • and the contractors explain all the works

  • that's happening on the roof.

  • So we're doing something a little bit unusual at Belsay.

  • We're going to have a slide from this scaffolding staircase.

  • Not only do you get this amazing view,

  • but you get an opportunity to play with it as well.

  • So the slide will come off this platform

  • and take you down back down to ground level.

  • So there's some really cool facts and figures

  • about all this scaffolding.

  • There are 28 miles' worth of tubes, of the scaffolding tubes,

  • which would basically take you

  • from Belsay all the way to Durham.

  • There's 212 tonnes of scaffolding,

  • which is more than the Statue of Liberty weighs,

  • and all of these clips and the shackles,

  • the joint part of the scaffolding,

  • there's 28,000 of them used all around

  • and they've all been fitted by hand.

  • (Cheerful music)

  • - So this has been a bit of historical detective work

  • to try and work out what paper underlies

  • this cream emulsion paint.

  • I'm Lisa Vere-Stevens,

  • and I'm a collections project conservator

  • at English Heritage.

  • And if you can look at an angle,

  • you can see a lovely decorative relief,

  • and from that, I pieced together, I was able

  • to find the original design, which is illustrated here.

  • So this room would've all been wallpapered

  • in this amazing foliage of beautiful different colours.

  • This paper was designed by J.H. Dearle,

  • who was the chief designer at the William Morris Company.

  • There are lots of different elements

  • of the conservation aspect that I'm involved with.

  • We have a programme of wallpaper conservation happening.

  • A specialist paper conservator has been

  • doing practical conservation treatment of the wallpapers,

  • of which we have about eight different decorative schemes

  • in 16 areas of the property.

  • Also, I've been working with the contractors

  • and specifying the internal protection of the building.

  • We've had to move about 550 stored collections.

  • To make them safe, we've had to remove them

  • from the top floor of the hall down

  • into temporary storage spaces on the first floor.

  • And as part of that, we have been doing a lot

  • of auditing of collections, cleaning of collections,

  • and checking of different materials.

  • So here we've got an Edwardian stove.

  • Basically this is the new kitchen at Belsay,

  • and it's not an area where the public have been able

  • to visit before, but we've taken the opportunity as part

  • of this project to do some conservation treatment of it.

  • It has been in a really, really sorry state.

  • With the brilliant help of volunteers

  • and historic property stewards,

  • they have been working so hard,

  • they've been removing rust and debris

  • that have built up on the surface,

  • I mean, soot debris inside has all been removed,

  • putting a preservative treatment on the surface,

  • so we're having a wax treatment into the internal areas,

  • and we're doing a wax blacking solution on external areas,

  • and you can see Jill working here,

  • buffing up the newly applied black wax treatment,

  • which has also been completed on certain elements