Mr Straw’s re-opens doors

National Trust propety Mr Straw's House is re-opening this weekend after the winter break (w110308-5e)
National Trust propety Mr Straw's House is re-opening this weekend after the winter break (w110308-5e)

A COPY of the Worksop Guardian from 1933 gives one of the best insights into the minds of the Straw brothers, whose house is now a musuem.

It is dated 8th September and was posted to them while they were on holiday at Scarborough.

National Trust propety Mr Straw's House is re-opening this weekend after the winter break (w110308-5d)

National Trust propety Mr Straw's House is re-opening this weekend after the winter break (w110308-5d)

Handwritten at the top of the front page is the address, Swifts Private Hotel, North Cliff.

In those days it wasn’t unusual to have your home paper posted to you while you were away.

“But what is unusual is that they brought it back with them,” said museum housekeeping assistant Kay Hardy.

But that was what the brothers did. They saved and hoarded everything, giving us a fascinating amount of social history.

“They had a kind of wartime mentality. They kept everything from bits of string to letters and receipts for everything they bought,” said Kay.

“There are boxes of their parents’ clothes here and their dad’s hat and coat was still hanging on a hook in the hallway when we took over the house in 1990, even though he died in 1932.”

The 1933 copy of the Guardian is on display in the front parlour of the house on Blyth Grove, Worksop, which reopens to the public tomorrow.

It cost two pence and the front page is full of adverts, the trend of the day, including one for the Guardian itself which trumpets: “Whatever you want to buy and sell the Worksop Guardian is the best medium for achieving your desire.”

It is on an acid-free board which helps to preserve it. Everything loose in the house is wrapped in acid-free paper during the winter closure and specially fitted dust sheets cover all the furniture.

The house, which was built in 1905, is closed from the end of October to March each year. That’s when Kay and her assistant Keira Woodward move in to clean it.

Kay has been looking after the house since it opened to the public 18 years ago.

She said: “In big stately homes the cleaners are able to move everything into the middle of a room and then work round it, but because these rooms are small we have to take everything out and then move it all back in again.”

“The back bedroom which was used for storage and is full of stuff takes us six weeks to clean on its own.”

It was estimated that were around 10,000 artefacts in the house, but there are actually 50,000.

Kay said: “A volunteer is still going through all the boxes of paperwork and keeps unearthing more interesting facts.”

During the winter all the rooms are vacuumed and cleaned according to National Trust conservation methods. Kay said they have also received special training in how to wash delicate textiles.

Once all the cleaning has been done the dust sheets can be removed, and the tissue paper removed.

Then everything has to be put back in position.

“After 18 years I know where everything goes, but I still find it fascinating working here.”

The Straw brothers, William and Walter, lived at number seven Blyth Grove with their parents William Senior and Florence and also owned the adjoining semi at number five. This winter’s severe weather caused problems when water pipes in number five burst and water travelled along the roof joists into number seven.

Kay said: “We had to get big dehumidifiers and fans in to dry it all out. One good thing about the freezing temperatures though has been that we haven’t had any problem with mould like we normally do, especially on places like the piano keys.”

William Straw senior made his money through the family grocery business in Worksop. He paid £767 two shillings and six pence for number seven in 1920 and then had it decorated throughout before moving his family in in 1923.

The wallpaper in the front parlour cost £100 and would once have been rich blues and golds, but years of open fires and pipe and cigarette smoke have turned it to a dark grey.

The Egyptian carpet leading from the hallway up the stairs was top quality as well, and put there to impress visitors coming in at the front door.

Cheaper carpet was used further up the stairs of the three-storey property, explained Kay, although William junior’s attic bedroom boasts a Harrods carpet.

He had a habit of putting explanatory labels on furniture and pictures, such as that on a child’s rocking chair which he notes was a present to his mother on her fifth birthday.

It’s almost as if he knew he was saving everything for posterity.

Visits to Mr Straw’s House are on a pre-booked timed basis. It is open Tuesday to Saturday, 11am to 4pm, and tickets cost £6.60 adults, £3.30 children and £16.50 for a family ticket for two adults and up to four children. To book call 01909 482380.