KEEPING Gawthorpe Hall and all its precious exhibits and artefacts spotlessly clean is no mean feat.
But it is a labour of love for Mrs Karen Steward who has been rewarded for her devotion to duty.
Karen was named as Lancashire County Council’s Employee of the Year in the Pride Employees Award Scheme to recognise staff who go beyond the call of duty to deliver services people use every day.
Karen, who has worked at the hall in Padiham for 10 years, said: “I was thrilled to receive the award and never expected to get it in a million years. I love my job, it is so varied and no two days are the same.”
Karen worked in the catering industry for many years before deciding she wanted a change. But working as a cleaner involves a lot more than just running a duster over everything!
Special care has to be taken with the many arts and treasures on display at the four-storey Jacobean Hall.
Karen, who lives within walking distance of the hall in Padiham Road, Burnley, said: “I use beeswax for all the furniture which involves a lot of elbow grease so it keeps me fit!” Karen, who works five days a week at the hall, usually starts on the top floor and works her way down. Her busiest time of the year is between October and March when the hall is closed and the big winter clean-up takes place.
Karen (49) who has a son Thomas (22) said: “Last year we had 28,000 visitors through the doors so you can imagine how dirty and dusty everything is. We have to erect scaffolding which I climb up to clean the ornate ceilings and we spend a lot of time cleaning the delicate items such as the ceramics, vases and all the silver. We also clean all the carpets and wooden and stone floors.”
Although someone cleans the windows outside, Karen has to clean them inside and uses the old-fashioned method of vinegar in paper before drying them off with a cloth. And that usually takes two weeks!
Karen added: “I also show visiting groups round and sometimes act as steward. I love being at Gawthorpe with all its history and heritage, I feel very privileged to work here.’’