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Farringford House, Isle of Wight – Forgotten. Restored. Protected.

Front of Farringford, Isle of Wight

Meaco have been manufacturing and installing radio telemetry systems since 1993 when the very first wireless system for collecting data on temperature and relative humidity in museums was supplied to the V&A.  Since then hundreds of radio systems have been installed right across the UK and Europe in museums, stately homes, libraries and archives – making Meaco unique in that they only work with the Heritage Sector and all their products are specifically designed for collections care

Built in 1802 Farringford was the main home of the Victorian poet Alfred Lord Tennyson from 1853 until his death in 1892. The house remained as a family home until becoming a hotel in 1945.  In 2011 work began on restoring the house to what it would have been during Tennyson’s time there. In 2017 Farringford was finally opened to the public.

The Library with Tennysons writing desk

Farringford contacted Spencer & Fry (Preventive Conservation Consultants) for advice on how to look after their artefacts. During a site visit a condition audit and risk assessment were carried out for a Collections Care Plan. Incorrect relative humidity was deemed a potential risk to the historic collection as there was no accurate data for the environment, a new heating system had recently been installed and damage seen during the audit possibly caused by low or fluctuating relative humidity. Recording the temperature and relative humidity was suggested. The options of spot readings and dataloggers were discussed, but a radio-telemetric system was the preferred approach as it had benefits of needing less staff time to get the data and the live function to warn of readings outside the desired ranges. “Meaco were recommended as they provide high quality equipment and offer excellent customer support,” said Claire Fry

Meaco MTX transmitter

This year Farringford contacted Meaco and they agreed on a wireless system with a number of transmitters placed throughout the house. The transmitters bring temperature and relative humidity readings back to the central office on a regular basis so that the Estate Manager has quick and easy access to the data.  With permission Meaco can also access the live and historical readings to provide help with the system and advice on the data collected. This is a huge benefit as the Estate Manager is not a trained museum professional and has no experience of preventative conservation.

The software offers an at a glance overview of all the transmitters so that any readings outside of the limits set by the team are highlighted. This means that time spent on the day to day interpretation of the data is kept to a minimum.  When a more in-depth understanding of environmental conditions is required then graph and report tools will provide easy interpretation of the data.

The transmitters chosen were the MTX transmitter in black. This allowed the units to be hidden as much as possible within the rooms and disappear brilliantly. Where this was not possible their compact size meant that they could be easily wall mounted using non-destructive methods right next to other modern fittings without any detriment to the aesthetics of the rooms.

The MTX also has a long battery life on just three AAA batteries meaning that they can be changed by the estates team, but this will not be needed for another couple of years at least.

The team at Farringford know that they can always speak to Meaco with any questions they might have and are already collecting some interesting and valuable data.

Following the visit by the Preventive Conservation Consultant the concern was raised about the impact that the under-floor heating may have on the historic collection.  There had already been evidence of damage caused by the environment and now the Estates team can easily see what effect the heating system is having – both on the relative humidity itself and the rate of fluctuation. This will become even more important now that the heating will be on over the winter period and necessary adjustments can be made to the temperature with immediate feedback on the effect that has on the relative humidity. Even small adjustments to the heating could have a major effect on the relative humidity and so help reduce the risk to the collection preventing damage in the long term.