What a year it has been!!

When 2012 began I had no idea that I would be where I am now! I feel like I have grown up and experienced so much in this past year!

My lovely housemates, Becky and Mel

My lovely housemates, Becky and Mel

I headed back to uni early January to begin the second half of my final year, and crack on with my dissertation! I wrote my dissertation on the careful balance the heritage industry must strike between conservation and access, a topic of great interest to me, and one that has been discussed many times during my time here at Powis. This dissertation set me up with a good understanding of the interesting challenges the Trust and other companies face, and I have been building on that base of knowledge dramatically with practical experience, putting the theory into practice.

Although I was working hard I was also making the most of remaining time as a student, going out on regular socials with the Worcester Royals American Football Team (many involving fancy dress, as you do).

Me and my fab housemates dressed up for the 80s Cop Social

Me and my fab housemates dressed up for the 80s Cop Social

The end of March brought about my 21st birthday, something I was looking forward to and dreading all at once. 21 had always sounded so grown up and glamorous and I didn’t feel enough of either of those things to be reaching that milestone! However this side of 21 it doesn’t seem so scary, and I have learnt as long as you can be mature when needed, you have to grow old but you don’t have to grow up!

Me and Becky at my 21st

Me and Becky at my 21st

On April 27th I handed my dissertation in 😀 a week before the deadline! What a relief to have it off my hands and know I could do no more with it. I really enjoyed doing the research but , as of with anything of that importance, writing the final piece and getting it to a point I was happy and confident with was not the most relaxing of experiences, but the hard work and worry made it all the sweeter seeing it bound and handing it in.

About to hand my Dissertation in!

About to hand my Dissertation in!

I had my interview for the job here at  Powis Castle on May 2nd, travelling to Welshpool on the train and having my first look at the castle. I was amazed by the property and the collections, I remember being particularly enamoured by the Pietre Dure table and the Clive Museum in general, a room that really makes an impression when you walk in! I loved the property and it only made me want the place even more! Luckily the didn’t keep me waiting long.

The next day was my dissertation deadline, and subsequently ‘dissy demo’, the celebration all student have after handing in, and all our hard work is over! And as I was getting ready to celebrate I got the much hoped for phone call, I had achieved a place at Powis Castle to spend a year learning all about working for the National Trust in one of the best collections in the country! At the end of May I got my last grades for my degree, it was all hanging on these final three to see where I would fall, a 2:1 or a 2:2, and I managed something I had not done up until that point at uni, I got an A! Not just one in fact but 2!! and that put me firmly in the 2:1 category! So pleased and proud! All in all May was a very good month, and I would be sad to leave Worcester, but very excited for the next chapter; Welshpool!

Me and Becky celebrating at Dissy Demo

Me and Becky celebrating at Dissy Demo

I moved to Wales on the 5th June and started work the next day. It was a huge change moving from Greyfriars to Powis Castle, National Trust properties on opposite ends of the spectrum in almost all respects, but I enjoyed the challenge! It has been great learning the ropes in a place with such a vast and varied collection, filling all the gaps in my knowledge when it comes to knowing how to clean different items of the collection. Within my first month I had already done so many different things! New experiences galore!

Powis Castle

Powis Castle

I had a crash (hopefully not actually!) course in building scaffold, something I am now highly practiced in! When I joined the House Team were mid-way through the annual store check which was amazing! Getting to see all the amazing items in the collection that are on display is one thing, but getting to see all the other objects held in the stores, I am a very lucky lass! The Clive Store was fascinating and the Textile Store appealed to my love off all thing sewn. Some of the items in the stores are so beautiful and I hope we can find more ways to display them, like we have done with the Winter Offer in the Ballroom.

Although I already knew unofficially, it was nice to get my official confirmation of my 2:1 in the middle of June. I am so proud of myself, I worked hard in my three years of uni, and as well as all the fun and brilliant experiences I came out of it with, I also got the grade I really wanted!

Flying high!

Flying high!

Something I had never thought I would enjoy as much as I have done is the interpretation side of the work here, a side not many House Teams have the time to take part in. I have been working on a few different projects, increasing the depth of information available in the Clive Museum, writing my objects of the month, and updating and rejuvenating the room folders, a hugs task but will help me in my goal to increase my knowledge about the property. I also took a significant part in organising the Magical Winter Offer that has been taking place at the Castle, our Fairy Tale Takeover, which has gone down really well! All the positive feedback fills me with pride and it is wonderful to see people enjoying the result of our hard work!

Dining Table

Sleeping Beauty’s courtiers

I have increased my understanding of pest management and environmental monitoring in Trust properties, through shadowing and questioning my ever patient colleagues and training courses. And after the pest management course I even got chance to implement an Integrated Pest Management scheme at another Trust property, Benthall Hall. I have loved getting the opportunity to visit new Trust properties, and to go behind the scenes! I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied being a visitor without getting to go behind the rope again. Whilst I have been at Powis I have been lucky enough to visit Tredegar House, Benthall Hall, Penrhyn Castle, Erddig,  and Chirk Castle, and I hope to visit many more!

Erddig House

Erddig House

The Old Kitchens

The Old Kitchens

I have met the Earl of Powis, stood on the roof of two castles, come within feet of stags and deer, been followed by beautiful peacocks, tried (and failed) to catch bats, visited Heelis (head office of the NT), met the new Director General, flew over the castle in a Hot Air Balloon, been responsible for bringing Powis Old Kitchens back to life, graduated in Worcester Cathedral, and met so many interesting people and I’m just over half way through my time here! I know I am so lucky to be here having these amazing experiences, and I am so proud of how far I have come in the last year. People often say they cannot believe I am working voluntarily for a year but I know I am working hard to achieve my dream job, and gaining so much back in return!! Here’s to hoping 2013 will be even better, and that all my hard work will pay off at the end of my time here at Powis! Best wishes to you all for 2013! I hope next year brings amazing things for us all!!

Graduation at Worcester Cathedral

Graduation at Worcester Cathedral

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Baby it’s cold outside!

Brrr it’s chilly here at Powis, but oh my! does the cold weather allow for some beautiful scenery! The gardens look so different to how they did this summer but they are still enchanting! Every morning I’m torn between lingering to admire the view and getting into the warm as fast as possible. The other day I took my time and a couple of photos and this morning Ben nearly froze his fingers off taking some brilliant shots!

Frosty Lawn

Cobwebby Wyvern

Tall trees

Peacock

Frosty Trees

Frosty Formal Gardens

rats and rabbit

If this is what the gardens look like after a few frosty days then I can’t wait to see what it looks like after snow! Meanwhile inside we have been working very hard as always! We are right in the middle of the winter clean which is really exciting, I’m learning loads of new skills and working with items I have never worked on before! I have been moving the scaffolding about so often It’s even entered into my dreams!! and the other day I went to the top of the scaffold in the Library! Something I have wanted to do since I started here so I can tick that off my bucket list! We are also starting to gear up for our new year offer, I am looking forward to it as we are only open weekends so it will be a very different experience!

The last couple of weeks have also been a bit of a social whirl, I have officially been to my first work’s Christmas do, which was really nice. The whole property has not been out together since I’ve been here and it was a great laugh! However I think the restaurant will hesitate before giving such large parties rocket balloons and party poppers again! It was a bit of mess when we had finished our meal! Then at the end of last week I went home for a bit, which was much-needed. I had a nice break catching up with old friends and getting to know the new area my mum has moved to. If you want to know more about what we got up to here’s a link to my mum’s blog with some pretty photos of our walk, that turned into a bit more of an ice skate really!

We also went to visit Harewood House, which was really lovely! I was so envious of their kitchens as they have loads of copper-ware and fake meats and pies! I would love for Powis to have similar things but we just haven’t got the budget unfortunately. Hopefully these things can be added in the future. This picture is from their website.

harewood_kitchen

 

Then this week I have been out every night so far! Monday was the volunteers Christmas meal, which the staff served at and then when the Volunteers had gone home we had a meal too. It was so nice to get all the volunteers together and the atmosphere was very festive. It was an epic task for Charlie and the Kitchen staff to undertake but they handled it brilliantly and the food was delish! I have good fun serving as well, I’ve never really done much like that before, save two weeks work experience at a Silver Service restaurant, so I was a little nervous I would spill something or drop a plate! However our vols are lovely and were really friendly and helpful, and aside from occasional mickey taking very forgiving of my in-expertise! Everyone had a lovely time and a good laugh, and it was very rewarding to sit down with everyone who had been serving at the end and have our meal (and we got all the spare food too!).

Xmas dinner

Tuesday was the Christmas party at the local knitting group I got to in Welshpool, most of the ladies there volunteer at the castle, and we had a huge buffet and Secret Santa, and again a really good giggle. Yesterday Me and my housemates went round to Emma’s for tea and we watched Nativity. If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it, as it made me feel so Christmassey! The kids were so cute and I love Martin Freeman anyway! I’m hoping to catch the sequel which is in the Cinemas this Christmas (starring David Tennant!) Tonight I am out again at the House Staff Christmas meal at the Greek restaurant in town, which promises to be really good fun. We’re doing Secret Santa as well and I can’t wait to see the reaction of the person who is going to receive  mine! Then I get a night in on Friday and Saturday I’m out again helping with the Carol Concert were hosting in the Ballroom, and we get to sing along!!

Wishing you all the festive cheer that seems to be in abundance here at Powis!! And I shall try my very best to update you more often on my tooings and frooing. Keep warm!!

 

Recommended Reading

To steal a phrase from my university days I am going to put forward a little recommended reading list of some fabulous National Trust books, but beware, they will make you want to travel the length and breadth of the country until you have visited every property and seen every item featured!

I final graduate from my undergraduate degree at the beginning of the month and as a graduation gift my mum bought me some Trust books to peruse. It made me realize I seem to be building up quite a collection of heritage type books, with a particular focus on the National Trust.

'The Archaeologist's Bible'

‘The Archaeologist’s Bible’

The first book I’m going to recommend is what we nicknamed ‘The Archaeologist’s Bible’ at uni; Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice. By Renfrew and Bahn. We were told to read it in our fist year so I went online and bought one and still refer to it today. This book helped me write so many essays over my three years at uni and is a really good starting point for someone, like me, who has no real knowledge of archaeology beyond Time Team. This books covers every topic you could need to know in an easy to understand and interesting way.

Another book that helped me, especially in my first year at uni was Kevin Green’s Archaeology; an Introduction. 

Archaeology; An Introduction

Archaeology; An Introduction

A book I have spent a lot of time studying and a brilliant tool published by the National Trust is their Manual of Housekeeping. This incredibly comprehensive manual is regularly updated and ensures that every Trust property has the same information to refer to. It covers every question you could have with regards to housekeeping, conservation, winter cleans, moving, storing and caring for objects ect. I used it a lot when I was working at Greyfriars as there were no other conservation Assistants for me to ask, and it helped me understand a lot of the reasons for doing thing the way the trust does them. I also used the manual in my dissertation, and would recommendatory purchasing it if you want to go into conservation.

The National Trust Manual of Housekeeping

The National Trust Manual of Housekeeping

When I wrote my dissertation, discussing the delicate balance between conservation and access in heritage properties, I used the National Trust as one of my case studies. This was because of the time I had spent at Greyfriars giving me an insight into the way the Trust did things. A book I used quite a lot in my literature review was Merlin Waterson’s The National Trust. The First Hundred Years. It is a really interesting book that I originally borrowed from the uni library but ended up buying myself a copy and one for my mother for last Christmas. It gives a good overview of how the charity came to be and showed me just how much things have evolved, but how the main principles and beliefs are still firmly at the core of what the Trust do today. It is a really good book for anyone interested in the National Trust.

The First Hundred Years

The First Hundred Years

These books really helped me through my university career and I still read and refer to them today, a great set of books to give anyone a good solid understanding of Archaeology or Conservation in the Heritage Industry.

The next few books are more recreational reading. I mentioned in my Erddig post that I visited their second hand book shop and bought a few more books from their gift shop also. I have begun collecting guide books from different National Trust properties, new guide books and old ones that often turn up in Trust properties’ second hand book shops. These are great souvenirs with fantastic pictures in them. I also use them to jog my memory of all the different properties I have visited!

On my visit to Erddig’s book shop I bought a lovely book called And so to Bed by Margaret Willes. I bought this book as it appeals to my love of textiles, it has images of all my favourite beds from the properties I have been visiting; the State bed at Erddig, and our State bed here at Powis, as well as the gorgeous brass bed at Penrhynn. Another wonderful souvenir of one of my favourite aspects visiting Trust properties.

And so to Bed

And so to Bed

In the Erddig gift shop I treated myself to a book called Great Houses of the National Trust by Lydia Greeves. Again this book allows me to look at the fab properties in the Trust’s care, and add more to my list of places I would love to visit/work! There are more stunning photographs and a good overview about each property and why it qualifies as a ‘great’ house. I was very pleased to see Powis Castle was in there too! I would recommend this book as an overview of the amazing properties the Trust cares for.

houses

Then as a graduation gift from my mother she bought me two new books on Trust properties and their contents. Big hefty books full of gorgeous pictures!

Me at Graduation outside Worcester Cathedral

Me at Graduation outside Worcester Cathedral

The first book is called Houses of the National Trust also by Lydia Greeves. Similar to the above book it is full of beautiful pictures of stunning properties, and makes me realised how lucky we are as a Nation that the Trust protects these places, but also makes me realise how lucky I am personally to be able to work for the Trust, get VIP access to these stunning properties, and help protect them for others to enjoy! I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in historic properties, but it is a bit pricier than Great Houses, but has more content.

Houses of the National Trust

Houses of the National Trust

The final book I’m going to recommend is Treasure from The National Trust. This book is amazing! So beautiful and makes me so pleased to work for the organisation that cares for all these stunning objects! It was really interesting to look at the objects features that are in our collection. There are several featured from Powis (yes, I’m rather smug about that fact) but the most interesting thing is that they are not necessarily the most valuable (in financial terms), nor the most rare or unusual, and the selection in the book is probably not what the house team would have picked. However some of the items in the book are some of the items I included in my list of favourite objects so obviously I have great taste!

And to finish this post here are a couple of books next on my shopping list!

The Art of Dress

The Art of Dress

The Art of Dress by Jane Ashelford, to feed my love of textiles!

Life below stairs

Life below stairs

Life Below Stairs by Sian Evans, recommended to me many times, and anyone who like me love Downton Abbey!

To the Manor House Reborn

To the Manor House Reborn

To the Manor House Reborn. I have wanted to read this book after watching the first episode of the series, it seems like such an interesting and challenging projects undertaken by the Trust and I would love to visit the property as well!

If you are looking for some interesting and educational reads or just Christmas shopping in general let me point you to the National Trust gift shop on line, I have done most of my present shopping in our gift shop so hopefully you will be abel to find something there, or just something to treat yourself!

http://shop.nationaltrust.org.uk/