I have been a Medieval Re-enactor for half my life and it has been an amazing experience, teaching me so many things, some that I often find useful in my job. I have never needed encouragement to dress up, and I get to wear some gorgeous clothes, so it is nice to know I am not the only one! Re-enactment season has started again, with a St George’s Day themed show at Bolsover Castle last weekend and one at Rufford Abbey this weekend, but I was feeling impatient for the show this weekend.
Luckily Thursday was costume day at Hardwick, when all our ‘Living the History’ volunteers don their fantastic Tudor garb and bring the Hall to life, talking to the public about Tudor life and dress. I was in my element, admiring all the clothes hand-made by our very talented volunteers. It was amazing walking down the Long Gallery and seeing everyone dressed up, it helped the imagination picture the Hall as it may have been in its heyday, when Bess was entertaining.
I know I am more than biased but I feel that events like the costume day, and the presence of costumed interpreters really enhance properties. I love asking them questions, like about their costumes and they are so passionate and knowledgeable. I also love being on the other side, answering the public’s questions, and I love wandering around these fantastic sites in costume and imagining I have stepped back in time! It’s a really brilliant way of engaging people, especially children in history, bringing it to life, and having someone in costume to talk to makes it all seem that bit more real and relate-able, it makes the distant past more accessible. This is something I will always try to support (and take part in too!)
This week at Hardwick, when not oogling pretty costume, we have been carrying on the Deep Clean, we’re now in the Dining Room. I was mostly dusting the windows that are on the front of the Hall, I did get some odd looks from people outside! The weather was lovely and bright so I had a lovely time looking out while doing my cleaning. However this is going to have to go on hiatus for a little while over the next couple of weeks as we have a huge project coming up, we are re-hanging the returned Gideon Tapestries. Next week we are starting the preparation for the big event, which will be in a couple of weeks time. Firstly we shall be taking down the paintings that are hanging in the gaps where the returned tapestries will hang. There are twelve paintings to move in total, and we shall be building the scaffold in order to do so, it is a big job but I am looking forward to it. I shall tell you more about the project, along with how we got on taking the paintings down!
I also seemed to spend a lot of time changing light bulbs this week. Changing light bulbs? What a boring thing to talk about, well not when your changing bulbs in a historic property, it is not as straight forward as we would like it to be. The other day it took us 45 minutes to change 2 bulbs! We had to change one in the Entrance Hall lantern, using the big ladder. The ladders live on the top floor, and the big ladder is so big we have to carry it across the top floor to the main stairs, which are wide enough to carry it down, and the across the ground floor to the bulb. The ladder is then positioned over the table in the Entrance Hall, and I can get up to change the bulb. The second bulb was on the main stairs, but needed the medium ladder, so we had to take the big one back up and across the top floor, and bring the other down! Phew! However I do love looking around when at the top of the ladders!
This week I took my first tour round Hardwick! I love talking to the public and really enjoyed taking the tours round Powis. I do miss having the depth of knowledge I did about Powis but I am working on learning as much as I can about Hardwick, and taking the tour Thursday made me realise I have already learnt quite a bit! The tours are called ‘Last One Out’ tours, where we take members of the public round with us as we close up so they get a glimpse into a part of our daily routine.
It is so nice to be able to share this element of our day with the public, and they get to see Hardwick in a different light. We let them have a go at closing curtains and turning of lights, and we walk around the Hall by torch light. The tour was a lovely first tour as there were just a couple of people on it, a gentle start for me. Luckily these ‘Last One Out’ tours focus on our work and how we look after the property, the challenges we face and the steps we take to care for the collection. This element I am well versed in, and Claire and Sadie were on the tour with me so they answered the questions about the history I didn’t know. We make a fab team! I am looking forward to taking more of these tours, and will continue to build my general knowledge about the history so I can take other tours too. The House team is also going on tour training soon too!