After my behind the scenes look at Erddig and chatting with the house team I was lucky enough to go on the two tours that Erddig offer. The property opens at 12.30 am and they have a ‘taster tour’ at 11.30 am and a ‘servants tour’ at 12.00. They were really good tours, giving background information on the property and the unusual relationship between the staff and their servants. The family had a touching tradition of taking very good care of their staff, even caring for them in their old age. They commissioned oil paintings of the staff done by noted artists, and later took photographs of them. The images were all accompanied by poems written by the family about the character of their staff. This showed affection towards them, as if they were family, and proved they knew their staff well.
After the two tours I had a quick lunch in the staff room, I spent my lunch chatting to the volunteers. Erddig has a lot more volunteers then Powis does, but they have need for them, having more rooms. I then walked round the property with an audio tour, talking to staff and volunteers as I was going around. It was a really interesting time to visit as the day before the had begun a trial of taking down some of the stanchions and ropes in several of the rooms, including the Saloon below. I picked this room as the chairs here are the same as the chairs here at Powis in the State Bedroom, obviously a popular style!
This is something that was discussed on our visit to Penrhyn and is a very interesting debate, lying close to the areas I studied when writing my dissertation on access Vs conservation. The fact that it was only the second day of the trial so it was still very much in progress. It seems that it will be a case of trial and error. Day two of the trial run and the alteration was to place notices in some of the rooms asking people to keep to the modern drugets, instead of walking across the historic carpets. This seems to be working better. However more adjustments will have to be made in order for the system to work out. Removing the stanchions and allowing increased access is part of the Trust’s policy of ‘bringing places to life’, however it can cause problems for conservation. This could be where the glass walkways come in, in the future, allowing people into the room without the increased wear and dust.
I talked to the volunteers and staff about their view on the changes, but it really seems like there needs to be more time, and more observation. The conflict between conservation and access is always on going, being closely monitored and adjusted if needed. The last room in the property was very interesting, it contained many odd and interesting items the family had collected. They were displayed in a long case in the centre of the room, with other objects in cases around the edge. The centre case was full of skulls, dried fish, shells, shoes, coins and other strange and eclectic items. Alongside were handwritten notes labelling the objects. This case was just like the ‘cabinets of curiosity’ that antiquarians displayed their collections in before they developed into the museum displays that we are familiar with. It was indeed a very curious collection of items!
After my (long) walk around the property I visited their second hand book shop. Most Trust propertied have these now, selling donated books to raise funds for the property. I do not spend much time browsing our own as I am usually dusting it, or opening or closing the area. This is probably a good thing as I love books, and got slightly carried away at Erddig, buying three books from the second hand book shop and two more from the gift shop, thank god for volunteer discount!
I could not stop smiling all day, everyone at Erddig was so welcoming and friendly. They were willing to chat and answer my questions about their routine, the property and the changes, and were very helpful when I may have got a little lost in the property. I feel so privileged to be able to go to these properties, and see behind the scenes like I have been doing so far on my internship. What I love about the Trust is their amazing range of properties, I have visited many but would love to visit them all. There are so many Trust properties I want to visit, and at the moment I am in a fantastic position to do so, and am learning so much with each visit!