New blog post alert! All about volunteering.
Recently I went down to stay with my dear friend and help out at her work, as well as indulge in some much need catching up over tea and cake! Becky is the Heritage Manager at Droitwich Heritage Centre and I help them out by doing some conservation work there.
I started my career by volunteering and it is nice to still be doing some, especially knowing that what I am doing would other wise probably not get done. Money is so tight in the heritage industry and smaller places must be all they can to juggle all their needs on a small budget.
I have been down several times before to train staff and volunteers and to set up some good conservation practice. Doing something like this gives me chance to stretch my conservation muscles! This visit we did some object handling, metal polishing and decorated for Halloween! I just have to say that fake cobwebs are so much fun to play with!! I have since covered my house and the Still Room at Hardwick as well!
When I was not helping at the TIC we decided to do a little Trust visiting and go to Packwood House and, since it was so close, go to Baddesley Clinton again too. Packwood is known for its collection of tapestries, so obviously I was very interested to see their interpretation. The house was restored by Graham Baron Ash in the 1920’s & 1930’s.
The interpretation was done in a similar manner to that at Baddesley, where it was presented on objects, like printed on a rug or even a reproduction tapestry. I really like this style of interpretation. I tend not to want to read long pieces of information until after I have finished looking around a property, unless I want to find out something in particular. That’s why I always try to buy a guidebook, so I can read more about the property at a later date (and look up info’ for blog posts!). They had chosen to put quotes about Baron Ash, the house and the gardens from past visitors and guidebooks around the house.
Personally these quotes didn’t grip me or give me a sense of who Baron Ash was, as they were supposed to. I don’t know if this had something to do with the fact that I did not see a picture of Graham Baron Ash in the house (I may have missed it if there was one). Other properties where you get a strong sense of the people their faces are imprinted in your mind as a starting point for any other information to grow from. I left feeling like I wanted to know more about the man who I though you could admire for his take on conservation and for saving and creating such a unique property, specifically for visitors to enjoy.
However we did find out some really interesting information while we were there, like the fact that the timbers used in the building were recycled from Henry VIII ships! They can tell this by the crown symbol carved into one of the beams. There is also some graffiti carved into another beam, pictures of sailing ships, that they believe were done by the sailors on their long voyages. I love how something you could easily take for granted in a Tudor building has such a history of its own.
I really enjoyed that fact that the house didn’t have a visitor route, you were able to wander around how you wanted to and that made it feel like we were exploring. We were given a map with bits of information on which we used at the end of our visit to check we had seen everywhere. I also loved the floors upstairs, they were uneven and made some of the rooms feel like you were sliding down to one corner. I love this about older houses, and at Packwood it really reminded me of Greyfriars, where I had my first job with the National Trust.
Packwood’s gardens were really beautiful and somewhere I would like to go back to on a sunny day to fully explore. After stopping at Packwood’s restaurant for a cup of tea and slice of delicious chocolate cake our little party went on to Baddesley. It really contrasted with Packwood in how strong the many characters in Baddesley’s story are, and how full an image you get of them. The property has several paintings or photographs of the people it talks about which makes me thing there is something to my theory of needing that image to form an idea around. I really enjoyed it again and so did my friends, as you can see in this photo!
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Three weeks after my final deadline for my undergraduate degree in Archaeology and Heritage I moved to Wales to take up the amazing opportunity of a Conservation Internship with the National Trust at Powis Castle. This experience will provide me with the skills I need to go and achieve my dreams of working in the heritage industry to preserve our Nation’s physical history for the future, not to mention being a really interesting period of my life and great fun!
So I packed up my student room in Worcester and with the help of my Aunt and her camper-van made the journey the Welsh Marches. The following day was my first day on the job; meet the new long term volunteer at Powis Castle!
Having some experience working for the National Trust did not prepare me for life at Powis Castle. I previously worked and volunteered at a much smaller Trust property in Worcester; The Greyfriars House and Garden. This property and Powis are very different. Greyfriars is a small Tudor building in the centre of Worcester, with one full time member of staff. The collection was brought in to the property by the last owners, Elsie and Matley Moore and was sourced from auctions and jumble sales and junk yards all over the country. The Greyfriars is a beautiful little oasis in the middle of the historic city, as a posed to Powis Castle, a striking red brick building sitting atop a hill overlooking Welshpool and the surrounding area.
Powis Castle is the ancestral home of the Earls of Powis, who still have a residence there today. It was started in the Medieval period and has been through many phases of change between than and now. The collection is the finest in Wales, if not the UK and is incredibly varied. Due to its much larger size the Castle gets a much higher volume of traffic than The Greyfriars, which creates different challenges. The team charged with caring for the property is well into double figures, with different departments and specialisms. The Castle is always buzzing with activity. It is great to go from one end of the spectrum to the other, a real learning curve. The Greyfriars was the perfect property to start my journey with the Trust, and Powis provides the opportunity for lots of new experiences to be had.
So here I am at this amazing property in a stunning part of the world having a wonderful little adventure, and this is my log of my uniquely privileged year at Powis Castle.