For all the faithful blog followers reading of my exploits at Dyrham Park, good news! I’m now working at Arlington Court and will be occasionally writing for the new blog there. Head on over for more of the same, and check out the blog by the Arlington Court Rangers too…
Unfortunately, the rumours are true… my time at Dyrham has come to an end. (Cue hysteria… similar to when Robbie left ‘Take-That’…) But life goes on and there’s a good opportunity to reflect on how much I’ve learnt. (As it turns out, you can actually ‘teach an old dog new tricks’.) The learning curve was pretty steep looking back to my early days, as I had no prior knowledge of conservation. As part of an HLF funded training course I was put straight to work and ‘in at the deep end’. Under watchful eyes, I quickly learnt a vast array of new skills ranging from the principals and practical applications of conservation cleaning, to the management of room humidity and uv light levels, and the control of the other agents of deterioration, visitor engagement and volunteer management. It’s been a wild and crazy ride that has been without doubt the best job I’ve ever had, and will be a real tough act to follow. But follow it I must so, (shameless plug coming up…) I am currently ‘seeking opportunities’.
Working at Dyrham has made me determined to achieve a career in the heritage sector in some way, so ‘have duster will travel’… Special thanks must go to my wonderful house team, Margaret, Bridget, Jane and Lin, and to Katy Dainton, my mentor for 9 months, who put up with me in the first place and House manager Eilidh for helping me in every way. I’ve signed up for a spot of volunteering to keep the skills fresh, so I will get to pop back once in a while, but this chapter is at an end… ‘It’s been emotional’…..
For Dyrham’s portfolio staff day out this year, it had been agreed for us to take a trip to Cornwall and visit Cotehele. I was childishly excited to be included on a trip to one of my favourite counties, and having not visited the property before, was looking forward to seeing the house. (Not so much looking forward to the 3-ish hr coach trip.)
The traffic gods were with us and after a pit-stop, arrived on time to be greeted with blazing sunshine. Splitting into small groups we scanned the area and chose what to do first. I elected to join Bridget, Nat, Ali and Cath to take a quick walk to the Quay to make the most of the weather. Luckily for my companions I had forgotten my swimwear. A short walk took us to the boatbuilding yard and after a little sightseeing spotted a good place for lunch. Suitably re-fuelled a short walk, (sure it was longer on the way up) took us back to the house.
A beautiful and impressive courtyard let to one of the most awesome entrance halls I’ve seen, impressively decked out with a variety of armour and weaponry. Bridget and I were each given the chance to hold what can only be described as a gargantuan sword. (The blade guard looked more like antlers) This, I think, gives a ‘don’t mess’ message to your dwelling – a ‘Tudor intruder’ deterrent. Our companions went ahead while we took our time. A seamstress by trade, Bridget was in heaven studying the many tapestries in the rooms and taking photos with her ‘iPatch’. (Not a typo, it’s what she calls her iPad) It was noticed by many during the day, usually with an ‘ooh what’s that?’ Maybe we should have got the Apple Company to sponsor the trip. If tapestries are your thing, then a visit is a must.
A familiar comment from over-hearing the odd conversation was how dark the rooms are. Rightly so, considering how unique tapestries are. Made entirely from organic materials, they are exceptionally fragile and prone to damage from UV light, as well as temperature and humidity changes. The time and skill involved in creating them is quite exceptional too. They would have usually been created by men working from the back of the tapestry, section by section, sometimes using a mirror to check progress of the design. Having finally made our way to the exit, we had a lovely stroll around the gardens and finished up at the tea-rooms. Sustenance was needed for our return journey, and what trip to Cornwall would be complete without a cream tea!
As the summer season draws to a close we had a trial run of a behind the scenes taster tour for our volunteers. ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ involved us taking a trip to see the highs and lows of Dyrham. Literally. The first port of call is up the Cedar stairs to our 8a storage room. Then up to the roof, (awesome view…) back down the Cedar stairs (taking in a quick peek behind the panelling, to see part of a servant’s route) to the ladder store. Then the Church passage, (no points for guessing where that goes) and the Boiler passage (wonder what’s in there…) and finally the Lamp room (which doesn’t have any actual lamps in) and finally the mysterious and spooky Cellar where it’s Halloween all year round. The few we have conducted so far have gone down a treat, but due to the amount of stairs – not for the faint hearted!
With many visitors comes much cleaning so although it will be sad to see the summer season (what summer?) pass, we are looking forward to having two closed days so we can steam ahead with our cleaning programme. A surprise hit this season has been an eye-spy trail in the house. Along with a house eye-spy trail and an Arts Council Collection eye-spy trail we have also had a mouse trail for the younger visitors. This clever little idea has participants looking for toy mice hidden in the house show rooms. 17 in all. (If 18 or more are spotted we do try to catch them….) It has been very interesting watching how competitive family’s can be! All in the name of fun.