Thanks to a bit of networking at a recent training course, an opportunity to do a spot of job shadowing presented itself and Snowshill Manor looked a perfect place to do this. The Snowshill was donated to the National Trust in 1951 by Charles Paget Wade. Mr. Wade had bought the property when he left the Army in 1919 and soon started restoration work. The Manor house of Snowshill dates back to the 16th century when it was first built using glorious Cotswold stone. It was restored in the 17th and 18th centuries, but was in need of more repairs when Mr. Wade saw it advertised in a magazine, and undertook a labour of love. An Architect by trade, Mr. Wade had an eye for collecting. He amassed an astonishing array of artefacts that range from Japanned cabinets, to musical instruments, to Samurai Armour, to bicycles, to toys, to children’s carriages to masks, too many to mention. All of them the finest examples of craftsman-ship. Over the years his collection grew so much he chose to live in a small cottage next to the manor house where he repaired and restored his collection.
I was keen to see how collections management works at another property, and what the house team get up to behind the scenes. The plan was for me to spend two days, one closed, one open, job shadowing the acting House Steward Vicki. As luck would have it, the first day was integrated pest management day and I do like my bugs. All the sticky pest traps are collected, inspected and recorded on a spreadsheet to monitor numbers and act accordingly if they increase. This is a museum and NT standard procedure of monitoring which little beasties are attempting to use the collection as a walk-in buffet. As there were quite a few traps to inspect, it did sound as if we were playing a conservation version of bingo. ’… Woodlouse, silverfish, Death Watch beetle… ‘ then silence. Woodworm, clothes moth and furniture beetle are the worst culprits but there’s a variety of different species of each to look out for.
For the second day, after a spot of conservation cleaning, for the full Snowshill experience, Vicki suggested I could do the daily briefing for the volunteers. Although a little in at the deep end, this was a great way of meeting a completely different team of volunteers. But first there was one job that had been set aside for me. Winding the 18thcentury turret clock. This is a challenging task due to it being on the visitor route, over a doorway and you need to bolt a ladder to the floor get to it! This was probably the oldest and largest exposed clock mechanism I had seen this up close and personal. The large winding handle does present a slight issue when shifting your weight at the top of the ladder, but thankfully the risk assessment had already been discussed. Made by Thomas Mears II, the clock has a handless time keeping design painted on the wall underneath. It’s even more impressive when it’s working!
A good 2 day’s work I think!
Robin Hancock – Assistant House Steward