Hello to any current and hopefully future readers of this blog.
To introduce the author’s, we are Alex, Alice, Lucy, Melinda, Sarah and Zena – together we are the Knole Conservation Team.
We are responsible for the day-to-day care and preservation of the fragile and historically important collection at Knole.
Through this blog we hope to tell you about all the weird and wonderful things we get up to in the course of our daily work. It’s not all vacuuming and dusting, although we do an awful lot of that too!
Welcome to the world of Preventive Conservation!
Sarah – Conservation Assistant:
I came to Knole as a Conservation Assistant in 2005. I have worked for the Trust before in the late 90’s at Chartwell in Visitor Services, so I’ve seen both sides of how the Trust work to engage the public at their properties. I really enjoy our work at Knole, we are very fortunate to have such hands-on access to a varied and historical collection. Each day is different, with new challenges; it certainly keeps you on your toes. Even in the few years I have been here there have been many changes to our role and it’s a privilege to be at the core of what goes on in the House. One of my favourite things about Knole is the fabric of the building, the wood panelling and floors, and decorative ceilings create lovely galleries in particular. My favourite object is the large Imari dish at the top of the Lead Stairs.
Melinda – Conservation Assistant:
I joined Knole as a Conservation Assistant in 2007 after a year as a room steward. My time volunteering as a room steward helped me to decide that I really wanted to work at Knole in a hands-on practical role, and was lucky that a job in the Conservation department came along at just the right time.
We are a close-knit team who rely on each other and enjoy working together. For me, the highlight of the year is the winter season, where we thoroughly immerse ourselves in both cleaning the house and collection and observing many of the experts that come in to carry out specialist projects on the house. I consider myself extremely fortunate, as Knole combines an interesting job with great team spirit.
Alice – Conservation Assistant:
I joined the conservation team at Knole as a volunteer in May 2014 and have since joined as a member of staff. I’m loving every minute! Every day is different and you always come away having learnt something new. It’s also an incredible privilege to help care for the amazing house and collections at Knole.The National Trust has always been part of my life and it was visits to the unique and fascinating properties in their care which first inspired and nurtured my love of history.
My first taste of conservation was when I took on responsibility for the housekeeping of the site whilst working at Carisbrooke Castle. From then on I was hooked. I was lucky enough to be able to do a three month conservation internship at Basildon Park which I thoroughly enjoyed and which enabled me to learn more about the cleaning, conservation and handling techniques for a broad range of materials. However, I knew I wanted to develop my knowledge and skills further. So when the opportunity came to volunteer at Knole, I leapt at the chance.
One of my favourite parts of Knole is the Great Staircase; I love the beauty and hidden symbolism of the carvings and painted decoration. A special mention, however, has to go to the portrait of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey in the Cartoon Gallery, which I vividly remember from one of my first visits to Knole as child. We thought he looked very uncomfortable in his very tight tights!
Zena – Conservation and Engagement Assistant
I started my love affair with National Trust properties many years ago whilst still in my 20s. Whilst my friends’ idea of a great Sunday was an afternoon in the pub, mine was, and still is, a visit to a National Trust house and a post tour tea and cake!
I started as a Room Steward at Chartwell in 2009, always with the intention of trying to become part of the National Trust team of dedicated employees. I was advised that there were interviews coming up to become a Volunteer Conservation Assistant at Knole and was delighted to be offered the job in April 2012. Then early in 2013 I was offered an interview for, and given the role of Seasonal Conservation and Engagement Assistant, along with my very own National Trust fleece and T Shirt!
Not many people can honestly say that they love their job, but I can say I am a very happy, lucky lady. I get to walk in the footsteps of Kings and Queens, Lords and Ladies and work with furniture and objects that have been around as long as the house in some cases, I still catch my breath when I handle some items.
Alex – Conservation and Engagement Assistant
I joined the Conservation Team at Knole in November 2013 just as the open season was coming to a close. I’ve always loved history and visiting historic houses and so I always knew I’d end up following this interest into a job somehow! Following an MA in Museum and Heritage Management I volunteered at various NT properties whilst hoping to stay with the Trust permanently. I have been a Room Guide at Bateman’s, helped with the winter clean at Smallhythe Place and most recently I have worked at Bodiam Castle. I have enjoyed my time at each and every National Trust property and so far Knole is no different!
Volunteer Conservation Assistants
Lolly volunteers for us as an administrator and conservation assistant.
Following a change of heart in 2012, I quit the daily commute to London and a high stress job to do ‘something more meaningful with my life’. Initially torn between environment and heritage, I quickly discovered that history and conservation were passion that I really wanted to dedicate myself to.
I started volunteering at Knole in August 2012 as a room steward. This gave me an insight in the complex history of the Sackville line as well as one of its more impressive properties. In October, I first joined the conservation team as admin assistant and in July 2013, started to help with the daily visitor route cleaning.
Both roles have given me a real appreciation for the reality of looking after such heritage: a lot of hard work and dedication are required and yes, there is lots and lots of cleaning. But all worth it to get close to the collection and help preserve it for many generations to come. A truly privileged experience.
Val volunteers for us as an administrator and conservation assistant.
I joined the Conservation Team at Knole as an Administrator in October 2012. I have always had a keen interest in Conservation and Heritage nurtured by an early career stint in the Science Museum, London. It was evident that there is a lot happening at Knole and so an ideal time to find out more about Knole and conservation in the National Trust.
In addition to admin support I have also been involved with the ‘Knole Unwrapped’ project since March 2013. It has been a great learning experience and introduction to the more practical side of preventive conservation and collection management.
I have since joining the team gained a far better appreciation of the hard work involved in balancing, the caring for and preserving of such a unique house and collection whilst also allowing safe access to ensure it is shared with as many as possible.
Lucy – House Steward:
I joined the Conservation Team in November 2010 having previously been a conservation volunteer at Bateman’s. Since then I have learned so much both from the team and this remarkable building as well as successfully completing a Master’s degree in Heritage Management in 2013.
I have enjoyed many visits to Knole over the years and am delighted to play a part in the care of such a remarkable and unique property. Being part of the Conservation Team means there is fantastic variety within our day to day work, with tasks ranging from cleaning textiles to building scaffolding towers. I look forward to the winter clean when we have the opportunity to get a closer look at both the collection and the building itself.
Some of my favourite pieces from the Knole collection include the Boulle tables and clock found in the Ballroom and the ebony cabinet in the King’s Room. I am also interested in the many carvings that adorn the house, in particular the marble chimney pieces in the Cartoon Gallery and in the Ballroom.
I came to the National Trust in 1999 following work as a Field Archaeologist and then a brief stint in research. My first role was as House Steward at Lacock Abbey, moving to the position of House Manager at Hatchlands Park four years later. I’ve been at Knole since 2006 and my departments are conservation and collections and premises/facilities management. I’m also very involved in the project, working on the showrooms and new spaces and in providing the information for our interpretation in those areas. I act as client for the showrooms/new spaces and am also working as part of the team looking at the interpretation in the new Conservation Studio which will open next year. Knole encompasses some of my favourite architectural periods (Medieval to Jacobean), a C17th collection and an intriguing building archaeology – of which there is still much to discover. The opportunity to combine my love of archaeology with history is perfect!
Siobhan – Project Conservator:
I originally trained and worked as a paper and book conservator, working in a variety of private and public institutions such as the Athenaeum Club, The Houses of Parliament, Kew Gardens Herbarium, The Royal College of Surgeons and a variety of NT libraries across the country. I joined the NT in 2000 as regional conservator for the South East, acting as an advisor on preventive conservation and housekeeping. In May 2011 I became part of the Knole team as project conservator for the Inspired by Knole project. This 10-15 year project will be addressing serious building and conservation problems at Knole, opening up new spaces to the public and working on transforming our visitor experience.
Emma – Curator:
I have worked as a curator for the National Trust for the last five years with a portfolio including Knole, Sissinghurst, Scotney Castle and White Cliffs. This has included completion of a five year phased opening of the New House at Scotney and opening the visitor reception and Orangery at Knole. I have a specialist interest in furnishing textiles and costume and am a member of the Trust’s costume working group. Knole is an extraordinary place with many stories to tell and secrets to reveal. Part of my work as a curator is to ensure that the delicate balance of factors that make up Knole’s unique Spirit of Place is recognised and the significance of the historic landscape, built structures and collections understood. The Spangled Bed at Knole makes my eyes light up every time I look at it; it is amazing to me that such beautiful and delicate silk hangings have survived the ravages of history and time for over 400 years.