Life as a volunteer at Mr Straw's House

Mr Straw's House volunteer Sheila Massey
National Trust

Welcome Guide & Collections Volunteer, Sheila Massey, discusses her volunteering at Mr Straw's House.

Tell us a little about your role at Mr Straw's House.

I am a Welcome Guide, working in reception, greeting visitors and issuing tour tickets as well as dealing with shop and refreshments sales, and answering the telephone, which is usually someone ringing to book a tour.

I am a member of the collections management team, working on the cataloguing, recording and photographing of the collection and updating the Collections Management System (CMS).

I also belong to the Friends of Mr Straw's House, a group dedicated to raising funds for conservation. I'm usually found serving tea and cakes in the orchard car park on the first Saturday of the month during the season.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I enjoy meeting visitors and helping to ensure they enjoy their visit, but my first love is the CMS team, working to record items from the house. It is mind-blowing to think that the work we are doing now will be available for members of the public to see and enjoy forever on the Trust's Collections Online website.

It is very exciting when we discover an unusual item, previously unseen by the public. The house is a treasure trove of intriguing objects, furniture and pictures, as well as hundreds of paper documents and items brought from the grocer's shop.

What made you want to volunteer?

This is my second season working as a Welcome Guide and my first as part of the CMS team. I wanted to do something interesting and useful when I retired from work. Having recently discovered Mr Straw's House, I jumped at the opportunity to become involved as a volunteer.

Who do you think should volunteer at Mr Straw's House?

Anyone with spare time, with an interest in recent history and with a firm belief that the past should be preserved and conserved for future generations will find volunteering at Mr Straw's House extremely rewarding and enjoyable. Whether your role is front-facing or behind the scenes in conservation work, working in the garden or helping with fundraising, you will be drawn into the magic of Mr Straw's House.

Tell us something we don't know about the Straws!

The elderly brothers, William and Walter, would dress in their Sunday-best dark suits and bowler hats to attend St John's Church in Worksop every Sunday. The younger members of the congregation called them Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, a title which makes perfect sense when you see the photograph of them taken in the early 1970s and donated to the house by a visitor.