A day in the life of Sue

Sue Keates, Bradley volunteer

Susan Keates - Sue Keates, Bradley volunteer

My name’s Sue Keates and I'm a volunteer room guide at Bradley Manor. I've been here for almost two years now and really enjoy it here, I’ve met a lot of people I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I get to spend every Thursday in a wonderful environment. It’s very rewarding.

The Great Hall at Bradley Manor

How I began volunteering

We moved to Devon in August 2015; in my previous life I was the manager of an independent bookshop in North Yorkshire. My husband took early retirement and we came down here to be nearer his family who all live in Devon. I gave up my job, my social life, friends and reading groups; everything that I did. I had a very lonely winter, as it turned out to be very hard to find another job.

We’d been members of the National Trust on and off for about 30 years and I had always wished I had more time to do things with the Trust. Also, where we had lived there weren’t a lot of houses; there was a lot of coast and countryside, but no properties where I could volunteer within easy distance. Devon is full of wonderful National Trust places and Bradley is within walking distance of my new house so I thought ‘well that’s what I’ll do, I’ll get involved and meet new people and enter a new phase of my life.’

What I love about Bradley

I love Bradley's age and telling people about the history going back to the 13th century. Thinking, 'people have been walking through this doorway for 700 years.' I’m Canadian and none of the built environment in Canada is that old. It was one of the things I loved most about Britain when I first came here; the sense of the continuity of history and human experience in the landscape and in the place.

I love the atmosphere here and the fact that it is a home; it feels very domestic and accessible. It’s not a stately home, it isn’t a place where you mustn’t touch anything. It’s a very nice place to be. There's a sense of happy family life and people actually living here rather than just being a showy-off place. Although, it is chilly.

A sense of history

I do feel the history of England is my history. My family were here – when I was growing up it was in living memory that the two sides of my family had gone to Canada from England; so these are my roots. I feel quite passionate about local history and social history. It’s wonderful that the National Trust has been showing a lot of interest in not just stately homes but everyone’s homes, everyone’s past, everyone’s history, and opening up servant’s quarters and the kitchens. We all count.

Why volunteer?

It’s a great way to get to meet people you wouldn’t normally meet – other volunteers, and the visitors, who often want to tell you rather more than they even want you to tell them. So you do have a lot of interaction.

I spent my life in retail and although books are magic and they’re wonderful and they’re very worthy, they are still part of a commercial enterprise. I really wanted to do something that felt like it mattered and had no commercial side to it. I know the Trust needs to raise funds but it’s a charity and it’s a good cause; it’s a bit different from a shop.

You’re working towards a common enterprise and common aims. ‘For ever, for everyone’ is such a brilliant slogan because it is exactly that. This is all of our heritage and it’s so important that it’s preserved and looked after, so I’m very happy to be doing a little part towards helping with that.