Profile: Barbara Leigh
Starring in the new National Trust TV ad was a perk of volunteering, but being able to keep the memory of Churchill’s former home alive is something Barbara feels passionate about.
‘I’m one of those people where if you say “do you want to try this?” I’ll say “yes”. If I don’t like it, I don’t have to do it again. I think that’s why I got into volunteering.’
‘A group of friends and I had Fridays off, so we formed what we called the Friday Club. Each week we’d visit a different National Trust property. We’ve been to Chartwell a few times, and to save keep dragging them down, I thought I’d look in to volunteering there.
A fascination with Churchill
‘I’ve always been fascinated by Churchill. My father was involved in World War Two, so I’ve long been interested in the history, and in Churchill in particular.
I live in Essex, so it’s a bit of a drive to Chartwell, and work three days a week, so I couldn’t commit to too many days. But they were happy for me to do as much, or as little, as I could fit in.
I love the house. I’ve got a big garden, so I didn’t want to work in the garden, or the shop. They were fine about it, so I got my wish and now volunteer as a room steward.
There’s a steward who worked at Chartwell in the 60s, when Churchill lived there. I clung to her when I did my first shifts, she knows so much, she’s wonderful.’
A complete tonic
‘It’s not a very big house, Americans are often quite shocked by how small it is. It’s a real family house, you can imagine yourself living there. I especially like the study, I can really imagine him there.
At Chartwell the visitors are lovely. They’re so appreciative of answers to questions and the help you’re giving them. It’s a complete tonic for me.’