Meet Quebec House volunteer, Alison

Volunteer, Quebec House

Alison Wood - Volunteer

One of our Conservation volunteers at Quebec House, Alison tells us why she started volunteering with us and what makes her stay.

Quebec House volunteer Alison

Why did you decide to start volunteering at Quebec House?

When I retired from full time work, I looked around for a local volunteering opportunity which I would never previously have had time for. There were several open roles with the National Trust and I chose Quebec House because it was a smaller property, with the chance to get to know the whole place. I applied as a Conservation Volunteer, as I thought I would prefer a ‘behind the scenes’ role to front-of-house, for two hours a week on a Wednesday morning, which was ideal for me.

What do you do as a volunteer?

We keep the show rooms and their contents spick and span for visitors and look after them so that they can continue to be enjoyed by everyone in the future.

When the house is open, we clean all the rooms once a week, including dusting and vacuuming, we make sure all glass display cases are free of sticky fingermarks, we look out for any signs of pests - moths, ladybirds, beetles etc. alive or dead! - that might be causing damage to the furnishings and we look for any new wear and tear that may need urgent attention.

We cut flowers and foliage from the pretty Quebec House garden and put them in each room for fresh decoration.

During the winter close season, we do a programme of ‘deep cleaning’ and reviewing the condition of all the contents against the inventory records. For example, wooden floors, staircases and furniture is waxed and polished, ceramics are ‘damp swabbed’ (painstakingly cleaned with damp cotton buds!), furniture is checked for any signs of damp or mould, furnishings are cleaned using a special vacuum cleaner.

All the cleaning is done using techniques and products suitable for old and precious items, and we are lucky that we can get expert tuition from specialists, from our House Manager and from the most experienced volunteers.

What is the best thing or your favourite part of volunteering at Quebec House?

We have a small regular conservation team here, so it’s nice that we all get to know each other quite well, as well as building a pretty in depth knowledge of the house collection and how to take care of it - which is exactly what I was hoping for when I volunteered for this role. We take a real pride in ensuring Quebec always looks its best so that our tour guides and room stewards can show it off to visitors.

You can also get involved in other ad hoc volunteering activities, or take on additional roles!

Quebec House is part of the wider Chartwell portfolio (including Chartwell itself and Emmetts Garden), and we have the CEQ Volunteers group, which arranges talks, outings and other social events.

What would you say to anyone thinking of volunteering?

I would thoroughly recommend it… there are lots of different roles and types of property so there's something to suit everyone no matter how much or little time you can spare. Check the National Trust website to see what opportunities there are and come along to find out more.