What's it like to volunteer at Sizergh?
After popping along to one of our taster-days, Anne-Marie began her volunteering journey with the ranger team, lending a hand on the wider estate to help conserve our habitat for wildlife. Now, upon falling in love with the house, she spends her time as a room and tour guide, sharing our history with visitors and conserving this beloved family home. We caught up with her to ask a few questions on how she's found the past six years volunteering at Sizergh.
" Sizergh was the obvious choice for me as it has opportunities that cover my interest in nature and history."
We love that you’ve been out on the wider estate as well as volunteering in the family home, what made you choose Sizergh?
‘Sizergh was the obvious choice for me as it held opportunities that cover both my interests of nature and history. It was my first time volunteering, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I came for a taster-day where I was made very welcome and found it very interesting. I really enjoyed working out on the estate with the rangers, improving the habitat for wildlife, but it was the house that I fell in love with. I’m now a room and tour guide in the house. Also, when conservation projects crop up, I love to help with those!’
Tell us about your favourite object in the house?
‘I think it’s lovely that Sizergh still remains a family home to this day, and therefore the contents are things that the family have collected over the years. This means that we have everything from Romney portraits and Gillows furniture, to boomerangs and a duck billed platypus!
I love the floorboards in the banqueting hall where you can see the old adz marks – revealing their age! But as a favourite, I’ll pick an object that is often overlooked. A table made in 1708 for Winifred Trentham. It has an intricate design of birds and flowers and it holds a story of one of the many strong women at Sizergh. Winifred and her family went to live with the Stuart royal family, in exile, in France and this is the only piece of furniture belonging to her from that time.’
" Volunteering has made me realise I love sharing stories with visitors and helping the place come to life for them."
What’s your favourite room and why?
‘It’s difficult picking favourites, but I’d have to say the dining room. To me it represents the whole story of Sizergh, right through the ages. It’s located in the medieval tower, which was the first part of the house built by the Strickland family. It also gives visitors their first glance at Sizergh’s glorious Elizabethan woodwork - with an elegant ceiling and skilfully carved ornate over-mantle.
There are also portraits, once owned by the Stuart Royal family, hanging on the walls which are here because of historic links between the Stricklands and the Stuarts.
The large Victorian dining table, with just four legs, and the dumb-waiter are of interest to the visitors and bring them through time right up to the modern day, as these are still used by the Strickland family at banquets and Christmas celebrations.’
What’s the one thing that you’ll take away from your experience at Sizergh?
‘I have learned a lot in the last 6 years, about the house and family and I’ve also expanded my understanding of the conservation of historic objects. But for me I think the most important things I’ve learned are about myself. Volunteering has made me realise I love sharing stories with visitors and helping the place come to life for them, making their visit more meaningful (hopefully!).’
" For me, Sizergh has been my little bit of respite during stressful times, a place where once every week I can forget problems and pressures and just enjoy being in a lovely place with friendly people."
Why would you encourage others to volunteer?
‘All I can say is, if you have the time why wouldn’t you?! The beauty of being a volunteer is you can do as much or as little as you want. You will have wonderful support from staff and the opportunity to learn new skills and maybe get involved in something completely different.
It’s a great social activity as you are working with other volunteers and the public. For me working from home can be isolating so this has been a big positive for me. Even if you feel you are too busy or stressed it is worth giving it a go. For me it has been my little bit of respite during stressful times, a place where once every week I can forget problems and pressures and just enjoy being in a lovely place with friendly people.’