Volunteering at Upton - two house hosts' experience

Volunteers Tony and Alison Mawbey explaining a painting to guests

Husband and wife volunteer couple Tony and Alison Mawbey started volunteering here together in 2015, but for rather different reasons.

Tony says: “I came to Upton largely because of the art collection. I am a practicing artist and an enthusiastic amateur historian and I love working out the story of each piece of art whether it be the artist, the subject or the historical context. When I then discovered the family and the history of the property then Upton became the ideal place for me."

Alison joined a few months after Tony, but says that her motivation was more around keeping busy. She explains: “I decided I would do some voluntary work when I retired to give myself a new interest.  Tony and I have been members of the NT since we got married and, as I have always enjoyed history, working in one of the houses in the area seemed to fit the bill.”

Tony and Alison now spend much of their volunteering hours running taster tours together. Tony says he thinks their relationship helps with the smooth running of the tours: “As husband and wife this works very well because there is always a chemistry we can utilize. I think Alison probably knows what I am going to do or say about ten minutes before I do!” Alison adds: “yes, I think it can be very helpful when Tony has the odd ‘senior moment’; I can usually anticipate it and then will step in and fill in the blanks.”

So, what do Alison and Tony enjoy most about volunteering here?

Tony says: “With volunteering, you get out of it what you put in. There is always something new, a story to research, a painting to discover or something I didn't know about the family. I enjoy sharing the story of Upton with the visitors and also, most importantly, listening to what they have to say. There is often more to be learnt by just listening to the visitors.

“The biggest benefit for me is having the opportunity to talk to a wide range of visitors and share my enthusiasm for the property and it's stories. If a visitor walks down the drive at the end of the day with a smile on their face then I think I have done my job.”

Alison says: “it has been fascinating to learn about the Bearsted family and about their beautiful collections of art and porcelain. It is a pleasure to be able to chat to our visitors and pass on this knowledge when asked and also to listen to their feedback on the house and its contents. It's very rewarding when visitors tell us how much they have enjoyed their time at the property.

“Volunteering at Upton House has triggered a great interest in the history of art.  We get to talk to people we would never have met and have made new friends with other Volunteers.  I feel it is a privilege to be part of the Volunteering team.  It's fun and fulfilling. I can thoroughly recommend it. Give it a go!”