Introducing Bethany Phelps from Dudmaston Hall

Published : Tue 24th Jan Author : National Trust

I work at Dudmaston Hall, a beautiful property in the Shropshire countryside. My role here involves working closely with the House Steward and myMentor, Kellie. I have gained the knowledge and confidence to work with all aspects of the collections within the House through training, job-shadowing and plenty of support from Kellie and the staff and volunteers at Dudmaston.

It is now 6 months into this placement, and I am very settled and extremely happy. We are halfway through closed season already, and so the countdown will soon begin to get Winter projects completed and the House ready for visitors again. I have a lot of tasks ahead of me to finish; who said closed season would provide a bit of a rest?!

Looking back on Beths first two weeks as a newbie and meeting the rest of the trainees on the Passport to your future traineeship

I was pretty nervous on my first day; however I needn’t have been because every single person I have met has been so friendly and willing to help me.By lunch time on the first day I had already been shown how to open up all the rooms and shutters in the house ready for visitors, had tea with the gardeners, met some of the Retail and Visitor Reception staff and a few of the house volunteers. The afternoon continued in the same fashion, meeting more staff on the property, and going on a guided tour of the house with a group of visitors and a tour of the formal gardens to try and familiarise myself with the property.

During the first week I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to accompany Kellie, my line manager, to a Green Champion Workshop day at the Zellig offices in Birmingham along with other nominated ‘Green Champions’ from properties all around the Midlands. This immediately gave me the bigger picture of the region, and the work that staff are trying to do to make Trust properties hit all the set targets over the next 9 years for saving energy, cutting energy costs and becoming more environmentally friendly. There were some really interesting issues raised and discussed that I would never have considered, and I discovered how much the little changes we can make at our individual properties really can contribute to the overall result.

On my fourth day I spent time with the Conservation Assistant who comes in one day a week to help with the Housekeeping. General housekeeping was the first task of the day with on-the-job training to ensure all the rooms were vacuumed and the surfaces all free of dust and fingerprints. I learnt about the correct equipment to use for the different tasks, and the frequency and depth of cleaning required according to location and object condition.Other tasks I assisted Kellie with in the first few days were opening up the shop one morning, and spending some time in Visitor Reception to welcome visitors and learn how the till systems and ticketing works.

The first week flew by, in a whirlwind of trying to remember everyone’s names, find my way around the place, and delving into the paperwork that is required for the Passport.I really enjoyed the complete variety of things I was learning how to do, and remained very excited at the prospect of continuing to do so over the next 12 months.

Week two

Week 2 came around quickly, and I worked my first Sunday. Dudmaston Estate has limited opening hours due to the agreement with the current donor family who still live here. We are only fully open 3 days a week (Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday) so Sundays are the busiest days. I was a little apprehensive about what the day would bring, as I was still getting to grips with everything I’d been shown and told and also continuing to learn new things every day – every hour actually! However, there was no need to worry as the day went smoothly and I was able to call upon Kellie if needed.

By this point I already had the responsibility of opening up the house ready for visitors. This is a routine that I am now very familiar with (it’s one of my dedicated tasks). It includes firstly unlocking all the room doors and opening the large window shutters, and then just before opening time I go round the house again to open all the window blinds and switch on the room/cabinet lights following specific requirements for each room. When the House Volunteers arrive I help them to put out all the ropes, signage and room interpretation guides. Then there is the process of organising the volunteers, and going through the process of assigning rooms to steward and tea breaks to cover.

Meeting the rest of the bunch at induction!

The second week also brought with it the Training days where I got to meet the other 9 trainees on the HLF Placements. This was held inSwindon, so we got to visit Heelis (National Trust head office). We were able to have a look around and learn about the interesting ecological design and structure of the architecture, as well as begin to familiarise ourselves with the many different departments. And, of course, we had tea and cake in the Café – I have quickly learnt that these refreshments are vital to the running of the Trust!

During the training we had an introduction and brief history of the National Trust, and presentations were given about Housekeeping and the Collections Management System (CMS), both of which are very important to the work we will be completing over the next 12 months. There were also team-building activities to help us get to know each other and begin to form good relationships, which were actually quite fun and not as scary as I expected! It was a full-on two days but very informative and really marked the beginning of the placement.

I can’t wait to learn even more and really get into the research of the collections at Dudmaston and how to handle and care for the objects at the property and where they each fit into the social history of the estate.

Republished by kind permission from the NT Passport To Your Future blog (http://ntpassporttoyourfuture.wordpress.com)