Judith is the house steward for Osterley Park, a National Trust property in West London. She graduated from the University of Chichester with a degree in history. Having volunteered for the National Trust since a teenager and throughout university, she was able to secure a part-time post as an assistant house steward after graduation, leading to her current position.
After graduating, I continued volunteering for the National Trust
whilst regularly checking their jobs website, which is where I found my initial role as a part-time assistant house steward at Osterley. I became full time after a year, and when the house steward left successfully applied for my current role.
My history degree was relevant to this type of work because history is not too specialised a subject and allows more flexibility within the heritage sector.
A normal open day starts by briefing my team in order to organise the morning tasks such as cleaning and conservation projects. Then the daily volunteer paperwork is written up. Some days, I may have diary meetings. I also check my emails as I am responsible for all filming on the property and often have a large number of enquiries.
The house is then prepared for opening by opening all shutters, setting room blinds and, on Wednesdays, putting out the flower arrangements. The volunteers are let into the house, checked off our list, briefed (by myself or a colleague) and allocated rooms before the public is let in.
The rest of the afternoon is divided between paper work, emails and walk rounds to check light levels. Towards closing, I walk round to let the volunteers go if their room is clear and remind visitors of the closing time. After checking to ensure no visitors or volunteers are still in the house, we start to close up. Once closed and the alarms are on, we cash up and record the numbers of visitors and volunteers. Some nights I am duty manager and am on call in case an alarm goes off.
I have progressed quickly over the past three years, from my part-time role to full time and now house steward. I have increased my responsibilities, taking on line management duties, filming, planning and execution of the closed season clean, and the care and security of the entire collection. In the future I'd like to become a house or collections manager but feel I need at least two years more experience before I will be ready for that.
I enjoy the social aspect of the work and working with some amazing people, as well as sharing my knowledge with others. I also like bringing these beautiful places to life for people and helping them to engage with our heritage. The best thing about working in this sector is working with volunteers and caring for beautiful collections in fantastic locations.
Filming is challenging because it is a balancing act between bringing in money and protecting the collection. Most challenging is caring for the collection - keeping it safe and in good condition but accessible to the public is a full-time job on its own.
Volunteering provides experience, which is essential for those wanting to work in the sector. Additionally, you need to be aware that the heritage sector is low paying in relation to the amount of work it demands. However, the heritage sector is extremely rewarding as long as you are motivated by and passionate about the work.
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