Wednesday is the day of choice for my weekly session of volunteering at Hardwick. The same goes for my colleagues, Delphine Anderson and John Taylor. We are volunteer Talks and Tours guides working outdoors, come rain or shine, in and around the Stableyard. Our base camp, complete with ‘A’ board, is outside, at the corner of the restaurant, where we are easily identified by our high visability yellow waistcoats.
The programme for the day is listed, together with other events in the House or garden, on a Whats on Today flyer handed to visitors in Visitor Reception on arrival. On a typical Wednesday our set timetable will be as follows;
10.30 am and 1.00pm – Robert Smythson and the Craftsmen that built Hardwick. This 30 to 40 minute walking tour looks at the architectural aspects of the New Hall, the materials used, and the people involved in its construction. Taking in the South elevation as viewed from the Stableyard, then up to the Old Hall to compare old build with new, onto the Gatehouse to examine the exterior masonry at close quarters, finishing at the front of the House with a flourish. ‘Symmetry and light‘, the overall design concept, is the theme throughout
12.00 and 12.30 – History of the Stableyard – is a 15 minute talk highlighting the background and uses of the buildings from Tudor times until present day – and also examines the lives of some of the men and women who worked there. A gallop through time as it were.
2.00 – The Hardwick Masons – held in the Stone Centre this 15 minute session gives an insight into the day to day work of our stone masons, the stone itself, and the processes involved in restoration work on the Estate.
We share the tasks as necessary – though we each have our own favourite talk/tour subject. In between times we are on hand in the Stableyard to offer advice and information to visitors, on an adhoc basis, as required. However, not all visitor enquiries are related to our specific role as tour guides. Back at base we are regularly asked throughout the day ‘where can I find the toilets’. It’s all part of the service I guess.
Harry Broadhurst, Talks and Tours Volunteer