House Matters for May is out!

Newsletter – House matters May 2015
From attic openings to elk antlers, read all about what’s going on in the Hall this May!



My very first blog post

fernphoto My name is Fern Chambers and I’m one of Hardwick Halls many volunteers; a visitor experience volunteer to be exact. Now I know that sounds rather wordy but what it actually means is that I deal with customers little questions while I happen to be round and about the estate, to making sure no tweet remains unanswered.

Only recently I was sat at my desk at Lloyd’s mortgage department. I can’t say that I really imagined myself there age 19. I think I’d imagined myself on the way to landing my ideal job, or maybe studying at university. Perhaps somewhere a little more exciting or somewhere that didn’t involve a hundred phone calls a day regarding mortgages. Now I’m lucky enough to be sat writing this very blog at the lovely and entirely breath-taking Hardwick Hall. Now if I was going to volunteer at a National Trust property why would it be anywhere else other than the home of Elizabethan England’s most charismatic woman? (And also the home of Malfoy Manor to Potter fans of you out there.)

My volunteering came about through me beginning studying towards my degree in Events and Tourism management; part of this includes me spending a day working. Now every Thursday I spend the day at Hardwick dealing with mainly social media. From updating our blog to posting on Twitter; my time spent scrolling the newsfeed of Facebook and my 6,000+ tweets could finally be put to use. (Fitting something you want to say into just 140 characters is a lot tougher than it sounds!)

On my first full day volunteering, I’d started the day wondering how on earth such an estate was going to find something I’d be useful for. This was most definitely put to rest once my manager Emily talked me through what I’d be doing. The rest of the day was made up mostly of joining the tours to improve my knowledge of Hardwick; another volunteer Harry Broadhurst was leading the tours around the Hall and Gardens. We focused on the history of Bess of Hardwick and the architect behind the property; Robert Smythson. Being quite a bit of a history fan anyway I loved this part of the day.

On another of my days here I spent the morning getting lost in the gardens taking photos for Twitter and Facebook where I bumped into Brian; a garden volunteer who kindly gave me a guided tour of the gardens – educating me along the way on the plants and trees we have here – all the while dodging apples from dropping onto our heads while we were in the orchard.

I don’t think I’ve spent a day here yet where I haven’t heard volunteers in the office below bursting into song which probably says a lot about being at Hardwick. Now I’ve been here for a few weeks I can definitely say that volunteering for the National Trust is all it’s cracked up to be – if not more.

If it sounds like something you might be interested in here’s a link to the Trust’s volunteering page:

A new beginning

In March 2011, I was sitting at my work desk pondering the future – my redundancy had just been confirmed and I was on 3 months’ notice.

After some thought about what I’d like to do, I decided to apply to be a volunteer at Hardwick Hall. I wanted to do something practical outdoors and fortunately for me there was room for another volunteer with the Rangers’ Team.

I started volunteering with the Rangers in mid-June 2011. I agreed to commit 2 days a week for at least 2 months, as that would give me time to decide whether I’d made the right choice or not. By the third week, I had tried my hand at strimming, installing tree guards and orchard regeneration. The place, the work – and the people – had been a revelation and I knew I had found the new challenge I was looking for.

When the Passport to Your Future year 3 programme was published on the internet earlier this year, I had no hesitation in applying for the placement at Hardwick. Following a taster day and two interviews, I heard that I had been successful. I’ve taken my first step onto a new career ladder and it’s definitely leaning against the right building!

Janine Hagues

Keep checking vaccancies with the National Trust’s Passport to Your Future programme at

Working in a stable environment.

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.

John Taylor, Delphine Anderson and Harry Broadhusrt (from left to right)

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