Maurice on the left, meeting the Duke of Gloucester at the opening of the latest phase of work to the Castle.
Read Maurice’s experience of being a Castle Volunteer in:
‘THE WHY, WHAT AND HIGHLIGHTS OF VOLUNTEERING’
I have always had an interest in older buildings, how they were built whether on the top of a hill, the edge of a cliff or just getting the materials there. Well my career as a Chartered Building Surveyor started with contracting, I then changed sides i.e. working for the owner and employing other people to build or carry out works. This started with the enormous variety of property used by the Metropolitan Police including stations, garages, dog kennels for Buckingham Palace, stables, laboratories, cells, courts, training centres, also organising the National Police dog trial and everything in between. A period surveying houses then the Rank Organisation with everything from Pinewood Studios to hotels abroad and finally a property company with holdings from Truro to Edinburgh. However I would have loved to have worked for the National Trust but the salary was very limiting with a family.
Life has been very active so when I was looking to retire I went to the Volunteer Section at Christchurch Library and from their extensive list of opportunities they advised that Highcliffe Castle were often looking for volunteers, mainly tours or room stewarding. I had a look round the Castle and my interest was aroused by the state of the building since compared with so many large houses this one, due to two fires, was back to original construction without any finishes. An interview then told they would be pleased to have me and a start date in March 2007 and the rest, as they say is history.
During those years I think I have done most of the volunteering jobs starting, of course with room stewarding until about 5 years ago, and trying to learn as much as possible, including a trip to Ford and Etal in Northumberland, Lady Louisa’s other home but in addition car parking, events/concert stewarding, collecting donations, general maintenance and repairs, especially draught-proofing which is still in operation today. Building and creating exhibitions and numerous other jobs that have occurred including being a Volunteer Committee representative.
Just before the latest phase of work took place, volunteers were requested to come forward to help with sorting, cataloguing, cleaning and storage of the salvage materials within the Castle. I was one of the volunteers and in the initial stages working particularly with Kelly and Vickie De Wit from Dorset Museum service, we visited a number of museums and other establishments to see how they did it and with my background it lead to the formation of a team with me as leader.
The team would hopefully agree that a lot of it is basic sorting and analysis but our pleasure in research and finding how, why and where I.e. provenance gives us a great deal of satisfaction and joy. This work will provide a permanent part of the Castle’s history for which we are all guardians at the time we are here. Putting these items into an exhibition like ‘Lost and Found’ is especially rewarding when you get a great feedback from visitors to the Castle. The team have also acquired knowledge of the differing materials and looking through photographs has let us into other times within the Castle’s 185 year history and the sumptuous way it must have looked all those years ago, regrettably not in colour!
Hopefully I will have passed on some of my experience and knowledge in particular showing adults and children it was possible to construct a building like this without the lifting equipment, electronic tools, etc that are used today and not a computer in sight!!
Finally I would highlight a few things that would not have happened without volunteering at Highcliffe Castle. My 5 minutes of fame appearing on Flog It with Paul Martin, representing volunteers and meeting the Duke of Gloucester at the opening of the latest phase of work, picking up a trophy on behalf of the events team representing the Castle at the Mayors annual service, etc and, of course, making a large number of friends from both all the great volunteers and staff at Highcliffe Castle.
Highcliffe Castle is an unusual, fascinating and interesting place to volunteer and I may not have worked for the National Trust but the Castle has been great compensation and kept me active in retirement.