Well first off we have an apology to make for the lack of blog posts in recent months. It has been somewhat hectic at Snowshill this year and we have been very disappointed that the blog had to take a bit of a back seat for a while. One of our New Year’s resolutions is to post more in 2015 so hopefully you will be hearing a lot more from the team.
2014 has been an enjoyable but challenging year for us with lots of exciting events such as the Tour of Britain coming right past the Manor, Escape to the Country filming here and Dame Helen Ghosh coming for a visit but we’ve also had some challenges with falling plasterwork, a broken buggy and a poorly cat.
Over the open season we have welcomed 83,647 visitors. If you were one of our visitors this year, thank you for coming to see us and we hope that you enjoyed your day. We have worked really hard to improve our visitor experience this year.
In summer we introduced our new children’s trail ‘Apprentice Collectors’ where children receive some Wade inspired stickers when they find certain objects in the Manor. It has been well received by our visitors with young children. “Amazing. The collector’s tasks for children allowed us to see many of the beautiful things without them getting bored” (Visitor comment card, September 2014).
“Usually my mum drags me to National Trust places and I hate it but this one had some cool stuff in and I thought it was ace” (Visitor Comment Card, August 2014)
We also started our project to develop Turquoise Cellar this season. We have worked in partnership with designers Gideon Reeling to create a space for visitors to explore before going into the Manor. The space has several installations which help introduce the Wadian lighting scheme we have in the Manor and explain why Mr Wade didn’t want us to use labels in the house. We are looking forward to developing this space further in 2015. “Fantastic – a real joy to speak with knowledgeable curators rather than look at labels” (Visitor comment card, 2014)
Our virtual tour of the Manor was taken out of the bookshop and installed onto a handy tablet. Visitors are now able to make themselves comfortable on the settle in Dragon and take their time exploring the rooms in the Manor they are unable to reach. We have had lots of positive feedback from those visitors using the virtual tour. We have also been able to give the second-hand bookshop a facelift now we have more space. ”Excellent – the virtual tour really helped” (Visitor Comment, 2014)
Once again we had Easter egg trails and kobudo demonstrations on the front lawn, these are always favourite events with our visitors.
We welcomed several parties into the manor outside of our normal opening times. These private and personal tours are just how Mr Wade would have wanted people to experience his collection, especially in the evening with all the atmospheric shadows. I’m sure Mr Wade would have been overjoyed to learn that students form the Oxford Creative Academy were visiting his property for inspiration for their art projects.
Visitors have also been able to see Wolf’s Cove expand this season, not only have more models been added to the village but we had a fortnight of archaeology activity in August which saw parts of the railway and canal being uncovered. “It was very good with the amazing model village and dove house” (Visitor Comment Card, August 2014)
The garden team produced some delicious fruit and vegetables that were not only used in the restaurant but were made available for visitors to purchase. The plums this year were delightful!
Berrington Hall celebrated all things costume with their changing exhibition ‘A Thousand Fancies’ which saw lots of Mr Wade’s costumes on display. Members of our team were lucky enough to be able to help prepare some of the costumes for the changing display.
Harriet and Sue treated some visitors with a special tour of the Priest’s house in September. Visitors were able to go behind the barriers to see the real home of Charles and Mary and the team excelled themselves this Halloween decorating the Manor for our visitors with lots of handmade decorations and designing the Pumpkin Puzzler trail to mark the end of the season.
November saw the release of our volunteer survey results and we were thrilled to learn that Snowshill volunteers are really enjoying their experience. 10% more of our volunteers stated that they would highly recommend volunteering at Snowshill Manor and Gardens. Our volunteers are really important to us and we couldn’t do anything without their hard work and support so it is really lovely to know that they are enjoying themselves.
The team has done a lot this year to ensure the volunteering experience is an enjoyable and rewarding one. We have continued our project to introduce new resources for the room guides which has involved lots of research to ensure the information available to them is accurate and up-to-date.
Our volunteers were all invited to several planning events this year where they were able to express their views on upcoming projects. It was a great event and wonderful to see everyone so passionate about Snowshill.
We organised several training days including introductory talk training and our new conservation in action training session. The whole property team was involved in our pre-season training days and we have already started preparing for the four sessions we have organised for March 2015.
We had lots of volunteer outings this year with groups of volunteers going to Batsford Arboretum, Croome Court and Berrington Hall. We had a really special treat when Ian Bottomley came to talk to us about Samurai armour, we had a collections inspired games afternoon with a charming afternoon tea and the restaurant team treated everyone to a delicious end of season lunch in November.
2014 has seen lots of projects move forward thanks to the involvement of our volunteers. Many of the volunteer team have taken on substantial research projects like Sue who has been tirelessly transcribing star chambers records relating to Ann Parsons (of Ann’s Room fame). The digitisation of Mr Wade’s notebooks has been a great success with volunteer Martin using his fantastic photographic knowledge and initiative to produce some truly remarkable photographs which in turn has led to us recruiting more volunteer transcribers. We also dispatched some of our volunteers to Gloucester Records Office this year (see relevant blog posts) and they catalogued the documents related to Snowshill. These can now be viewed in great detail on Gloucester’s online catalogue.
In June we welcomed two interns to Snowshill; Rosa (Volunteer Management Intern) and Harriet (Conservation Intern) who instantly became part of the team and worked very hard on their projects. Rosa helped the Manor team with their volunteer management tasks and investigated the possibility of introducing a car sharing programme at Snowshill. As we are such a remote property her work has enabled us to offer volunteering opportunities to a wider range of people. Harriet ran her first Conservation training day in October and it was a great success. The team are already looking to repeat the training in the new year. We all thoroughly enjoyed working with Harriet and Rosa this year and as a result we will be looking into the possibility of offering further internships in 2015.
In our next post we will be looking back at the conservation projects and some of the more unusual and unexpected events of 2014.