“The life of a tour guide is very rewarding. It is really lovely to be able to see people’s reactions when you tell them the story of the Hall’s repair and conservation to see their eyes widen when you show them the before and after pictures whilst telling them that it was all done by volunteers” – Jean
Every Group visit is different, but they all have a tour, given by our knowledgeable volunteer guides. It is always good having got off the coach, or out of the car, after a long drive to start with a cup of tea or coffee, so that is what we do! Once refreshed the tour can begin…
Each tour guide has their own special interest and of the hundreds of stories and facts we have about the Hall and Gardens they each have their favourites.
“The John Ray Room, dedicated to the father of Natural History, as he lived and worked in it the mid-seventeenth century, has its own hidden history. When the Building was being repaired and conserved the eighteenth century external lime plaster was removed. The weight of the plaster had caused the East and West walls to fall away from each other and ever resourceful, the volunteers working on the building came up with an ingenious and cost effective/environmentally friendly way of solving the problem. They had come across a length of wire used to launch aircraft from ships in a skip in Alrewas. It is best not to ask how it got there, or indeed why they were looking in a skip in Alrewas in the first place. This wire proved to be perfect for what they needed and to this day is tying two of the walls of the John Ray Building together.” – Nigel.
Once the formal part of the tour is complete it is often time for lunch. Sometimes it is a buffet so the group can eat together, or if the weather is nice a picnic by the Lake, or trip to the Coffee Shop in our Courtyard Centre to combine lunch with a spot of shopping.
To rest of the day is then free for the group to explore the rest of the Estate. To go back to any rooms or parts of the Gardens not covered by the tour to see more. The day is not done for our tour guides however. After each tour they meet up and compare notes on the questions they got asked.
“We are forever learning new things about the place. A question asked by a visitor often sparks further research. The most memorable recently was one about someone who lived here in the early 1900s that was related to the visitor. I went back to our History Room after the tour and checked the census and parish records and found the person and where they, used to live. It was in one of the many cottages on site. These being listed in the 1924 sale catalogue I could go back to the person who who had asked armed with lots of information about their relative. It also got us thinking about our more recent past and the 1924 sale by the Willoughby family to pay death duties and we are now researching for a new display all about the 1924 sale which we hope will be ready for March 2017. It is amazing to see where one simple question can often lead you!” – Betty