Middleton Hall has over 950 years of history, but arguably its most rapid transformation has taken place over the past 37 years. A trust was founded in 1980 to restore the historic house and gardens that had been abandoned in 1966. As a new member of staff, I still have a lot to learn about the renovation of the hall and was interested to learn more about the people who had dedicated their time and energy to bringing the hall back to life. Betty has been volunteering at Middleton Hall for over 32 years, so I was eager to hear about her experiences and contribution to the restoration. Betty began volunteering in 1985, along with her husband, Geoff. She has witnessed Middleton Hall grow from dereliction to a magnificent historic site, open to the public and hosting weddings.
When she first began volunteering, Betty worked in the tea rooms. The hall was only open on Sunday afternoons, and only parts of the building and gardens were renovated. When she was not needed in the tea rooms, Betty would do other jobs such as monitoring the book room or checking tickets at the entrance. She would often bring her spinning wheel to use whilst sitting in the Old Kitchen and admissions hut. Meanwhile, Betty’s husband, Geoff, played an important part in restoring the building and he used his carpentry skills to create the spindles in the renovated Great Hall.
After about ten years of volunteering in the tea rooms, a catering company were brought in and volunteers were no longer needed for this service. Although disheartened by the loss of her role in the tea rooms, Betty became interested in another aspect of Middleton Hall – the history. With the assistance of her knowledgeable friends and fellow volunteers, Audrey and Yvonne, Betty learnt a lot about the hall’s long history. Since then, Betty has played an integral part in developing our museum displays, and in recent years has helped create displays in the History Room and the Exhibition Room. She also volunteers as a tour guide when we have group visits, and she has noted this as the role she enjoys the most. This is because ‘not every historian has the same interpretation of things’, and she enjoys listening to how her fellow museum volunteers and visitors interpret the hall differently.
Betty’s best memories of Middleton Hall centre around Christmas time. She loves seeing the hall decorated for Christmas and has many fond memories of carol concerts and Boxing Day walks. Equally, she enjoyed the hours spent at her spinning wheel, watching the hall grow and talking to visitors.
When asked about her hopes for Middleton Hall’s future development, Betty noted that it has made great strides in recent years. She would love to see the hall continue to develop in the coming years, especially the Tudor barn.