Marcia Barton has been a volunteer at Knole since 1987. While not quite Knole’s longest-serving volunteer, she has participated in almost every aspect of volunteering here over the years, from guiding group tours of the house, carrying out research on the collection, curating Knole-related exhibitions, to organising the plant stall and mucking in with holiday activities for children.
Knole volunteer who started in 1987
Interviewed by Christine Dixon
No interviews, induction or training; and what was worn in the 1980s
I think there was the view that if you wanted to volunteer for the National Trust, you were probably the right sort of person anyway. Dress? Well back in the early 1980s, which is where we were, we all dressed like Princess Diana, didn’t we? Sort of mock Sloanes. And I remember my uniform for Knole was always a pleated skirt, a white frilly-necked blouse, and a navy blue cotton jumper over the top. And that is the sort of thing most of us wore.
Most rewarding experiences as a Knole volunteer
There’ve been some very rewarding guided tours that I’ve done. You know, where you’ve just had a nice group of people who were really interested and you can have a good two-way interaction with them. There’ve been lovely school visits, which I’ve always enjoyed; especially taking schoolchildren round the Park, where we do some very interesting things with them. And then there’ve been the sort of one-offs, like the tours we did a few years ago – the Vita tours – where we took people round the house, linking it to Vita Sackville-West’s life. And doing the research for those tours and actually taking them round was very enjoyable. And then I’ve worked with other stewards on pieces of research. Carol Cheeseman and I put together an exhibition a couple of years ago to celebrate the visit of the former Prince and Princess of Wales in the 19th century. That went up in the Orangery, and that was great fun doing that. So I’ve enjoyed a lot of things. For a lasting memory, I don’t know; it’s just Knole itself, it’s just such a wonderful place.
Explosion of volunteering opportunities
M.B: What I’m really looking forward to this summer (2014) is being part of the team that’s going to help conserve some of the books in the Tower. So that will be great.
I was just going to ask you if you had any unfulfilled ambitions of things to do at Knole?
M.B: Well certainly the new areas that are going to be opened to the public: the Tower, some of the attic rooms; that’s great. And that’s a whole new area that we will have to develop a way of showing to the public. So we’re now at a point where there’s suddenly going to be this explosion of opportunity for a lot of people.