Our volunteers come from far and wide!

We benefit from the work of many volunteers at Mount Stewart. Some have been volunteering here for a long time; others have arrived more recently – especially in relation to the project.

Most of our volunteers are local people who give their time regularly to us (whatever they want and can spare), others are people who come and stay in our volunteer accommodation and work for a specified number of weeks or months.

Many of these live in volunteers come to work in the gardens, others in the house and/or on the project.

One of the most recent was Laura Tohila, a Finnish girl who worked here for some fifteen weeks over two different spells, summer and then autumn – she was determined to come back!

Elaine Hill FR80 Hague Before Conservation 01

Laura comes from the town of Oulu, which is situated on the Western coast of Finland, slightly over half way up the country. Founded in 1605, it is the fifth most populous city in Finland with over 190,000 inhabitants. Her parents run a chemistry company where her elder brother and sister both work.

She attends Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences in Kouvola, which is on the East coast of Finland, facing Russia. She is taking a course in general conservation, having already studied painting.

Laura has an interest in history and likes working with her hands so conservation is an ideal career choice. In her free time she likes to draw, read (especially myths and legends), play the piano and do handcrafts.

While she was here at Mount Stewart she worked mostly with Fergus Purdy, our Furniture Conservator. Fergus told me how quickly she picked up things and how he valued her assistance, in fact it seemed strange to see Fergus working on his own again after she left!

After all her on the job training with Fergus, Laura would like to specialize in furniture conservation and has been doing some more in this after her return to Kouvola. She is currently working on a small table and a long case clock from her school’s storage collection.

Conservation in Finland is a small, individual type business with people running their own firms, probably similar to the UK and Ireland where conservators operate independently and are employed by those who need their skills and services.

Laura’s work was much appreciated and all of her friends at Mount Stewart were sorry to see her leave. We hope she enjoyed her time with us and benefited from the experience.


If you would like to find out more about volunteering at Mount Stewart, please visit our website and click ‘Join In’.


Our fabulous project volunteers

Hi all,

Lauren has asked me to continue on with the blog posts so you’re all stuck with me for the foreseeable future, and from what I’ve heard, we have some serious catching up to do with the Project Joinery Team’s blog posts (ours will be even more fabulous)! I started volunteering at Mount Stewart just three months ago, but in that time I have met some lovely people (I’ll get everyone’s names right in the end!) and learned some interesting conservation techniques. It’s been a while since I have written anything like this so bear with me; I’m a little bit rusty!

I’ll begin with an introduction to the Project Conservation Volunteers:

Firstly I should mention Christina, Project Conservation Assistant, who co-ordinates us all…and offers us seats when we’re looking a bit fatigued! Below is a photo taken at our Mad Hatters Tea Party and you can see some of us looking very happy to be enjoying some tea, buns and cakes.

Volunteers tea party

From left to right; Lauren, Jack, Colin, Catherine, Marie, David, me (Holly), Pauline, Terry and Alan

Others whom either aren’t to be found in the photo or were unable to attend the tea party are as follows; Rebecca, Valerie, Martin, Freda, Heather, Paul, Allen, Elayne, Connie, Drew, Christine, Colette, Moira…..

(That’s everybody named but yet to be shamed! Or, as Lauren has previously mentioned, praised! Come and find me if I’ve left anyone out…and be gentle!).

There is an average of three or four volunteers every day at Mount Stewart and they are immensely invaluable, especially during this huge project. We managed 300 voluntary hours in March of this year and 287 in April, that’s a great deal of spare time! The Mad Hatters Tea Party was held as a thank you to the team for their hard work and the fact that they keep coming back, no matter how much of a ‘slave driver’ Lauren can be (we all know she’s actually really nice and sometimes even brings cake)!

Tea and cakes aside, we volunteers get involved in various training sessions which have helped mould us into the wonderful, well-rounded conservation assistants that we are…or will be soon! The training I have received to date has included the identification, documentation and conservation cleaning of painting and picture frames. It sounds boring but I can assure you it is very interesting. Getting to see a painting up close is terrific; we can spot things that might otherwise have been missed!

In addition to the volunteer positions the National Trust also offers six to eight week placements for students studying conservation, the most recent student at Mount Stewart being Rebecca Gee all the way from the London Metropolitan College!


Rebecca cleaning

Rebecca worked alongside Fergus, our accredited furniture conservator, carrying out conservation cleaning of the Saloon floor and skirting boards discovered by the joiners behind some panelling in Lord Londonderry’s Sitting Room, one of many interesting finds during the project! Rebecca also cleaned the frame of the Annunciation painting from the Chapel. She was a great asset to team! We were sad to see her go at the end of her placement but we wish her all the best with the completion of her course in furniture conservation.

That’s all from me, over and out!



That’s me! Does anyone know who the squirrel is though?

An introduction to our Project Conservator, Lauren

Hi all,

I’ve recently started at Mount Stewart taking on the role of Project Conservator (ok I’ve been here 6 months), taking over the fabulous work Fiona Austin-Byrne was carrying out prior to leaving. Having never written a blog post before, but with the pressure on I thought I best get started.


So lets start with an introduction to the Project Conservation Team, the better half to the Project Joinery team! I’ve got to keep up with the banter! There is myself, Lauren Jackson, Project Conservator, Christina, Project Conservation Assistant and a small team of dedicated voluntary conservation assistants (who will be named and shamed (praised) in a later blog post). We all work very closely with the house team here; Louise, House and Collections Manager, Andrea, House Steward, Sheena, Assistant House Steward, Matthew, Conservation Assistant, Michael, Conservation Assistant and their dedicated team of conservation volunteers.

Since I have arrived we have all been very busy with the movement of collections into storage and the protection of fixtures and fittings left within the rooms, to allow contractors access into the rooms to work and create lots of dust!

 Holly one of our volunteers giving the doors first class treatment!

Holly one of our volunteers giving the doors first class treatment!

We have surely broken a few Guinness World Records in decanting, packing and storing collections in record breaking times, as well as engineering the most complex structures to store and protect unusual collections. We have tackled complicated deconstructions of delicate four poster beds, large bookcases, and have carefully removed VERY large delicate mirrors and paintings without any glitches. Including removing windows to fit paintings through!

Hambeltonian by Stubbs, our most famous painting on the move, he only had to jump the stairs!

Hambeltonian by Stubbs, our most famous painting on the move, he only had to jump the stairs!

 Circe has her men in line to move her through the window!

Circe has her men in line to move her through the window!

Fingers crossed the reinstatement of the collections at the end of the project isn’t required to be carried out anywhere near as quickly! As the Project Manager, Dennis Wright keeps reassuring me, ‘…everything will be down to the wire!’ so I am quite confident we will have plenty of time!

In the short time I have been here, I am not sure what I have said or done or asked for, but I seem to have gained a bit of a reputation as a ‘slave driver’! The joinery team, in particular David, all seem to hide now when they see me coming; I am not always asking them for further structures to store collections!

We have finally completed the packing and protection of the collections and Louise has commissioned an interesting exhibition showcasing the project work going on. We are now open for the summer, so do come visit and see our collections on show in store!

That’s all for now, Holly one of our volunteers will follow this up with an introduction to our fabulous project conservation volunteers.