Volunteers at The Workhouse, Southwell, are eager to welcome new faces to the team
Volunteers at The Workhouse, Southwell, are eager to welcome new faces to the team

More people are needed to join a team of volunteers who are an essential part of the success of the National Trust-owned Workhouse at Southwell.

House manager Emma Michalak said it was the skills, time and passion of their volunteers that made the trust’s places special.

“We simply couldn’t do it without them,” she said.

Last year The Workhouse had 200 volunteers who together contributed 19,000 hours.

Some are room guides helping visitors to understand the history of the building, others are involved with the learning team and help with school visits. There are also opportunities in the shop and café.

On average each volunteer goes in once a fortnight for about four hours, but Emma said they were flexible and could cater for individuals.

“We have a great mix of people with ages ranging from 18 to 90 years-old,” she said.

“A lot of the younger volunteers are here to develop skills for their CV, some people are working and so pop in occasionally to support the team and some people are retired and want to give something back.”

Ideally, the trust is looking for people aged 18 and over with an enthusiasm for social history or who are keen to share knowledge and experiences.

There is no need to be an expert as training is given until people feel ready.

There is a shadowing scheme to help the volunteers integrate and learn new skills.

“If you volunteer for us you can expect to become part of a friendly and dedicated team,” Emma said.

“You will meet people from all walks of life and make new friends.

“You can learn new skills or share ones you already have and enjoy new experiences giving pleasure to audiences young and old.”

'I wanted to try something new'

Tom Beall, 21, has been a volunteer for four years. He works full-time at Smiths Timber Merchants, Newark, and goes to The Workhouse in his spare time helping as a room guide as well as in the shop and café.

“I had a lot of free time at the weekend and wanted a good way to fill it,” he said.

“I wanted to set myself a challenge and try something new. I have never looked back.”

Tom said his voluntary work gave him the opportunity to meet lots of people, many of whom had stories about family or friends who experienced the workhouse system.

He said he enjoyed being able to work with people of all ages.

“Everyone is so friendly and welcoming,” he said.

“I am honoured to be part of such an amazing and inspirational team.”    

The need for more volunteers comes amid new developments, including the forthcoming opening of a new building — the infirmary — and looking at how the site was used from 1824 to the 1980s.

Up to 20 more room guides and commercial volunteers are needed and about ten more people for the learning team.

A pre-bookable drop-in day takes place a week on Saturday  from 10am to 1pm.

The event gives potential volunteers the chance to see what it is like to be a room guide;  tour the site; learn a little about the workhouse system; and speak to volunteers.

The commercial team will also showcase the new visitor reception building and café.

Anyone interested can contact Emma on 01636 817263 or email Emma.Michalak@nationaltrust.org.uk