After three months of hard work our wonderful group of twenty Art Society Heritage Volunteers have finished their first room at West Horsley Place. Their mammoth mission to record, clean and assess the condition of all the books at West Horsley Place started with training from leading expert Caroline Bendix in June and proceeded to work in the Mulberry Room; a bedroom in the manor house with several hundred books. 

Starting in the Mulberry Room was less daunting than the library and with fewer books, enabled the volunteers to feel comfortable as they established their working routine and tested their new skills under expert volunteer Hilary Ely. We caught up with a few of the volunteers, Jo Webbern, June Hughes, Rhys Beynon, Gillian Millership & Hilary Ely to hear more about how they are getting on. 

"We were learning our trade, as it were, up in the Mulberry Room. There was a lot of very fascinating material up there, but these are the books that are most strongly associated with the house."

On finishing work in their first room, the volunteers have now moved on to working the Library for the first time, 

"This is what we signed up for really; to get to work in this room. It is a privilege to do so, it is such a lovely room to be in."

"I think we were probably a little bit overawed at the beginning, by the place and by the task. But now we've had a bit more practice, I think we feel more at home. Moving on to the Library, you get a sense of how much work there is to do for this project and how long the time scale to complete it might be. This one room contains thousands of books and there are many other rooms in the house that contain more books, though not quite on this scale!"

"It is encouraging to realise how much we have learned and how we are improving our skills; when we started in the Mulberry Room it took us an entire session to do one solitary book, today in our first session in the Library we have done an entire shelf!"

The message that comes shining though from our library volunteers is the satisfaction they find in taking care of the books and the transformative impact of the work they are doing, 

"I think it’s amazing the difference it makes seeing them clean. I’m amazed by how different they do look! They look a little bit more alive I think. . . they’ve woken up. We are all looking forward to seeing the library shine once again."

Thank you to National Lottery Players and the National Lottery Heritage Fund for making this project possible.