The Revival of Marble Hill House by Rachel Morrison

There is an exciting project underway at Marble Hill. We are working hard to open the house more often, revive the landscape, and – from the play area to the sports pitches – improve the facilities across the park. My role within Marble Hill celebrates this fantastic revival of Marble Hill house and grounds by building relationships, forging opportunities and exploring ways in which heritage and indeed Marble Hill can be more entrenched within our community. The project also seeks to be a conduit to provide opportunities for different user groups to see Marble Hill as their own from those with access needs, mental health problems, young people and older people.

Huge progress has been made as part of the restoration of Marble Hill House which will see it open for free for five days a week in 2022. Before Christmas, the team repaired the roof and the house was painted a more authentic colour. Paint specialists specified an off-white colour to replicate the lead-white that would have been used historically. The weathervane was regilded and the lift to the first floor was installed making it fully accessible so that more people can enjoy Marble Hill’s history.

Within the community we have been working hard to create connections with Marble Hill but as the house is not accessible and we currently do not have any indoor space, the landscape has become our meeting room, our event space and volunteer induction location! I therefore couldn’t have been happier for my warming uniform, particularly as the project hopes to see 250 volunteer opportunities before next March so every volunteer induction is vital for them to become part of the family and feel invested in. We have been delighted to start handing out more uniforms as we now have 72 volunteers who are now part of the Marble Hill family!

Huge strides have taken place within our landscape with arbours, serpentine paths and orchards taking shape within intensive volunteer planting under our amazing Head gardener, Kate Slack. It has been a delight to ensure we have historic and garden landscape training sessions so that we can offer this for our community and for events. Due to the pandemic these have had to take place over zoom but has meant the speakers can talk from anywhere and I, in my uniform, can run about the site – highlighting the areas they are talking about from my phone. It has been bitter over these past months with snow and rain so have been very grateful for the uniform to keep me snug!

In the park we are investing in our sports fields and by stripping back to the sub soil, installing good drainage and then reseeding pitches. We are investing in our sports facilities and indeed our sports teams and we are also making our sports changing facilities fully accessible and available for women as well as men! We are planning a football tournament, a Marble Hill Cricket Cup, an accessible sports day and a little people’s walkathon- I am going to be very busy over the next few months and I can see my Craghoppers uniform is going to take a bashing!

This month, our new in-house café is opening on the 29th March for a takeaway offer, in line with government guidance, along with a new low level wooden playground that will be delivered for this time too. We can’t wait for the profit of every cup of coffee to be used to help support the work of English Heritage. As part of this work, we have a new catering team at Marbles consisting of a chef, catering manager, catering assistants and two apprentice chefs, which are funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and are a major part of the Marble Hill Revived project. We can’t wait to see them all in their uniforms, welcoming people to site!

Over the past few months, I have had to cancel lots of events due to the pandemic but have still been able to host lots online such as the Thames Luminaries where we worked with 8 other organisations to celebrate our local historic properties across the Thames. We raise £21,000 in donations and had over 1000 tickets booked for each lecture.

Although much of my onsite daffodils and spring walks had to be cancelled, I was able to offer these to several different nurseries in the area who were already in their bubbles. By wearing the uniform, this enabled the children to visually know who I was. You can see a few pictures below of us exploring the buds and discussing what a bulb needed to be able to grow!

Over the last month we were able to put up 12 prints across the 66 acres by Charlie Mackesy from the award-winning, best-selling book ‘The Boy, The Fox, The Mole and The Horse’. The prints are across the 66 acres and are free to enjoy and have been able to give people a chance to reflect on something different in these challenging times. The uplifting trail is called the Exhibition of Hope 2021 and is the second exhibition Charlie has gifted us. Last week we were able to have Milton Jones come to site to be able to provide an audio and visual of the trail to support those who were blind or just can’t visit the site. I have been editing away and look forward to sharing this when we can promote coming to Marble Hill with more vigour, in line with guidelines. A picture of me next to one of the prints is below.

I am really grateful to Craghoppers for enabling me to share this fantastic project that English Heritage is engaging in.


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