Charter Day is celebrated each June at Kiplin Hall & Gardens in remembrance of the signing of the Charter in 1632 granting George Calvert, the first owner of Kiplin Hall, lands in what is now Maryland, USA. The Hall is located halfway between the bustling market towns of Richmond and Northallerton in North Yorkshire, surrounded by 90 acres of gardens and grounds. Today Kiplin is run by a charitable trust as a museum and visitor attraction by a small team of staff and over 180 volunteers.
Volunteers and Front of House Manager, Rosie Kluz, explains,
“Charter Day offers an opportunity to celebrate the past, present and future of the organisation. Kiplin has been owned by four families over four centuries, we call the volunteers the fifth family. We simply couldn’t operate without them. Visitors often comment on the friendly, warm, dedicated nature of our volunteers. They make Kiplin a very special place. This year we are especially delighted to celebrate some of our volunteers gaining their 15 and 20 years of service badges! Their dedication is simply astounding.”
Volunteers at Kiplin take part in nearly all aspects of the organisation, from archival research to visitor welcome, collections winter cleaning to operating the till, weeding, planting, and picking fruit in the gardens, they do it all! Volunteers also play a vital role at the top of the organisation. The charity is led by a board of trustees who are also volunteers. This year three new trustees have been appointed to the team, creating a board of nine individuals. Bucking some trends in leadership the current board has eight female members, including the chair, and just one male member.
Kiplin offers equal opportunities to all. But as a father to a daughter the current Director, James Etherington, is rather proud to see the organisation being championed by women today given its history. Mr. Etherington explains;
“Strong women have played a key role in Kiplins past, so it makes me especially happy to see so many women playing a role today and securing its future. For example, in 1818 Sarah Crowe inherited Kiplin from her father Robert Crowe. Unusually for the time Sarah’s husband, John Delaval Carpenter, became a ‘tenant for life’ rather than the outright owner as was tradition. Together they managed the home and estate as Lord and Lady Tyrconnel, John was the 4th Earl inheriting the title from his brother. It’s clear from diaries that Lord Tyrconnel often consulted Lady T, as she’s affectionally know to the staff today. Lady T’s Garden is currently undergoing restoration, on full view of visitors to Kiplin Hall and Gardens.
“In more recent times, the last owner of Kiplin Hall was a women called Miss Bridget Talbot OBE. She lived a courageous life full of achievements, not least, saving Kiplin Hall for the nation. She was known locally as a force to be reckoned with. Thanks to Bridget, Kiplin Hall Trust was formed, taking ownership of the Hall and grounds on her death in 1971.
“In 2000, Dawn Webster became the Curator at Kiplin Hall. Managing its restoration and co-ordinating the team of volunteers Dawn saw Kiplin open as a museum and thrive before her retirement in 2018. Since then, Sarah Mayhew Cradock held the post of Curator for 3 years. Cambridge graduate Alice Rose is the current Curator. Creating a vibrant programme grounded in historic research. Kiplin has never had a male curator. Long may Kiplin benefit from the experience, skills and passion of female curators in the sector!”
Kiplin Hall Trust has a busy few years ahead as work progresses on a new welcome centre and tea room, new displays in the hall and a garden master plan. The three new trustees will help steer the team through this transition. They are Steph Williamson, Victoria Thomas, and Lottie Atkinson. Each bring a wealth of skills and experience to help Kiplin write its own bright future.
Steph Williamson is a retired NHS Design & Development Director responsible for the delivery of several major new hospital projects. She has experience of Boards both through her career but also in the voluntary sector where she has been a Chair of Governors for an independent school and a Church Warden. She is currently the Co-Chair of Architects for Health, a membership organisation of approx 500 professionals with a passion for high quality healthcare environments. More locally Steph also volunteers for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority on the Education & Engagement Team and for Kiplin.
Victoria Thomas has worked in visitor experience development roles in major visitor attractions across the UK, including for Historic Scotland, Chester Zoo, Newcastle’s Centre for Life and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Her role has focused on the design, development and project management of indoor and outdoor exhibitions, and acting as audience champion. The environment is really important to her, so she’s always looking for ways to be sustainable and thinking about how we can make space for nature as well as people with each new development.
Lottie Atkinson lives two miles away from Kiplin, in Bolton On Swale, with her husband and two young children. She runs a business dealing in fine and rare books and has a shop in Harrogate selling modern first editions. Before working in the book business, she was a Deputy Headteacher in a primary school near Ripon, teaching and working as a senior leader and specialising in Special Educational Needs. She hopes that she can share her experience in terms of education strategy, inclusion and engaging children and families at Kiplin. Outside of work, she loves gardening and spends as much time as she can in the fresh air. She is passionate about this part of Yorkshire and is excited to start working alongside the staff and volunteers at Kiplin.
If you would like to get involved and volunteer at Kiplin Hall & Gardens you can find out more at www.kiplinhall.co.uk or call 01748 818178. Kiplin Hall & Gardens is open to visitors 6 days a week, closed on Thursdays. This summer an exciting programme of outdoor theatre and music is taking place in the grounds, from jazz to Shakespeare, there’s something to excite any audience.