Work Experience at Holkham Hall by Harry

June 23, 2023 | Learning | 8 minute read

Day 1 – Monday
On the first day at Holkham everybody was incredibly welcoming, and I was able to learn a lot about the history around the main building and the family who own it. Initially I was nervous, but everybody was immensely kind and caring which made it easier to experience the working environment and the many opportunities available at Holkham. In the morning, I was situated in and around the Walled Garden meeting people as they came into the premises and then I spent some time exploring the gardens myself. The actual gardens were very beautiful, and I thoroughly enjoyed a leisurely stroll around before I helped with greeting people and checking tickets. The people were all lovely and I learnt a lot about how to welcome people and a bit of history about the gardens themselves.

In the afternoon I was working at the Cycle Hire Centre; this involved greeting people and getting them a bike ready, as well as handling their financial transaction. What was particularly enjoyable were the interactions with a wide range of people which helped my people skills and the confidence I have when it comes to talking to strangers.

Day 2 – Tuesday
Tuesday started with the marketing team who were so welcoming and ensured I was doing well and prepared for the day ahead. The first task at hand was editing several audio clips from BBC 4’s Farming Today programme (which featured several Holkham staff) into continuous audio all about Holkham, so that it could be shared internally for everybody to listen to. I was taught about the software used and learnt a lot about the farm from the radio shows as we listened and edited. Following this, one of the members of the team took me on a tour of the lower level of Holkham Hall and the working areas. On this tour we took pictures and videos which I really enjoyed as I have a passion for photography, which later were used on the social media platforms to advertise the tours.

After lunch I was with Katherine, Holkham’s Collections Coordinator, in the attic combing through very old books ensuring those that needed protective cases had them and that the books were all present. This was paired with a tour of the attics and the workings of the upper levels. I really enjoyed combing through the books as history is a personal passion of mine and these books were the embodiment of that history. After this I was locking up the Hall and ensuring all wings were secure and everything shut. This was my first time seeing the state rooms of the Hall as well as the wings and connecting corridors and rooms; it was all incredibly well preserved and looked fantastic.

Day 3 – Wednesday
The morning of Wednesday was with Marketing again and I started off by going down to a meeting with the WONDER Crew by the Walled Garden and was able to see all the moves that the estate is making towards carbon negativity and a sustainable working environment. There we did a SWOT analysis of the crew itself and we looked at what they were doing well and how they could improve. This helped me to analyse what sort of things from big to small are beneficial to businesses and carbon negativity. Following this I sat in on an Enterprises Meeting in which plans for the future were discussed as well as any relevant matters that needed to be addressed.

After my lunch I was with the events team where I was taught what the events team did and how they organise events. After the introduction I did another SWOT analysis, however this time of the events on offer throughout the year. This showed me what they were offering and gave the team an external opinion on what they could be offering as well as the many events they already do.

Day 4 – Thursday
Thursday started with a bit of blog writing before spending the rest of the day with the stewards. Once ready for me I headed over to the main Hall and met the team. Everyone was so kind and welcoming and soon the doors opened to the public and a rush of early visitors came into the Hall. The first room I was situated in was the North State Dining Room where I was taught about the room and the history of it. This was the first of the state rooms that people would come into other than the main entrance which meant a lot of greeting and meeting people was required. This definitely helped boost my social confidence and my ability to talk to people. Next, I headed into the Strangers Wing and learnt about the paintings and rooms in that wing. After the Strangers Wing, I went into the Family Wing and the absolutely huge library with thousands of books lining the walls. This also is a room occasionally used by Lord Leicester and his family as an evening sitting room, as well as having the oldest thing in the house – a 1st century BC mosaic detailing a lion and a leopard from Italy.

The next room I was in was the fantastic Saloon which would host hundreds of guests for dances, dinners and everything in between. I then progressed towards the Chapel Wing which contains a wonderful chapel which is still in use especially in the winter when the church nearby is too cold, so the services move into the one in Holkham Hall. I then made my way through to the Kitchen Wing and the royal bedrooms which were magnificently decorated with some incredibly preserved tapestries; I learnt here that the room was built specifically around the tapestries meaning the normal sense of symmetry had to be discarded so the tapestries could fit.

I also spent a lot of time on the door welcoming people and checking tickets as well as giving them a short briefing about pictures, bags and the guides in every room. As a whole, Thursday was very satisfying to the historical aspect of my mind as well as bettering my people skills and confidence.

Day 5 – Friday
Friday morning was full of blog writing and recapping on the week I had just so thoroughly enjoyed. It also contained creating a page on the website and designing the page so that I felt it looked nice for the blog. Friday afternoon has been filled with many records and books for me to sort and put into protective cases. I also got to see an original map of the Holkham estate from the 1600’s that was truly spectacular. The most interesting thing was going along the shelves and taking record of what was there and the dates. This showed me the wide range of historical artifacts there are at Holkham and an insight into the life of an Archivist. I loved being surrounded by the history on all sides and having the chance to look around the archives and experience that history.

Upon reflecting on the week, I have had an amazing time and the nerves I had on the first day are entirely gone and replaced by confidence. It is so utterly different at Holkham than to anything near where I live in Birmingham, and I have really enjoyed the experiences and the atmosphere here. On the first day when I drove through the south gate, I was taken aback by the pure scale of Holkham, and that sense of awe has yet to cease as I am constantly learning new things about how it’s run and about the estate itself.

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