My first day as a volunteer and first impressions!

February 12th 2015 by Becky Spokes

Hello everyone, my name is Becky Spokes and this is my first day working as a volunteer at the Mills Archive. I have been given the opportunity to write on the blog about my experience here.
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Firstly, here is a bit of information about me. I am a third year student at University of Reading studying English Literature. In my first year I took a few modules in Art History and this is when I discovered my passion for the restoration and conservation of historical things, especially old buildings. I would love to pursue a career as a curator, which is why having the opportunity to volunteer at the Mills Archive is such a great big step in the right direction for me.

Although I do not know much about mills, I am fascinated by historical buildings and researching the lives of those who lived at that time and I was thrilled to learn that the Mills Archive Trust was heavily linked with SPAB (The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings), having their own mills section and SPAB being an active participant in donating material. You can view the SPAB Mills Section here.

When I visited Watlington House last week I was surprised to learn it contained its own history as it used to house Kendrick Girls School in 1877 and for the next 50 years. The building also contains a stone plinth from Reading Abbey in one of the walls in the oldest part of the building. You can read more about the building’s history here.

I was given a warm welcome by the staff and as I have gotten to know some of them better, I can tell that this will be an interesting and rewarding place to gain some valuable experience. The staff at the Mills Archive are hard working and passionate, which makes this fun and productive environment to be in. I honestly cannot say enough about the helpfulness and warmth of the people here who work hard to organise and expand the Mills Archive Trust. I feel that one paragraph doesn’t quite cut it! But not to worry, I will be writing more about each of them in another post so that you can get to know them better too!

Having been given a tour of the archives by the Archivist Nathanael Hodge, I was amazed to see that it is not only old photos that are archived but also ancient blueprints, intricate wages books, beautifully coloured calligraphic deeds and even genuine working artefacts.

After speaking with Liz Bartram whose job is to build relationships with other organisations to promote the Mills Archive Trust to a wider audience, I am really looking forward to delving deeper into some of the histories hidden amongst the archives, such as mill disasters and ghost stories, and learning more about the people that preserve them. Elizabeth Trout is the Information Manager here and her encyclopaedic knowledge and passion for the Mills Archive Trust makes me feel very confident that I can be trusted to expand and develop this blog with interesting and exciting entries.

I will be blogging weekly so I hope you will keep reading and if you find anything interesting or have any suggestions for me then please feel free to write in the comment box below.

Thank you!