A stitch in time for National Volunteers Week

Mary Youlden
Authored by Mary Youlden
Posted Wednesday, May 31, 2017 - 5:51pm

The phrase ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ could not be further from the truth for a group of dedicated National Trust volunteers who have spent 5,200 hours sewing life into old chairs.

The group, from Killerton House, has been sewing individual tapestries into 16 chairs since January last year and are coming to the end of the momentous project just as Killerton celebrates National Volunteers Week.

This year, the House has been reinterpreted to tell the story of how the Acland family gave away their home for the benefit of the nation and the volunteers have carried the thread of the story by stitching individual Acland family coats of arms into the chairs.

John Gaylor, a volunteer at Killerton said: ‘It was on a chance visit to the property some years ago that I realized a portrait of Eleanor Acland has been mis-attributed. On my return a few years later I was delighted to see that this had been corrected – which led me into a discussion with the House and Collections Manager about my passion for heraldry and the idea for the Coats of Arms project.’

The project has also allowed for more seating so that visitors can take a pause while soaking up the family history inside the house. It was thanks to a £1,000 donation from the National Trust Sidmouth Centre that the project was made possible.

Grace Essex, an adult education tutor who has been coordinating the project, said: ‘We wanted to make something for Killerton that was really distinct and echoed its spirit. I’ve loved working with the volunteers on the project – each coat of arms has taken around 90 hours to stitch and the backgrounds have been another 180 hours or so on top of that. It’s incredibly rewarding to know that they’ll soon be sat on by so many – and, besides, reupholstering the chairs has prolonged their use another 30 years.’

Killerton is celebrating National Volunteers Week by taking the opportunity to thank all their volunteers for everything they do. The celebration has been affectionately coined ‘cream tea week’ by the volunteers who are rewarded by tucking into the estate’s famous scones.

Emma Wakeham, Volunteer Manager, said: ‘Killerton has over 400 volunteers who work tirelessly to help us care for this special place. They are the beating heart of the property and I’ve already heard whisperings from the team about another project big project they’d like to get stuck in to.’

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