First things first, introductions: my name is Phil Brown and I am one of the volunteers working on the Central Lodge Project. I’m a recent history graduate and I’m here to talk about all of the weird and wonderful things that I got up to as a volunteer on this project.
I first got involved in this project on a very cold morning in late January. Through a family member who works at the college I had heard that they were looking for people to come and help out with various conservation tasks that were linked to the project. Well one thing led to another and soon I found myself wearing a hard hat, safety boots and more warm layers than your average arctic explorer climbing up a rickety staircase with a clipboard and camera on my way to look for graffiti in the attic of the Central Lodge.
I don’t know what I was expecting to find, but the graffiti that was up there was surprisingly diverse. In the small area that I explored we found drawings and diagrams from the park workers who have worked in and around the lodge, drawings from those using the building during the world wars and even a list of people owing money from card games played long ago. Each individual piece of graffiti had to be photographed, recorded and marked on the building plans. Probably the best bit about this task was being allowed to poke around in the areas of the building very few people got to see. I’ve always thought that old buildings that are no longer in use are really interesting and being able to see these areas in their original form before they are turned into nice, comfortable classrooms was a real treat.
After I had thawed out a bit from the graffiti recording, I was asked if I would come back again to clean, record and preserve some plaster corbels that the builders had found when they knocked out a ceiling. For those who don’t know what a corbel is (don’t worry I had no idea what they were until I saw them either), it is a decorative feature that juts out from a wall to support a structure above. Upon arrival I was presented with a cardboard box full to the brim with nearly fifty corbels; armed with a small brush I set to work cleaning off many decades worth of dust and grime. Next came photographing and recording the objects. This, due to most of these objects being near enough identical, was very much easier said than done as each object needed to be described so that it could be distinguished from the others. Finally I packed the corbels for storage, wrapping them in bubble wrap and ensuring that each individual object was properly labelled with its identifying number.
My final job on the project involved some very dirty bottles. In the coal bunkers under the lodge the builders found some old milk bottles, a glass Coca Cola bottle, a wine or port bottle and a earthenware bottle submerged in stinking slimy mud. Since I had, conveniently, just finished sorting through the corbels they were handed to me for cleaning. I was really surprised with how clean they came up. After a bit of a soak and some serious scrubbing most of the mud came right off, revealing decades-old advertising for the Co-op and Northern Dairies which we weren’t expecting to find. Hopefully all these bottles will be displayed in the old dairy in the lodge when all of the renovations are complete.
As you’ve hopefully gathered, there are a wide variety of tasks for volunteers on the project and I’m sure the team would really appreciate some more helping hands sorting through the stacks of objects that are being unearthed. So if you’re reading this and thinking you’d like to get involved just get in touch, no experience necessary!
For more information on volunteering please click here or email CentralLodge@askham-bryan.ac.uk