More than 3,500 people are involved in hundreds of projects nationwide. They help conserve our heritage for future generations by stewarding, cataloguing, conserving books, textiles, armour and weaponry in historic houses, libraries and museums.

Needlework at Much Marcle

We tend to think of the work of heritage volunteers as being concerned with conserving old pieces, but at Hellens Manor it has been taken a further step.

Two years ago the heritage volunteer team which is drawn from the societies at Ross on Wye, Malvern Hills, and Hereford, decided on their most ambitious project to date - to make a brand new piece of crewel work, eleven metres long, which to me is reminiscent of the Bayeux Tapestry, depicting the history of the house 

Crewel work, which dates back at least a thousand years is a type of surface embroidery usually on linen, using 2 ply worsted wool. The oldest surviving known piece of crewel work embroidery is the Bayeux Tapestry.  40 different kinds of stitch are used in the Hellens piece and these have been taught to the twelve individual needlewomen by Sally Ziesler who is leading the project.

Some of the team, together with the house management researched the first thousand years of the history of the house, and others designed the piece. The design was then drawn onto tracing paper, and the stitching, which will take about five years, has now begun.

First of all, samples are made of the motifs to check the choice of stitches and the colour choices, and three months ago work began on the wording along the top and bottom of the piece. At the top is the history of the house and along the bottom key events in history. The central zone contains most of the action, which takes place in chronological order. Events take place in a long series of scenes which are generally separated by depictions of various kinds of trees.

A frame has been designed to hold the finished piece in the minstrels’ gallery, at Hellens where it will fit exactly round the room, and will be seen by the public from the Great Hall below.

About Hellens

Hellens Manor Much Marcle in Herefordshire is one of the oldest dwellings in England, primarily composed of Tudor, Jacobean, and Georgian architecture, but the foundations date from the 12th century, with some elements older still. After the conquest William the Conqueror gave the manor to his Standard Bearer Walter de Lacey.


Heritage Volunteering in the West Mercia Area

  • Blockley - Conservation of 19th century dresses and books at Chastleton House and Court Barn Museum, conservation of tapestries at Sudeley Castle, altar frontal at Blockley Church, restoration of textiles at Broughton Castle, cleaning of historical drawings at Hart Silversmith's, Chipping Campden and stewarding at Court Barn Museum, Chipping Campden and the Gordon Russell Museum in Broadway
  • Bristol - Details of the Society's Heritage volunteer activities can be found on their website. Click here for the link.
  • Cheltenham - front of house duties at Holst Birth Place Museum, restoration of an altar frontal in a Cotswold church, working with the National Trust at Chedworth Roman Villas and research for the Garden History Project.
  • Cirencester - stewarding at Corinium Museum and Kelmscott Manor, covers for historic clothes and uniforms at Corinium Museum and textiles conservation in a local church.
  • Corinium - volunteers at Kelmscott Manor and the New Brewery Arts Centre in Cirencester.
  • Evesham - Conservation of altar frontal and creation of veil and burse for the communion chalice at Stanton Church and volunteer at the Court Barn Museum, Chiping Campden.
  • Malvern Hills - The volunteers are working on replica chair covers at Hartlebury Castle.
  • They are repairing copes belonging to Gloucester Cathedral.
  • At Hellens they are embarking on a project to create an embroidered banner depicting the history of the house.
  • Conservation of the pattern books at the Worcester Porcelain Museum continues.
  • Guiding is carried out at Little Malvern Court twice a week between April and July.
  • Monmouthshire - Conservation of books at The Mather Jackson Library in the Sessions House, Usk and restoration of antique costumes at Burton Court.

  • Ross-on-Wye - Making crewel work curtains for the music room at Hellens, Much Marcle, making bed-hangings for the Old Black and White House, Hereford, compiling the online gallery for the Brian Hatton collection of paintings and drawings at Hereford Museum and Resource Centre and research for the Herefordshire Gardens and Parks Project.
  • Teme Valley - Garden project at Abberley Hall and costume making at Berrington Hall.
  • West Gloucestershire - compiling a photographic catalogue of the collection at the Nature in Art Gallery, Gloucester, revising the history of Wallsworth Hall and photographing the collection at Berkeley Castle.
  • Worcester - Conserving Royal Worcester pattern books at Dyson Perrins Museum.
  • Repair and restoration of church textiles, making new offertory bags and embroidering a new lecturn fall at Worcester Cathedral.
  • The latest projects have been replicating sun-damaged chaircovers for chairs in the saloon at Hartlebury Castle, originally worked by Lady Julia Carew in the early 20th Century.