A Busman’s Holiday (of sorts!)

I started my volunteering at Headstone Manor in 2018 as a warden in the Manor House. It was really interesting and during quiet times I would read the labels and study the displays in the beautiful peace and solitude that sometimes fell upon the house. However, at a Christmas event put on for the volunteers I got chatting to a lovely man who was working with the glass collection. This intrigued me and he mentioned I should enquire about working with the collection if I was interested. After speaking with Alison, the curator at the time, I spent a couple of months working on a spreadsheet, which formed part of the catalogue (a list of items in the collection). I did not enjoy this, but thought perhaps it was a test of my commitment and resilience, so I ploughed on.

It soon became known that I work for Harrow Libraries and Alison asked me if I would take a look at some books that had come over from the Civic Centre Local History Collection. Perhaps make a list and decide on their relevance to Harrow. Yes, I said, it certainly seemed preferable to a spreadsheet, little did I know (more of that later).  I made a start, and the books were very interesting. A varied collection, some known to me and others not. Some were really quite old.

There were biographies, fiction, poetry, books of walks, a whole section on transport, another on sport, flora and fauna, the list goes on. Sometimes the link to Harrow was obvious, for example biographies of Mrs Beeton, the cookery writer, who lived in Hatch End, local history books and books of sermons by Harrow School Masters who happened to be clergy. Other books required me to thumb through, examine the index, and try and work out a link. It became a bit of a challenge at times and unfortunately some books will require reading but I have other things to do. I made notes on every book, title, author, publisher, subject, etc, thinking I would only be going through three shelves.

During that time Stacey joined as the new curator and other staff came and went, Covid lockdowns happened and there was a hiatus to my work. In all it was much more than three shelves, I checked and catalogued over 1,000 books. There was an occasional break from looking at the books when I researched them online, to see if any were valuable or to glean further information.

At some point Stacey asked me if I could put all my lovely handwritten information onto – yes, you guessed correctly – a spreadsheet. What could I say? Well, I did, and I hope it will be of use. After three years the project was finally finished in spring of 2022. Some of the interesting facts I discovered were that Amy Johnson learnt to fly at Stag Lane Aerodrome in 1929, Sir Ambrose Heal of Heal’s furniture moved to Pinner in 1895, Clement Attlee, Prime Minister, lived in Stanmore in the 1940’s.

It’s a good thing I love books.

From Our Volunteers