“They voted for this”: Felbrigg Hall defends move to increase volunteers’ working hours

Felbrigg Hall from the park. Photo: Bill Smith

Felbrigg Hall from the park. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

The National Trust's Felbrigg Hall has hit back at claims they are 'exploiting' their workers, by insisting the move to increase volunteers' shifts from three to five hour shifts was actually supported by the Hall's volunteering body.

A spokesman for the National Trust said: 'During our consultation, the majority view of volunteers at Felbrigg was for this new way of working.'

A current member of staff at the site, said: 'We gave our volunteers three options for how they wanted the shift patterns to change, and they voted for this one.'

But long-time volunteers have voiced their disagreement with the move.

Josie Gallagher has worked at Felbrigg Hall for 24 years.

The 81-year-old told The Times: 'My husband is 85 next year. He won't be able to stand for five hours looking after a specific room. It's too big an ask.

'I know one lady and it takes her one and a half hours to get to Felbrigg. It's dark by the end of September. Felbrigg is a very remote country house. It's not on a bus route. The older people don't like to drive in the car.'

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The Hall has had to extend working hours as from 2018, the National Trust would like to open the site seven days a week.

Paul Forecast, National Trust's regional director for the East of England, said: 'The increasing popularity of Felbrigg has seen it become a year-round visitor destination, rather than just a place to visit in the holidays. As a charity whose purpose is providing access, we want to respond to this demand, so wish to open the house more often, for more of the time.'

The trust has also responded to criticism of the scheme, with Mr Forecast adding: 'We do understand that increased hours may be difficult for some of our volunteers, so are listening and looking at how we may be able to accommodate different working patterns.'

The Hall is recruiting for more volunteers, to aid them in the process of opening for longer next spring.

This news comes after Felbrigg Hall was thrown into the limelight after the National Trust revealed the Hall's patron as homosexual.

Volunteers objected to this news being publicised, as their patron Robert Wymondham Ketton-Cremer had chosen to keep it a secret during his life.

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