National Civil War Centre

BLOG #VolunteersWeek Becoming A Volunteer

Our wonderful volunteer Rich shares his experience of becoming a volunteer at the National Civil War Centre.

Initially it was a difficult decision to make, retiring and moving from Holywell in Northumberland to live in Newark but, on reflection it has been the best decision we have ever made.  We moved in May of 2018 and the next fifteen months were a whirlwind of planning, decorating and re-ordering our new home. By August 2019 I was beginning to look for something more tangible than paint leaflets and carpet swatches when out then of the blue I heard that there were openings for volunteers at the National Civil War Centre. Coming from a background of working for charities, managing volunteers and of making presentations to a wide variety of community groups, this news felt like a great way out from DIY and gardening!

So application form filled in, interview attended and references taken, I began my 'Golden Years Position' on November 6th 2019 and from day one it simply felt right and exciting.

In the 1960s and 70s, learning about the English Civil War at School was not particularly an uplifting experience. At best it was like a watching the film Cromwell, a case of Charles v Oliver but with no room for reality. So being a volunteer at the National Civil War Centre was a hard learning curve, but the quality of the knowledge owned by both the professional staff and volunteers along with the easily accessible notes available, made the curve less intimidating and the process enjoyable. Learning for example that the English Civil War should really be called The British Civil Wars, was an eye opener, as was realising my home is built on the site of the Parliamentary camp and a stone’s throw from where their guns fired into the town.  

Here at the National Civil War Centre the 1640s come alive with characters that have depth and life; Prince Rupert, Thomas Fairfax, Hercules Clay, John Twentyman and Queen Henrietta Maria to name but a handful. On top of this there is the romance of Newark’s three sieges, the Sconce and Devon Park, the Castle and all of the exhibits and information housed in rooms that have served the town for centuries.

My re-kindled love for the British Civil Wars grows every time I am on duty, but there is one other aspect to working at the Centre that really puts a smile on my face.  When I was a youngster my Dad took my brother and I to see the film Zulu and ever since then, for nearly sixty years, I have held Gonville Bromhead VC up as one of my all-time heroes. The first Christmas we had after coming here we were so lucky to be able to visit relatives in South Africa.  Part of the holiday was spent travelling around Natal and Zulu-land visiting the battle sites of both the Boar and the Zulu wars of which, of course, we went to Rorke’s Drift. Here we learnt the truth about that fateful day on 22nd January 1879 when two great battles were fought. So to actually work in buildings where this hero of mine, along with his brother Charles, were schooled is an amazing privilege and one I cherish every time I walk through the doors.

I cannot wait for our museum and theatre to reopen, when the public can once again safely visit and find out how a series of wars changed the United Kingdom and the part Newark played in its outcome.

This piece was written by one of our volunteers, Rich, during the museum's closure, showing just how dedicated and wonderful our amazing team are. They're now back and waiting to welcome you into the museum once more and this Volunteer's Week we'd just like to say a massive thank you to them, especially for their continued support over the past year. You can find out more about volunteering at the National Civil War Centre and more stories from our volunteers on our Get Involved page.