During lockdown our ‘Through the Keyhole’ feature explored the rooms and gardens of local heritage gem, Kiplin Hall and Gardens. We now introduce to you the people behind the place – the staff and volunteers who work at Kiplin Hall and Gardens. We’ll hear what their jobs are like, what they love and hate about them, and what about Kiplin brings them joy. This week we hear from James Etherington, the director

James has worked at Kiplin for 18 months. He’s known among the team for his gregarious collection of waist coats and ties. When the colours clash, it’s a safe bet he’s allowed his young daughter pick the tie. Standing out in this way is particularly useful as there are 3 members of staff at Kiplin called James, so it can be difficult to distinguish between them in conversation.

The Northern Echo:

James Etherington, director of Kiplin Hall and Gardens, wearing one of his many colourful waistcoats

James has worked in the museum and heritage sector since he was 18. This has included a stint at Nunnington Hall (part of the National Trust), the RAF Museum London, the Ashmolean Museum, and most recently before Kiplin, three years as Director of Ripon Museum Trust.

James describes what he loves about his job, “Getting to be a part of such a special place and a wonderful team, Kiplin has a really special feel about it. No one can quite put their finger on exactly why, but it feels tranquil, peaceful and amazing all at the same time. It is a real honour to have become a small part of Kiplin’s story.”

And the parts of his duties he is less fond of, “Paperwork, much of my role is paperwork, finances, funding applications, risk assessments, options analysis etc. All massively important and vital, but they do keep my stuck behind my desk for longer than I would like.”

The Northern Echo:

Although James is the boss, he still mucks in with the volunteers to prune, weed and tend to the gardens and land around Kiplin Hall

James feels it’s important to understand the diverse nature of the work going on at Kiplin Hall and Gardens, so does escape his desk on occasion when he joins the gardening team. Under the guidance of the Head Gardener and the dedicated volunteers James mucks in with weeding, digging, and pruning. Not wearing his best waist coat of course!

Although it’s hard to pick a favourite object from the collection James admits a soft spot for one in particular. “I do have a soft spot for the Victorian horse riding simulator which was sold as an exercise machine. The advert which we have with it is a true masterpiece of the Victorian advertisers art, and the fact that despite it’s age, the top is almost unworn, suggesting a lack of use, which resonates with my own history with exercise machines!”

The Northern Echo:

James’s favourite object is the exercise horse. Despite its age it shows little sign of wear on the seat

If James could travel through time to any part of Kiplin’s history he is sure about when he would go. “Definitely the Jacobean period, to meet George Calvert who built the hall in the 1620’s. There is so much we don’t know about the layout and design of the interior of the house then, what I wouldn’t give to know how the rooms were laid out then and how they have changed since.

The Northern Echo:

An advert for the Victorian exercise horse promises to aid circulation and safely cures obesity

"I would also like to meet Calvert, he truly had a fascinating life, rising from a local boy to a chief official of James I, converting (or reconverting) to Catholicism at a time when it was still within living memory for such an act would have put you at risk of being burned at the stake. And founding two colony’s, one in Newfoundland (where I think he fought French pirates!) and laying the groundwork for one in Maryland. All in all he packed a lot into his years and I would love to know more about him. Also, I am certain I would look dashing in ruff, pantaloons and codpiece!”

The Northern Echo:

George Calvert the first owner of Kiplin Hall in the 1620s

Kiplin Hall and Gardens is currently open to visitors five days a week, Friday to Tuesday. Visitors can enjoy visiting the historic house museum, newly laid out to allow for social distancing in each room. Outdoors you can explore the ample grounds with one-way routes clearly identified for walks to allow for social distancing. Visitors will be asked for track and trace details on arrival and a face covering is required to be worn indoors. Visit www.kiplinhall.co.uk for more details on visiting or enjoying online resources from home.