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Hands on or hands off?

Southwell girls encounter conservation in action

15 Notts Brownies and Guides had a hands-on encounter with vital conservation work when they took part in a wallpaper workshop at The Workhouse, Southwell. Lead by illustrator and print-maker Sarah Holden, the workshop helped the girls – all members of Southwell units – appreciate the fragile nature of old wallpaper, and to understand how much damage can be done when it is touched by people and their belongings.

In its latter stages known as Greet House, the Grade II-listed Southwell Workhouse was built in 1824 and is now a museum run by the National Trust. Careful conservation work has enabled many of the rooms to be restored and their original interiors reinstated – this includes examples of beautiful 19th century wallpaper, which, as the Brownies and Guides found out, is so tempting to touch and yet is so easily damaged.

The girls were encouraged to create their own wallpaper samples inspired by the original décor. Having worked out their designs, they traced them on to lino blocks before carefully carving them out. Finally came the messy bit, with everyone hand-printing their designs on to sheets of blank wallpaper.

‘Pink was the favourite colour of the day for printing,’ says Guide Leader Nancy Wilson. ‘The girls loved seeing their patterns coming to life and the final results looked amazing!’

The girls who took part in the workshop were from four different units – 2nd, 3rd and 4th Southwell Brownies and 3rd Southwell Guides – and they all had lots to say about the event afterwards.

‘My favourite thing was the painting, especially when we rolled the paint together to make a different colour,’ said Teagan (11) of 3rd Southwell Guides. Anna (10) liked the painting best too: ‘Putting the roller in the paint was amazing. I really liked today because I learnt how to make wallpaper which was a great experience as I had never done it before,’ she said, while a very excited Sienna (11) exclaimed ‘I really enjoyed today. I would like to do it all over again!’

The Brownies also had a great time: ‘Today I enjoyed everything!’ said Willow (8), from 3rd Southwell Brownies. Her friend Amy (7) especially enjoyed the lino cutting while Sara (9), who is a member of 4th Southwell Brownies, said ‘I loved today so much! My favourite thing was doing the printing and stamping because it was messy and fun!’

The girls’ designs will feature in an exhibition when The Workhouse opens later this season: a removable transparent film covered with fingerprints will be laid over their samples to demonstrate just how easy it is to damage wallpaper without even realising it.

Called ‘Hands On or Hands Off? If Walls Could Talk’, the exhibition opens at The Workhouse, Southwell on 23 April. For more details and opening times, visit https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/the-workhouse-southwell

Girlguiding Nottinghamshire relies on the help of adult supporters to enable its members to make the most of opportunities like this: enquiries about volunteering opportunities are always welcome via www.girlguidingnottinghamshire.org.uk

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