Ellen, a Transition Year student in Balbriggan, spent a week with us in February. Ellen was enthusiastic about history and heritage and eager to get involved where possible. Together we came up with a project that would be mutually beneficial. This project, Cataloging the Kitchen Artefacts, was undertaken solely by Ellen and completed in the short time she spent with us, which is a credit to the work and energy she brought to the role. Below is Ellen’s blog about her week at Ardgillan.
My name is Ellen, and I am a Transition Year student in Balbriggan. As part of the TY programme in my school, students do three weeks of work experience, to experience life in the working world, and help us decide what career path we will take after we finish school. As I have a huge interest in history, especially local history, I decided to come to Ardgillan Castle for my work experience, to see what it is like to work in a place so steeped in history.
When I arrived at Ardgillan Castle on Monday morning, I immediately realised how lucky I was to have this opportunity; to work in a place like this, where every corner is filled with history, and to experience life in a castle first-hand. I was really interested and excited to find out what sort of work I would be doing at Ardgillan Castle. I was given a project; Cataloguing the Kitchen Artefacts. This involved photographing and recording all of the items on display in the kitchen at Ardgillan, and adding descriptions where possible. These photos will be a valuable educational resource and promotional tool for Ardgillan Castle in the future.
As I began my work, taking artefacts from the kitchen and photographing them, I was amazed by the variety of items I saw; a meat rotisserie, a coffee grinder, box irons, a washboard; all of these artefacts at my fingertips, waiting to be explored. I photographed individual items, and groups of items with a similar purpose; for example, I photographed a mixing bowl, a sieve, and a rolling pin individually, then together as a group of baking equipment.
Being down in the kitchen, and handling these artefacts gave me a huge insight into what life would have been like in a place like Ardgillan hundreds of years ago for the kitchen staff and servants. There was plenty of heavy lifting and stairs to negotiate, and all the while, the family upstairs lived a life of luxury, enjoying the stunning views of the park and the sea surrounding them. This is exactly what I had hoped to gain by doing work experience at Ardgillan; a new insight into what life was really like in a castle in the past, and what it is like for the people working here today.
Working here at Ardgillan for a week has been an invaluable experience for me, and I have gained so much from it; a better knowledge of my local history, an insight into the work involved in running Ardgillan Castle, and a huge insight into what life was like for the Taylor family and their staff in the past. Instead of studying history from a book, I was given the opportunity to study history through seeing things, holding things and photographing things I had only ever seen in my history book, or behind glass at a museum.
Ardgillan Castle gives people the chance to learn about their heritage, and the history of their local surroundings. I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity to work here for a week and explore the history of the castle. I would like to thank all of the staff at Ardgillan Castle for being so welcoming, and for making my week such an enjoyable and worthwhile experience.
My Favourite Item:
Throughout the week, I got to see some really amazing items. My favourite items on display at Ardgillan Castle are the two pianos in the Morning Room; one grand piano, and one upright. As a musician, I found it really interesting to see the types of pianos that would have been played hundreds of years ago, and compare them to modern pianos. The grand piano dates from around 1825, and was made by Collard and Collard in London. The lid is open, and the hammers and strings are visible. The upright piano was also made by Collard and Collard. It has a closed lid and a taller frame. There are two candle holders on either sideof the piano, so the musician could see their music clearly. This piano is more decorative and ornate than the grand piano, with wooden carved designs across the front.