What We’ve Been Up To - Week Ending 11/01/2014

From time to time returning visitors to the RTH (Regency Town House) look around themselves at the various rooms that are open to the public and ask, “But what do you actually DO here? This room doesn’t seem to have changed since last time we were here.” And it probably hasn’t.

However, in the interim the room itself may have been used as a performance space, had a horror movie enacted in it, had ancient and historically significant films shown in it, hosted a bric a brac sale, been used as an educational class room, or resounded to the sounds of choir singers and musicians. All of which events have been planned, set up, put into operation and cleared up by some of our many, hardworking volunteers.

Other volunteers may not always engage with The House itself, but are outside cataloguing the city's historic architecture, or poring over documents in The Keep researching the Georgian period and writing up their findings. This all helps in building up a body of work which, one day, under the project title, 'MyHouseMyStreet', will include most of the Georgian and Victorian houses in Brighton and Hove.  This significant historical 'drudgery' has already yielded a picture of old Brighton, the men and women who lived here, what they worked at, how they sought entertainment and what tragedies they lived through. Perhaps it’s for these reasons that no-one involved in the My House My Street project regards their work as the ‘drudgery’ I mentioned above, but as that somewhat clichéd ‘labour of love’ one often envies others for being involved with.

In their eyrie at the top of The House another group, including students, interns, volunteers and the somewhat intimidatingly computer savvy, are continually hard at work, slaving over hot computers. Their efforts are producing, 'Profiles of the Past' which, on completion, will be the most comprehensive project about British portrait silhouette history ever produced. This is a momentous task and one which would prove challenging for any history department – so it is a resounding tribute to the work of our volunteers that it has progressed so far.

Apart from the silhouette work there is the very exciting, cutting edge development of an entirely new approach to public interaction with the history that is represented in the buildings and artefacts which comprise Brighton and Hove.

In direct contrast to these research oriented projects, is the ‘hands-on’ crew who mostly toil away down in the basements these days.  The plural reminds one that it is not only No. 13 that is part of the RTH initiative but the entire basement quarters (the former servant’s domain) of No.10. Even here it is not merely reconstruction that takes place, but the teaching and passing on of traditional construction skills that are dying out in contemporary practice. Plastering, carpentry, painting and electrical work is continual in both areas even though the public might not be aware of the major reconstruction that is happening in rooms not yet open to visitors.

Apart from that there are tours, events, exhibitions, schools projects, decoration, cleaning and clearing that take up our days.

So from now on, just to prove we don’t sit around supping tea and gossiping, we are going to keep you up to date with the weekly activities that take up all our time and thus provide answers for anyone who has ever wondered what on earth we all do here.

Three Town House volunteers hard at work lime plastering.