How a Georgian mansion helped Josepha rebuild her confidence
Josepha Murray was forced to shield during the pandemic, an experience that knocked her confidence and left her with a profound fear of catching Covid. But the 69-year-old retired librarian has bounced back with the help of a volunteering role at Marble Hill, a grand Georgian mansion in Twickenham.
Josepha, who received a donor kidney from her brother in 1997, was classified as “clinically extremely vulnerable” during the pandemic. She said, “I live with my husband, but we had to stay separate from each other. During the first period of shielding I wasn’t allowed out of the house for 10 weeks. The whole experience was traumatic.”
Long periods of shielding in 2020 and 2021 limited Josepha’s social contacts to close family members who were required to take tests before visiting her.
Things took a turn for the better the day she answered a call for volunteers put out by Marble Hill. The English Heritage property in south-west London was preparing to re-open in May 2022 after a major restoration project made possible with the help of a £5M grant from The National Lottery.
Josepha admits the idea of mixing with Marble Hill visitors made her nervous at first, but the welcoming response from the volunteer team put her at ease. She also received an assurance she would be able to wear a mask inside the house.
Working as a room explainer, Josepha has acquired a new understanding and appreciation for the Georgians. And more importantly perhaps, she has rebuilt her confidence and begun enjoying life once again.
She said, “I chat to the other volunteers and go to the [Marble Hill] cafe with my grandchildren. I feel able to go out again – to go to museums and meet people. I’m still a little restricted, but I’m getting there. It’s built my confidence up again.”
Josepha has a particular admiration for Henrietta Howard, later Countess of Suffolk, who built Marble Hill in the 1720s. She said, “Henrietta must have been very determined and independent as well as very cultured. She was part of a social group who met at each other’s houses for cards and dinner – people like Horace Walpole and Alexander Pope.”
Josepha highly recommends a visit to Marble Hill and suggests the extensive grounds and the house’s Great Room as highlights. She said, “I love the Great Room. It’s the room that has pieces of furniture that belonged to Henrietta herself which is very exciting. It’s an incredibly impressive room with amazing plasterwork and wood carving – the kind of room you walk into and say ‘wow!’
Marble Hill is just one of hundreds of incredible places across the UK that took part in National Lottery Open Week. Running between 18th-26th March 2023, it was our way of thanking players like you for helping support amazing historic buildings and heritage sites up and down the country. To find out more go to www.NationalLotteryOpenWeek.com
Originally published 3rd March 2023. Updated 27th March 2023.
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