William Morris once said ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful ’. Morris’ message that the practical needn’t be dull but can be creative and visually pleasing too has given me much food for thought. From experience I had only ever applied this idea to small but sweet objects. Floral painted teacups. Hand stitched bookmarks. Mix and match love-heart buttons.
However, as the most recent intern on the National Trust’s energy campaign I have realised this idea can be applied on a far grander scale. Our mission at the Trust is to inspire all people to make the places that are special to them, their homes and their communities, not just beautiful but useful too in how they help contribute to a brighter environmental future. Using historic Trust properties as a springboard, we hope to show you how even the most delicate, drafty buildings can be energy efficient in new and exciting ways, and in turn motivate you to try it yourself.
Inspiring you is all well and good, but I’ve got myself thinking. Before I hear all of your wonderful stories of how the National Trust has inspired you to be creative and ‘green’, I thought I should start with my story.
I am originally from East Anglia and have been lucky enough to have worked within two Trust properties, Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire and Ickworth House in Suffolk. My time at both these properties taught me a number of things. How to make the story of the house resonate with the wide-range of visitors. How to handle and care for precious, historical objects and environments. How to work as part of a diverse team of volunteers, and how to drink a lot of tea! But on top of all of these things my time volunteering with the Trust installed in me a sense of responsibility for our special places. It made me see how important it is to conserve their stories, not just to be enjoyed now, but in the future also.
Coming from a family of property enthusiasts, there rarely comes a day when a wall isn’t being hammered down or a new extension being built. Countless times have I recoiled in horror as original features have been sent away, only to be replaced with their modernised, not so twee counterparts. But I needn’t fear any longer! The work at Trust properties like Ickworth House is showing me how the new and old can live harmoniously side by side, promoting energy efficiency whilst maintaining vintage appeal.
In the next few years Ickworth are working to install a biomass boiler system to supply heating for the entire property. Their scheme comes as part of the £ 3.5 million pilot renewables programme set up by the National Trust and our energy partner Good Energy. But even before Ickworth get installing the boiler, they have already managed to reduce their oil usage by 25% – staggering considering that last year was on average 19% colder than previous years*. But how did they manage this? Easy! By making just a few simple changes to the properties historic features. Beautiful LED lightbulbs in their ornate candelabras, traditional wool-batt insulation in the roof of the famous rotunda and smartly monitored day-to-day electricity usage.
Ickworth is my ‘green-spiration’ because it epitomises Morris’ message, proving that historical beauty needn’t be compromised to make way for modernity. Not only this, sympathetically installed new technology will help sustain our diverse history for the future, ensuring that our special places are looked after for everyone, forever.
If you have a ‘green-spiration’ I’d love you to comment below or tweet me @katie_canning