Hannah Seward-Thompson has a busy role as property administrator at Tyntesfield, a Grade 1 listed National Trust property in Somerset.
Tyntesfield came into National Trust ownership in 2002. It has recently been the subject of a large renovation project to restore the property to its full architectural glory, complete with gothic turrets and towers.
The National Trust is a charity responsible for over 300 historic houses, and 200 parks and gardens throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They also manage miles of coastline and acres of spectacular countryside.
Working as a property administrator
The main purpose of Hannah’s job is to provide full administrative support to the General Manager and the team at Tyntesfield. This not only covers the house, but also the rented cottages on the estate.
“I am responsible for anything and everything related to the administration of the property. This includes routine tasks such as post and petty cash; and more complex duties such as finding ways to minimise energy consumption. Arranging repairs to a faulty boiler and organising the meter readings for the estate are just two aspects of a very busy day’s work for me.”
Hannah’s job also involves the administration of staff appointments and managing delegated budgets for the property. She also looks after ‘communication’ at Tyntesfield, which is all about keeping staff informed and in touch with what is going on.
“I am very much a people person and enjoy this side of the work. As well as using Microsoft Publisher to produce weekly newsletters I also organise fun social activities for staff. Everyone here at Tyntesfield is really friendly, and this really adds to my job satisfaction.”
Working with heritage volunteers
“Working as a volunteer was great fun. Experience gained as a volunteer gives a great insight into the working of the organisation."
Organising and managing the work of her volunteers is a big part of Hannah’s role. She has recently set up a group of volunteers to read all the utility meters on the estate on a regular basis.
“I am so grateful for the work of my volunteers – they really lighten the load and make my job so much easier. My volunteers offer me between a couple of hours of their time a week, to two whole days!
"Either way, I have come to rely on their support and expertise. Learning how to manage volunteers effectively is something I have learnt on-the-job.”
Getting into administration
Hannah is passionate about administration as a career and keenly conscientious in her work. She admits to playing ‘offices’ as a child, and has always known that she wanted to go into administrative work.
“I didn’t go to university - something I don’t regret. Instead I completed a full year’s training at a private secretarial college after finishing my A levels.
"I started my first job armed with a Bilingual Diploma in Business Studies, a comprehensive training which included word processing and shorthand. Looking back this provided the ideal springboard for my career in administration.”
Career progress in heritage
Some people see administrative work as a stepping stone to promotion within an organisation. Whilst this can be true, it is not a view held by Hannah.
“People see administrative work as a junior role, but this is just not the case. The job is what you make of it. Working as Property Administrator gives me an overview of everything that is happening here at Tyntesfield.
"I also have the opportunity to work with so many different people at all levels. That includes everyone from the people who collect our rubbish to senior executives within the National Trust.
"Opportunities for promotion within the National Trust are definitely there, although would probably mean a move to regional or head office. This doesn’t appeal to me – I love it at Tyntesfield.
"My job is a really big part of my life and it is vital that I am happy at work. I just love what I do, and nothing gives me more satisfaction than performing all my tasks to the very highest standards. Working within the beautiful environment at Tyntesfield is also a bonus”
Gaining experience through paid and voluntary work
Hannah has an impressive track-record of successful employment in various administrative roles. Jobs including working as a PA at B&Q and for the Head Teacher of a school for disabled children provided her with a superb transferable skill set.
“Competition for jobs at the National Trust and other charities is fierce. I was thrilled when I was offered this post, as I had already applied for several jobs in the charity sector.”
Hannah had kept her eye on jobs in the National Trust for some time, having always enjoyed visiting properties and open spaces. She was ready for a move out of the business sector into something more in line with her values. Hannah wanted the opportunity to give something back.
“Working as a National Trust volunteer for five years was great fun. Experience gained as a volunteer gives a great insight into the working of the organisation.
"But I also enjoyed my voluntary work so much, which included everything from gardening to property renovation. A real highlight was spending a week on a National Trust working holiday at Stackpole, in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.”
Working for a charity in the heritage sector
"Working as Property Administrator gives me an overview of everything that is happening here at Tyntesfield."
Working for a charity certainly has its challenges. Hannah’s job has many responsibilities, and can also involve occasional evening and weekend working.
“I never get to the end of my ‘To Do’ list! So many things compete for my time and effectively prioritising tasks is a daily challenge. Regular interruptions can also be stressful.
"As my job means so much to me, I often choose to work overtime just to get as much as I can finished. There is a lot of pressure in the job, but I would not change anything!”
Advice for a career in heritage administration
- Competition might be fierce, but don’t give up on the National Trust if you think it may be for you
- Experience gained as a National Trust volunteer will really enhance your CV and improve your chances of paid work within the organisation
- When applying for National Trust jobs, make sure your experience fits the role you are applying for
- Working in heritage is not highly-paid, but the work is so very rewarding in other ways. The jobs often give a much higher degree of responsibility when compared to the private sector.