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A Day In the Life of a Volunteer Steward at Watts Gallery

Published on: 22 Apr, 2022
Updated on: 23 Apr, 2022

Watts Gallery-Artists’ Village in Compton is one of the area’s most popular visitor attractions.

Its visitors go to see the exhibitions, take part in activities or see displays of the amazing collection of the artist GF Watts, and the work of his wife Mary, who spearheaded the famous Compton Pottery. Volunteers are extremely important within the smooth running of all that goes on there.

Here, volunteer Jenny Croucher gives a snapshot of the day in the life of a gallery steward.

The day often starts with a caffeine fix from the fantastic tea room, where we can buy a drink and something to eat, at a discounted rate, or we make ourselves a cuppa in the volunteer kitchen, while chatting to fellow stewards.

Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village gallery steward Jenny Croucher.

Here we meet one of our supervisors, who brief us, telling us what’s new, what groups might be visiting that day or what special event might be on.

I have volunteered for five years and love my “me” time at such a friendly organisation. Having been passionately in love with the chapel for many years, I have always felt connected to Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village.

The best thing is that you can help in a variety of venues on site and I learn something different every week from colleagues and visitors.

Take a look round the gallery and displays at Compton.

The main gallery.

Every day is different, sometimes we have a school or coach group come to explore. During holidays families get stuck into creative activities and other days it can be quiet and you can enjoy the art in the galleries or the calm of Limnerslease, the home and workplace of George Frederic and Mary Watts.

You can even imagine it’s your house, as you relax on the sofa in the sunshine, between visitors!

I enjoy imparting not only the history and the ethos of Watts to visitors, but little snippets that they won’t find in guides.

The Sculpture Gallery has a fascination for children and adults laugh when you tell them that the bronze statue of Tennyson was unveiled at Lincoln and the local press nicknamed it “The disappointed cabbie”.

Many children visiting believe he is looking at his mobile phone!

Volunteer steward Jenny Croucher in The Sculpture Gallery.

Some of us like to steward at both the house and the gallery, but others prefer just to stick to one location.

Shifts last for either two or three hours or you can do a full day with a break lunch if you have the energy. Then you can always get a bit of retail therapy in the visitors’ centre (with an additional 10% off!) before leaving for the day.

We’re really lucky, as we get invited to all the private views with other VIPs and have our own talks programme with the curators, where we find out more about the collections and temporary exhibitions.

There is a volunteers’ library, which you can borrow items to read on your shift, if it turns out to be a quiet one, so there is always a chance to learn something new.

People are often amazed when they enter the studios or galleries as many of them didn’t know this hidden gem existed, so it’s great to hear their responses and help them find their way around.

The main factor for volunteering is the “feel good” factor, as I feel responsible for keeping G F and Mary Watts’ ethos alive and kicking; last week my 14-year-old granddaughter fell in love with the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition and is now practising drawing hair for her GCSE art; inspired by the Study of a Woman’s Head. 

New volunteers are always welcome and if you are interested in joining our team, contact visitor services supervisor Celia Hodges. Send an email to her at

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Responses to A Day In the Life of a Volunteer Steward at Watts Gallery

  1. Merelina Ponsonby Reply

    April 24, 2022 at 4:40 pm

    Great Jenny! Everyone needs a bit of fame.

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