Meet Alison Palmer: Curatorial and Conservation Care Co-ordinator

August 10 2022 | Castle

Alison Palmer’s connection with Hever Castle began at an early age. Growing up in Edenbridge she asked her mum about the gruesome headless woman included in the town’s bonfire parade.

Her mum regaled her with stories of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII’s six wives and a love of history was born. This continued into Edenbridge Middle School when Alison was in Hever house, enjoying regular visits to the historic attraction, and led to an A level in History.

Alison’s parents were also St John’s Ambulance first aiders and she accompanied them to Hever Castle for events throughout the summer holidays.

She started at Hever Castle in 2007 as a Retail Assistant and soon got involved in a couple of hours work cleaning the Castle before heading to the Hever Shop for a shift.

Alison then started being the eyes on the ground for the then Castle Co-ordinator as well as recording the thermohydrometer checks in each room.

When she left she put Alison forward for her role which Alison subsequently got and started in May 2015.

Alison’s job involves looking after the Castle and its collection, including pieces in the Astor Wing and 150 acre grounds.

She explains: “The collection is vast and when I started I was expected to know everything about it as soon as possible. It’s also a broad spectrum of genres and mediums. I carry out a lot of research on items in the collection, and I am contacted a lot by auction houses confirming provenance of pieces that were sold by the Astors in the 70’s and 80’s.

“I spend a fair amount of my time transcribing old inventories and invoices; most of the invoices are in French or Italian in spidery handwriting, so it can be a lengthy challenge.

“It can be a little 0-60, one day I will be updating the collection management system or imputing a condition report on a piece of furniture and then I will have a meeting with Cliveden Conservation about the statues in the Italian Garden.

“My busiest period is in January, as I only have five weeks to get the entire castle cleaned and ready for the new season. Organising the winter clean is not easy as I have to take into account corporate bookings, so the Inner Hall and the Great Hall are always priorities and I always have a deadline with those rooms.

“I have had many challenging moments – most exciting was holding the Books of Hours for the first time, it was amazing and ever since then I’ve been a bit over-protective of them.

Alison also works alongside Assistant Curators Kate and Owen to plan exhibitions in the Castle and write chapters for the accompanying books.

She adds: “As I am constantly having to change the mediums that I am working with and having to think about, it is easy to say my job is never boring.”