Marsh Group Award for Volunteering with The Arts Society


These Awards recognise volunteers from some of The Arts Society’s 365 local societies across the UK, who have worked together as a group to help conserve the decorative and fine arts in their local area.

Nominations for the Award are put forward by local societies and are judged by a panel consisting of Arts Society and MCT representatives.

Heritage Volunteers, The Arts Society Kennet and Swindon 2022

This small but perfectly organised volunteer groups was set up 7 years ago to support St Mary’s Church in Swindon. The group allowed the church to be opened on Friday each week to allow more visitors to see the treasures in this small church. After undertaking training, the volunteers are able to guide visitors around the church and will be undertaking more training specifically to enhance conservation of the church. They have contributed to increased visitor numbers at the church and so were invited to be part of a successful Heritage Lottery Funding bid which raised £1 million. They have organised artists in residence at the church and encouraged school visits, all of which contribute to preserving the rich history of the church.

Previous Winners

Heritage Volunteers - Arts Society Stourbridge

Heritage Volunteers from the Arts Society Stourbridge have spent 1,844 hours over 2 years at Harvington Hall, cataloguing, digitising, and archiving a huge collection of images never before systematically stored or ordered. The Hall constitutes a significant community resource and the group have created a set of archives using an Excel database and catalogue which combine to form a valuable resource for the wider community. This project can enhance opportunities for scholarship and research and help to make new materials available to national databases. 

The Arts Society Ross-on-Wye

Hellens Heritage Volunteers in Ross-on-Wye have been conserving needlework for over 20 years. They have recruited and trained new volunteers who have never sewn before who will be able to pass on their skills. They have taken on a huge project aiming to complete their own crewel work which will include 40 different kinds of stich and which when completed with be 9 metres long.  It is expected to take 5 years to complete and will be displayed at Hellens Manor in Herefordshire.   

The Arts Society Appleby-in-Westmoreland

In the last 3 years, the new Chair and Committee of the Arts Society Appleby-in-Westmoreland have reinvigorated a failing society. Their hard work was epitomised in their Golden Anniversary Project which was challenging both financially and socially. It was directed at older people facing isolation, mental health issues including dementia and schizophrenia, and learning difficulties coming together in a 10-week art project. The project was led by professional artists and the 12 participants now only produced some stunning artwork, but also developed in their confidence and friendship which has led to a change in atmosphere in their care home. The group were able to carry off a very ambitious project which has enriched a whole community.

Beaconsfield and Gerrard Cross Church Recorders

The Arts Society Beaconsfield and the Arts Society Gerrard Cross, in Buckinghamshire, have created a joint church recording group that has been running since 1997. They have put together a knowledgeable team and shared resources to produce high quality records of local places backed by comprehensive historical research, completing records for six churches over the years. They have also shown an ability to adapt their methods over the years, making use of information available on the internet over recent years.

Stirling DFAS

The group of volunteers at Stirling DFAS have been involved in two projects. One group has worked with the local council archivist, cleaning and transcribing records and making these more accessible to the public and academics. The other team has volunteered at the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regimental Museum helping to store and preserve army uniforms exhibited at the museum. The group have volunteered for over four years on this project, having contributed around 1,400 hours of their time.

The Farnham Decorative Fine Arts Society and The Budleigh Salterton Society

The Farnham Society was recognised for their work with young people and the arts. The Society ran a Schools’ Art Exhibition in 2015 for two weeks where a range of around 20 schools were invited to contribute work to the exhibition, which was then viewed by hundreds of visitors.

The group have already successfully launched two church trails and more are in the pipeline. The church trails take children and young people on a guided tour of exploration and discovery of the church and its environs, as a basis for the wider understanding of the crafts and history of their local area, as well as their links with and roots into their past.
The group have also held training sessions in the arts for teachers with the aim of improving the teachers’ abilities to teach art and in doing so benefiting the children they teach.

Highly Commended – Budleigh Salterton Society

The Budleigh Salterton Society was named Highly Commended for their running of an innovative project which engages local school children to write and illustrate stories about their town which are then exhibited in various locations across the town. The society has been able to encourage a great number of young people to realise that they could fulfill their creative abilities successfully and with great enjoyment.

Reigate Cranston Society Volunteers and Portsdown Society Volunteers

Twelve members of the Reigate Society have undertaken a project caring for the collections at Cranston Library in Reigate, a unique parish library located in St Mary’s Church. The library was founded in 1701 and is claimed to be the earliest regulated public lending library in England.

The volunteers received training in book care and have carried out a variety of tasks, from cleaning the books, updating records, and noting the existence of provenance and use of the books, which has opened the way to wider research. The project has helped raise the profile of the Library both locally and nationally.

The volunteers have shown immense enthusiasm for the project and for three years have enabled a weekly session in the library to take place. They also assist at the Library’s public open days and share their knowledge and love of the library with visitors. Their work is hugely valued by the Library Trustees and the public.

Highly Commended – Portsdown DFAS  – Admiralty Library Heritage Volunteers

The Volunteers of Portsdown Society were named as Highly Commended Winners for their work on the Admiralty Library Project. The Team are working on repairing, conserving, cleaning and assessing the condition of the more than 14,000 volumes which the Library holds. Their work has greatly extended the range of material which can be shown to visitors as well as enabling the Library to show some of its greatest treasures to the public in exhibitions.

The Test Valley Society’s Young Arts Team and East Surrey Heritage Volunteers

The Test Valley Society’s Young Arts team is made up of Anne Keenan, Linda King and Anne Isherwood.  In 2009 the team of three began working with local schools on mosaics, fabric tie dying and silk printing. They have worked on a project with Andover College assisting students in compiling portfolios for their applications to Art School. Test Valley have also supported school projects as diverse as an African Week, an art gallery project and altar cloths.  The team have enhanced the appreciation and understanding of art across all age ranges and youth organisations within the Test Valley area.

Highly Commended – East Surrey Heritage Volunteers

The Heritage Volunteers from the East Surrey Area were named as Highly Commended Winners for their project at Polesden Lacey, a National Trust property in Surrey. Since 2009 they have been making replica Edwardian costumes for the room stewards to wear on special open days which have added greatly to the visitor experience.

The Bolton Church Recorders

The Bolton Church Recording Group has developed as a committed and enthusiastic team of amateurs achieving a high standard of church recording and willing to help other Groups. The Group has developed a wide expertise in the various aspects of recording, and, thanks to training and development, is able to solve many of the intricate problems of recording from within its own resources, whether that be about an organ, silverware, textiles, memorials, stained glass, or the many other items found in churches.

The Group is proud of the high standard of content and presentation of its records to date which have been much admired. Each of the records produced is deposited in several archives and is a valuable resource, describing in detail an important part of England’s heritage and assisting churches to understand the nature and cultural value of their assets.

The Bolton Group has extended help to others – the Group Leader being active in the provision of assistance and training offered to all Groups in the North West of England, and the Bolton Group photographers running a course for church photographers from across the region.

The Group has developed a strong team spirit, visiting other churches and Groups, learning together at training days, as well as enjoying social activities together.