Meet the team

Nik Stewart

Shaw House Manager

I have been the manager at Shaw House since 2013 but was already working here as the Training Officer for the wider Council. The thing that I enjoy most about my job is the people, from colleagues, conference customers or visitors having a look around or attending one of our many events. We have a fantastic venue here and it’s great to share it with so many people.

My favourite events are the Fairs, open air cinemas and theatres. It’s a real buzz seeing so many people here enjoying themselves.

What is your favourite room in the House?
Where to start? The King Charles Room with its splendour and history. The Pink and Rose Room where we spend so much time as a team working and planning. I am going to say Dolman 3. It’s small, unpretentious and functional. It works hard for it’s living as it has a variety of uses and it’s where I had my interview for this job which was obviously important for me! I have to say I do like being out and about in the grounds looking back at the House. When you visit you should try it!

What are your hobbies?
I have a degree in Sport Studies and sport in general is my main hobby, whether watching, playing or reading. I played cricket for Thatcham Town for many years and am a lifelong supporter of Reading FC and am a season ticket holder – your sympathies are appreciated!

Do you have an interesting fact about yourself?
I worked at Lord’s Cricket Ground as Manager of their incredibly successful guided tours and Museum for 16 years. It was a fantastic job and a dream for a cricket fan like myself. I commuted everyday from Thatcham and eventually I decided that I wanted to work closer to home as I would be able to spend more time with my family rather than on a train. Lord’s offered me so many opportunities and I even managed to play and score a half century there – which if you had ever seen me bat you would know was bordering on the miraculous!


nik.stewart@westberks.gov.uk

Heather Evans

Business Development Officer

I started working at Shaw House in 2014 and I love my job because my role is so varied and I get involved with lots of different types of bookings and events. Every enquiry is different, I could be taking calls from brides, theatre companies, paranormal groups, wedding fair organisers, charities or funeral directors and the list goes on!

I also provide show rounds to people who are planning events or corporate bookings as well as assisting with marketing and promotions.

I love the events, especially when the excitement of Christmas builds and the House has been decorated, or the anticipation of everyone arriving for the Summer Fair, seeing people enjoying themselves makes all the hard work worthwhile.

What are your hobbies?
My hobbies are staying in historical buildings. I have stayed in many Landmark Trust properties and enjoy visiting historical locations. I also have two dogs which need lots of walking and two cats to keep me busy!

Do you have an interesting fact about yourself?
I have a qualification in wine tasting.


heather.evans@westberks.gov.uk

Stuart Gorham

Visitor Services Officer


I escaped from Facilities in the corporate buildings to Shaw House in 2013.

A typical day as a VSO is to manage everything from the facilities and bookings for the day, making sure that all of the room are set up correctly, assisting the trainers in setting any technical equipment and wifi. On busy days marshalling the car park is essential. And then when all the rooms are settled, I tend to the gardens and manage other projects in the grounds.

The most satisfying aspect of my job is meeting the diverse selection of people who come to Shaw House and ensuring they have a good experience and leave wanting to visit again.

I enjoy all the events especially ones where the whole team has planned and worked together and we have provided an enjoyable day for our visitors.

What is your favourite room in the House?
My favourite room in the house is the cafe. I find the cafe generates an informal atmosphere where people can relax. It has many interesting and original features which consistently engage even the most casual visitor and lead them on to ask questions and take an interest in the house whilst enjoying the healthy refreshments on offer.

What are your hobbies?
Travel, astronomy, bird watching, listening to music and gardening.

Do you have an interesting fact about yourself?
I have worked as film extra in India.


stuart.gorham@westberks.gov.uk

Adam Elliott

Visitor Services Officer

I have worked at Shaw House since 2010, first as a casual staff member and then I joined on a permanent basis.

I really enjoy working with different people every day, as well as planning and helping to run events. Part of my role is to encourage local youth groups such as Scouts and Guides to interact with the House and grounds and talking to them about the history of the building and town.

What is your favourite room in the House?
The King Charles; it’s one of only two in the House with the original panelling installed in the correct place. The panels are fitted really well, giving the fireplace a good frame, combined with the deep red carpets it creates a really atmospheric mood.

What are your hobbies?
I am a Scout Leader and run my own troop on a Monday evening, delivering an interesting, educational and fun programme to 22 children aged 10-14 year olds. We camp 3 or 4 times a year, mostly weekend camps with one large week long Summer Camp

Do you have an interesting fact about yourself?
I once jumped off of a 30 foot cliff into a lagoon on the coast of Wales.


adam.elliott@westberks.gov.uk

Christine Anstie

Senior Visitor Services Assistant

I really like meeting and welcoming people, especially visitors that show a lot of interest in the House, it’s lovely listening to how much they enjoy walking around each of the rooms!

Do you have a favorite room?
Dolman 1 is my favourite because it is always so bright and has a great view of the grounds.

Do you have any hobbies?
I love to spend time with my family, walking my lovely loyal dog and reading.


christine.anstie@westberks.gov.uk

Nicola Baker

Visitor Services Assistant

I am delighted to be joining the team at Shaw House as Visitor Services Assistant. As I am local to the area and studied history at university, I am really looking forward to learning all the history and stories behind the House, helping at events and ensuring all our visitors have the best possible experience.

What is your favourite room in the House?
I am still enjoying getting to know all the rooms but I'm sure I will have a favourite soon. It is certainly a unique and fascinating place to work.

What are your hobbies?
I love spending any free time with my family and friends. I am also a keen runner and enjoy taking part in organised races, although a lot of my spare time is spent 'running' around after my two children and their extra curricular activities!


nicola.baker@westberks.gov.uk

Joy Aldridge

Catering Assistant

I love the beauty and history of the rooms and grounds. In my role as catering assistant I enjoy meeting and talking to the various visitors to the house and café. I feel lucky to be working in such a wonderful place.

What is your favourite room?
The Chandos Dining Room is such a grand and imposing space, it makes the perfect setting for our Friday afternoon teas and drinks receptions.

Do you have any hobbies?
Spending time with family and friends is very important to me. Also knitting reading and cross stitch.

Do you have an interesting fact about yourself?
I have had several poems published in various anthologies.


joy.aldridge@westberks.gov.uk

Francesca Forde

Visitor Services Officer

I have come from a background in law but I have always been creative coming from a very arty and musical family. As a result, I am really looking forward to the biggest part of my role creating children’s activities in two of the rooms in the house and overseeing the activity trails.

Every day is different dependent on the type of visitor to Shaw House. I enjoy the variety of responsibilities that this creates and making sure that everyone who steps foot on the grounds has a great experience.

What is your favourite room in the House?
I love the Chandos Dining room as it is light, bright and feels very grand. Having said that, better still for me is looking back at the house from outside in the grounds. It is such a stunning building.

What are your hobbies?
I have grown up going camping so this is something I really enjoy; my son and I are often off on an adventure somewhere! I also love the theatre and generally spending time with friends and family.

Do you have an interesting fact about yourself?
I have been quad biking through the rainforest in Costa Rica.


francesca.forde1@westberks.gov.uk

Sarah Somerville

Visitor Services Officer

My first job was as a tour guide at Highclere Castle, known to many as 'Downton Abbey'. I soon joined the Public Opening and Events department, staying for over 7 years in total - and seeing a lot of filming along the way!

My passion for art and history took me to Aberystwyth to study for my degree in Museum and Gallery Studies, graduating in 2014. Being in Wales for three years meant I learnt a little Welsh too.

At Shaw House I work closely with the shop and cafe aspects of the House, I am also be involved with the exhibition rooms. Lots of history to share and exciting things to come!


What is your favourite room in the House?
One of the rooms in the Dolman suite, Dolman 2, is my favourite room. One of the entrances is through a 'hidden' door in the oak paneling of the wooden gallery... intriguing! My mum went to school here and has told me many stories. The house certainly plays a big role in my family history!

What are your hobbies?
I adore painting, drawing and photography. I like to take my old 35mm film camera with me on adventures. I enjoy exploring nature, whether it's a picnic in the park, a walk in the woods or a swim in the sea (even in Winter!)

Do you have an interesting fact about yourself?
My birthday falls on the Summer Solstice, and so to celebrate my 21st birthday myself, family and friends joined in with the Summer celebrations at Stonehenge. We had a great evening and watched the sun rise through the stones with over 20,000 others. It was a magical atmosphere!


sarah.somerville1@westberks.gov.uk

Clare Bromley

Learning and Participation Officer

I have worked at the museum since 2014 at which time the team were based at one of the museum stores as the building was still being refurbished!

My job is so varied and no day is ever exactly the same – for example, one day I may be making the prototypes for the family activity days, another day visiting a school to do a workshop or hosting a visit to the museum, another visiting a care home to do an object handling session and another working on an exhibition with a community partner and steering group.

I really enjoy sharing my interest and knowledge of the museum’s collection with so many different audiences.

What is your favourite exhibition?
Window to My World, an exhibition to commemorate Black History Month 2015, is my favourite exhibition to date. Individuals from the local community shared their stories of heritage and culture through personal objects, images and memories – it was wonderful to work with the individuals and All2gether on this exhibition.

What are your hobbies?
I like to go on ‘busman holidays’ to places where I can appreciate and explore the history and culture.

Do you have an interesting fact about yourself?
I am a qualified secondary school Humanities teacher.


clare.bromley@westberks.gov.uk

David Elliott

Museum Operations Manager

I originally worked at Shaw House and was there for 6 years before moving over to work at the museum where I have been since 2014.

My job is to welcome visitors, organise the volunteers and manage the general front of house. I really enjoy meeting so many different people as well as being surrounded by amazing artefacts within such historic buildings!

What is your favourite exhibition?
King and Cause

What are your hobbies?
Walking the dog and being a Scout leader.

Do you have an interesting fact about yourself?
I have an identical twin brother


david.elliott@westberks.gov.uk

Janine Fox

Curator

I started working at West Berkshire Museum in November 2018. Before this I worked in a variety of museums in the Midlands including Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery. My previous role was leading a team for the History of Science Museum, Oxford, to pack and move their stored collections.

What I love about my job is how varied it is, no two days are the same. Being a Curator means ensuring the museum and its collections are made available to the public and kept safe. I feel very lucky to be able to work with local communities to develop exhibitions and the collections. Collecting and retelling stories is a very important and rewarding part of my job.

What is your favourite exhibition?
Being new to the area I would say that our Lives and Landscape exhibition on the history of West Berkshire is fantastic. What makes an exhibition great for me is that it evokes some form of emotional response and encourages a dialogue from a variety of voices.

What are your hobbies outside work?
Photography, digital and film. I love cats and would collect them if I could. I like to travel and discover new places, whenever I travel I do always visit the local museums! I hike, particularly when I travel, my favourites walks have been the Inca Trail in Peru, Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand and Mount St. Helens in the USA.

Do you have an interesting fact about yourself?
I am currently renovating a narrowboat with the view of cruising it down to Newbury to live on.


Janine.Fox1@westberks.gov.uk

Dawn Sellick

Heritage Access Assistant

I started volunteering at the Museum in January 2010, helping to pack and record all the items before the reconstruction project started.

My job is to help the team in any way I can! I’m mainly involved with planning, preparing and installing exhibitions, working with the volunteers and staff from the Heritage team. I love how varied the work is, and that I can combine my interests in history and IT, especially when using the complex collections database.

What is your favourite exhibition?
Cabinets of Curiosity

What are your hobbies?
Singing and being the servant to three cats.

Do you have an interesting fact about yourself?
My grandparents owned the corner shop in Queens Road when I was a baby.


Dawn.Sellick@westberks.gov.uk

Sarah Orr

Senior Archaeologist (Planning & Management Advice)

I am one of the long-standing elements of the heritage team having been permanently employed by West Berkshire Council since 2000, with a few short term projects before then in the museum. My role now as Senior Archaeologist involves advising planners, landowners and others on the conservation and management of the archaeological resource of our area, both at a strategic and casework level. We have evidence of thousands of years of human activity in our area – this historic environment is valuable but fragile, and we work to ensure development proposals are sustainable. When building does take place, we secure archaeological work to evaluate and if necessary record any features or deposits, so the information isn’t lost but is added to our Historic Environment Record. The archives and finds from this developer-funded work get deposited in West Berkshire Museum.

The archaeology service is consulted on agri-environment schemes where farmers can be rewarded for stewardship of features such as barrows, water-meadows or timber-framed barns, ensuring their future survival. We also want to help parishes, community groups, schools and the general public to understand, enjoy and protect their local heritage. The Assistant Archaeologist and Finds Liaison Officer are key posts in this aim.

What is your favourite place in the West Berkshire area?
It’s difficult to pin down just one – and despite living in the area for many years I can still find new corners to explore. Within a relatively small administrative area there is the contrast of the wide vistas along the Ridgeway and tree-lined byways like Old Street, and atmospheric spots such as Avington’s Norman church or interesting towns like Hungerford.

What are your hobbies outside work?
Gardening, yoga, life drawing and reading novels but I also enjoy travelling and visiting places within and outside the UK.

Do you have an interesting fact about yourself?
I spent 3 years living in Dallas, Texas when it was pretty much like the TV series.


sarah.orr@westberks.gov.uk

Beth Asbury

Assistant Archaeologist (HER and Outreach)

My academic background is in Archaeology and Egyptology. After university, I worked for the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists for five and a half years before moving to Cairo to work for the Ministry of State for Antiquities for a year. When I moved back to the UK after the Revolution in 2011, I worked for the University of Oxford for seven years at the Pitt Rivers Museum and Ashmolean Museum, both of which I still love.

I am really pleased to now be responsible for the Historic Environment Record (HER) for West Berkshire, a powerful database of the heritage assets and archaeological finds in the district. Heritage assets are buildings, monuments, sites, places, areas or landscapes that have been identified as being of known, or of potential, archaeological, architectural, artistic or historic interest, significance or setting. My job is to update and enhance that database, so the information can be used to inform planning decisions and archaeological work, as well as by landowners, farmers, researchers, students and local groups, for example. Another part of my role is to help the local community understand, appreciate and enjoy West Berkshire’s amazing historic environment, so please get in touch if your school or group would like a visit from me or if you think you have found something to add to the HER!

What is your favourite place in the West Berkshire area?
I grew up on the east side of West Berkshire, on the edge of Reading. I loved playing in the woods behind our house, Oliver’s Copse and Withy Copse, where there are trees to climb, hills to scramble up, streams to splash through and the remains of a couple of water pumps from the old Blagrave Hospital. Oliver’s Copse especially has lovely bluebells in the spring, and there are foxes, badgers, bats, hedgehogs, lots of squirrels and the occasional deer to spot.

What are your hobbies?
I am a Brownie Leader, a Young Archaeologists’ Club leader and on the Committee of the Thames Valley Ancient Egypt Society. I also have a pet axolotl called Fraggle.

Do you have an interesting fact about yourself?
Two friends and I once won an episode of a Channel 4 history gameshow filmed at the British Museum, called Codex.


beth.asbury1@westberks.gov.uk

Helena Costas

Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme

I have a BA in Archaeology, and an MA in Artefact Studies. I worked for a commercial archaeology unit in London for 2 years in the archive department where I was exposed to many different types of archaeological material. I frequently assisted in identifying finds and expanded my interest in finds identification by volunteering once a week with the portable antiquities scheme. After a year or so of volunteering I worked as an intern for the scheme for 6 months travelling around the south east offices where I gained experience and knowledge working with finds. The PAS is a scheme which encourages members of the public who find artefacts over 300 years old to report and record these finds with a Finds Liaison Officer in their area. Treasure is also required by law to be reported to a finds liaison officer. Aside from that I especially enjoy reading about archaeology and history of the Near East. My MA master’s thesis was on Mesopotamian cylinder seals.

The day can vary which makes it interesting. The first thing I usually do is check my emails and reply to them and any finds enquiries or appointment requests. The role includes taking photographs of objects, measuring and weighing them, editing the photos in elements, researching in books, and online for the identification of the objects, writing up the descriptions, and entering the data and photo on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database, supervising my volunteer, checking and editing records of my volunteer and self-recorder, preparing for finds surgeries, printing off service leaflets, writing Treasure reports.

What is your favourite place in the West Berkshire area?
I am not local to West Berkshire but I really like the Nature Discovery Centre in Thatcham. I like the view of the lake in the outside café area and find it very tranquil.

What are your hobbies?
I enjoy swimming, gardening, ballroom dancing, playing the guitar, hiking, and travelling.

Do you have an interesting fact about yourself?
I’ve been in a cage with 6 month old white lions in South Africa, one of which later ended up in a lion sanctuary in New Zealand which made the TV series ‘The Lion Man.’


helena.costas@westberks.gov.uk