He'd always been interested in visiting old properties. And when he was made redundant as a print machine operator, 40-year-old Robin Hancock did not want just any other job.
Now he has won one of ten places on a pilot traineeship programme run by the National Trust and is working at Dyrham Park near Bath. The charity's Heritage Skills Passport allows people to work behind the scenes in a historical property to become a conservation assistant.
Mr Hancock, who lives in Melksham, said: "I was going to be happy just to get to the interview stage. There is so much I have learned in the past six months, it's phenomenal. I always had an interest in historical houses and visiting places the National Trust owns, but I never thought it could be a career I could get into."
He is being trained to care for the house's collection, dusting and cleaning furniture and valuable works of art, as well as to work with new inventory software which involves photographing and detailing the condition of every item.
The Trust was awarded £529,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to create new training opportunities. The traineeship is a one-year paid contract, offering work with professional staff and a personal mentor.
Mr Hancock said: "The team I have been working with are kind, generous and patient, showing me in particular the way to ensure the collection does not deteriorate any more, the science behind that and the tools and chemicals being used."
Mr Hancock has been keeping an online blog at http://robsblogdyrhamnationaltrust.wordpress.com.
Rosie Parry (Original published on This is Bath and the Bath Chronicle)