WHEN I moved from Cumbria to Cheshire, one of the things I missed most was my voluntary work at Carlisle Record Office.

Then I discovered Tabley House where volunteers are also welcome.

I was used to the conservation of maps and documents so the picture cleaning was familiar. Packing away the lovely delicate china was a new challenge.

Then one morning a box was opened containing one of the most beautiful garments I had ever seen outside a museum display case. It was a gentleman’s waistcoat, over 200 years old.

And so began a fascinating winter of learning about the production and embroidery of these lovely garments. Amazing became one of my most used words.

How amazing that they are mostly in such good condition. How amazing that a family kept them long after they were out of fashion and no longer worn. How amazing that this delicate embroidery would have been done without the benefit of electric light. What amazing designs and use of colour. How amazing it would have been to see the gold thread and sparkles glinting in candlelight.

How amazing that the collection holds 47. How lovely for us. Having examined 15 there are still more to see.

Every box opened was a new challenge and a new delight.

Together with my conservation buddy Patricia Owen, I have marvelled at each new design and wondered about the occasion for which the waistcoat would have been made.

Packing away one set which had been on display and helping to prepare the next five has been challenging.

Now every time I walk past the display case I have to stop and admire.

So waistcoats have proved that moving from Cumbria to Cheshire was a good thing.

You never know what is around the corner, or in this case in the next box.

Eileen Risk Volunteer Tabley House