May 2023 is the 50th anniversary of the Guild of Stewards. The Voluntary Stewards, intended to give guidance to visitors to the Chapel, were launched with 50 people covering Sunday afternoons in 1973. They gradually expanded to cover duties throughout the Chapel on all week days. In May 2002 the organisation was replaced by the Guild of Stewards.
This image comes from the Autumn 1977 edition of the Voluntary Stewards’ Broadsheet, a newsletter which was issued twice a year from Spring 1977 (when it described itself as ‘an experiment in communication’) to Spring 2001. It was started by Jenny Rolinson, organiser of the Voluntary Stewards from 1973 to 1990. The cartoon shows the reaction to the first ‘Special Tours’, where groups of up to twelve visitors were conducted around the Chapel and its precincts by the Stewards. The programme started with 50 stewards, who practiced by giving each other tours before showing the groups round.
As well as a ‘Dates for your Diary’ section and information about upcoming events, early Broadsheets also included snippets of historical information about the Chapel, reading lists, contact details, death notices, tips on guiding, and other pieces of useful information, such as lists of monarch’s burial places.
The Stewards have played a vital role in welcoming visitors to the Chapel. They also helped to ease changes in the Chapel, including changing opening hours and entry prices. This was particularly the case throughout the 1990s, when combined entry for the Chapel and the rest of the Castle came into practice.
Another big change came for the Stewards in January 1996, when it was decided that the Chapel would be only be open on Sundays for worship, partly because of the strain on the Voluntary Stewards which the number of visitors was causing. At the time, the Dean and Canons wrote to say ‘The Chapter would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the stewards for the wonderful support they give all the year round. Their energy and commitment to the Chapel and their willing participation in training sessions is so important in maintaining a high standard of Christian welcome to our visitors.’
Anne Courtney, Assistant Archivist