A group of people who used to volunteer at Wallington believe they were ‘shabbily treated’ over the axing of their role.
The former room guides at the National Trust estate said they were told of the change from a volunteer-reliant team structure to a paid visitor services team without any warning.
It has recruited new people who will work on conservation housekeeping and new volunteering roles will be made available.
According to general manager Sally Richards, the decision to move to the new model will improve its visitor offer and conservation work.
Dozens of people were room guides at Wallington on a weekly basis.
Christine Baker, speaking on behalf of a group of disgruntled former volunteers, said: “This decision by Sally Richards was made without any consultation, so it was totally out of the blue when we were told at a meeting that we were no longer required.
“Everyone was shocked and upset and we’re very disappointed at the shabby way we have been treated.
“Although other volunteering roles were offered, it was the role of room guide that we loved. If Wallington was short of a volunteer or two on a particular day, the staff could call us and one or a couple of us would be able to come along.
“We do appreciate the need for change, although we think it would have been better to implement the changes gradually as we could have passed on the knowledge of the house’s history and the family that lived there to the new staff.
“For example, many of us knew Patricia Jennings – the last of the Trevelyan family to live on the estate – and she told us many fascinating family stories.
“What we’re angry about is the way things were done. There was no regard for our commitment and loyal service, quite a few of us had been room guides for more than 10 or more than 15 years.
“We have no issue with the house staff, who have been brilliant to us over the years.”
Wallington says the move came about after volunteer numbers declined over a number of years, making it increasingly difficult for the trust to organise sufficient cover for mansion opening.
The new volunteer roles will include conservation volunteers, group guides, a front of house welcome team and a costumed cook.
Ms Richards said: “Our aim is to provide a more engaging visitor experience and more opportunities for people to enjoy the whole estate. We’ve recently moved to opening the mansion seven days a week and the gardens and grounds are open 365 days a year.
“The decision to recruit a visitor services team in the house will enable us to improve our visitor offer and our conservation work. We held a volunteer meeting in early November to announce the changes that would take place from February and at that time stressed the importance of volunteers to our work.
“Over the next three years, we will create more diverse and flexible ways in which people can support us through volunteering at Wallington.”