Yvonne Chapman, Housekeeping Services Manager 2010-21
I was born in London and moved to Cambridge when I was 11, after spending most of my childhood in the Surrey/Kent areas. My father died when I was 14 and being an only child it was difficult for my mother to continue with my father’s business, so I started work as soon as I left school at 16; I needed to for financial reasons. My first job was in a department store in Cambridge called Eaden Lilley, where I worked on the cosmetic counter, after that I pursued a career in sales promotion, working for M&S both here in Cambridge and occasionally in London, and for the London company Chelsea Cobbler. It was a good life if rather hectic, but exciting, and I love excitement – nothing mundane for me!
It was my mother-in-law, Barbara Chapman, who first introduced me to Trinity Hall back in the early 80’s. At that time she was College Housekeeper and organised small conferences and events on Central Site. A job was being advertised at Wychfield for a part-time site Housekeeper, which, although very different to what I had been, doing really appealed to me. I had a short interview with the then Warden of Wychfield (now Honorary Fellow), Professor Peter Holland. We hit it off straight away and I started work soon after. I really loved working in Housekeeping. I had a small team of bed-makers to supervise and I also looked after the Warden’s House, where Peter and his family lived at the time. Occasionally I looked after their two small boys, which I loved, and I have remained close to the family ever since. In 1987, as the site expanded, I was asked to live on-site in the Lodge cottage and it is there where my two children grew up until we moved to Girton in 2010, and I started my new job as Housekeeping Services Manager at Trinity Hall.
There are so many best things about Trinity Hall, the wonderful environment is an obvious one, the diversity of the staff, the feeling of belonging to something really amazing, the total support that everyone has for one another, so many things. As Head of Housekeeping I think I have been immensely privileged. The staff that have worked with me in the department over the years have been wonderful and I have made some long-lasting friends. The satisfaction we all feel when we see the College sparkling ready for events is really rewarding and makes us really proud. The appreciation we receive from many of our students and guests is also very rewarding, especially from the students who appreciate what we do to make their home in Cambridge as comfortable as we can. Love that. It is so important.
I think my job is probably one of the most varied and rewarding jobs I could have imagined doing. Being involved in College refurbishments has been fantastic, looking after student wellbeing in terms of where they live is incredibly rewarding, preparing function rooms for events, heading up the team, recruitment, budgeting – pretty much like running your own business in a way!
Working in an academic environment is just great. The conversations are so stimulating and it is just a joy to feel the incredible buzz and atmosphere around the place. Nowhere else could match it.
We’ve had some very amusing things happen over the years. Some are probably best left locked away in the past, but overall we always seem to end the day with a smile on our faces, no matter how tough it gets.
I think anyone coming to work in a college environment would find it strange at first, but once you have done a complete academic year you’ve mastered it. I for one have absolutely loved it! One down side though – it is a place of eternal youth, so not such a great place to grow old in!