HARD-WORKING volunteers are threatening to walk out and force the closure of a historic tourist site over a row about increased working hours.

The National Trust is seeking to extend the opening time at Paycockes House in West Street, Coggeshall, in a move which would see it welcome visitors for an extra hour each day.

The site is open to the public seven days a week between 11am and 5pm but staff arrive early and leave late by 30 minutes to ensure the house is clean and ready for the next opening day.

But the National Trust now plans to open Paycockes House an hour earlier at 10am, meaning staff, many of whom work on a voluntary basis, will be required to work longer days.

A source has informed the Times that none of the volunteers or paid staff at the site were consulted on the proposals and many are now considering to either cut their working hours or quit.

The source also says the National Trust is failing to recruit much-needed volunteers to help the overstretched staff and volunteers.

They said: “There are very few employed staff at these properties and the vast majority of work is done by volunteers and, on many occasions, the house is run by three people whilst one person will be looking after Grange Barn due to a lack of volunteers.

“Existing volunteers are preparing to either trim their hours or leave completely. Many travel in order to assist the Trust and feel totally betrayed by its arrogant attitude towards those help to keep it in business.

“This is a ploy which has been employed at other properties run by the National Trust where the attitude has been of a bullying nature of accept or get out. If this policy is pursued in Coggeshall it will almost certainly result in site closures due to a lack of volunteers.”

The Gazette contacted the National Trust but no-one was available for comment.