THE property manager of one England's finest Queen Anne town houses is retiring after 25 years.

Karen Rudd saw the job advertised at Mompesson House in Salisbury in the Guardian and moved from Worcestershire to take up the position of custodian in 1990 shortly after completing a post graduate degree in heritage management.

Over the years she has overseen a Royal reception with Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1991, the filming of Sense and Sensibility in 1995, the opening of new rooms at the home as well as a popular tea room, visitor toilet facilities, art exhibitions and a programme of music events.

Visitor numbers have doubled from 22,000 in 1990 to an average of 40,000 today with a record 48,500 attending in 2004 Open 34 weeks a year, it now employs five permanent staff with an extra six seasonal staff and 80 volunteers, many of whom have become friends.

Karen said: "When I first started it was just me and a gardener who worked one day a week.

"It's an exceptionally beautiful house and with extraordinary architecture and wonderful interior decoration of the 18th Century and everyone should be able to enjoy it.

"People often think of National Trust houses as being big houses that have been owned by wealthy people and are full of their things - this house isn't like that. It’s relatively small and is designed to be a beautiful space to live in, rather than as a statement of someone’s wealth and importance.”

One of Karen's personal highlights has been producing a catalogue for the house's 18th Century drinking glass collection.

Recalling the filming of Jane Austen's classic which was directed by Ang Lee and starred Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant, Karen said: "The whole thing took a month and we never closed to the public so filming was done early in the morning and sometimes in the evening as well as the two days each week we're closed.

"I can't imagine that nowadays Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet would be able to sit out on a bench on Choristers Green rolling a cigarette and not be bothered by anyone at all.

"It was very exciting - they had to get their people to cover all the switches, light sockets and radiators, everything from the 20th Century, without any harm to the house. A huge amount of work went on with about 100 people in a relatively small house and there was no damage at all because we were watching them like hawks."

Interest in the film has been such that a popular exhibition at Mompesson House celebrating 20 years after its release is on display at the house with costumes worn by the actors, photos from the film and details of the Portman family who were residents at the house and may have been the inspiration for Austen's novel.

With her last day on Thursday, Karen is looking forward to painting watercolours and visiting National Trust houses across the UK with her lifetime membership.