Due to economic cutbacks some three years ago they decided that the borough's archives would be open to the public on one day only a week with one archivist available who would need to be supported by two volunteers. I had been thinking about doing some voluntary work and decided I could give half a day a month.
At quiet moments between directing researchers to relevant files, books and micro-fiche machines, I delved into the archives myself. I was fascinated to learn how the local area of Hammersmith had developed from a 17th century rural community to the bustling city metropolis of today and who had lived in our house a hundred years ago.
Recounting to some neighbours one day what an interesting area we live in, they asked me to show them where the old laundries had operated and the school built by architect Erno Goldfinger (who upset his neighbour Ian Fleming, thus giving James Bond's baddie his name), so I devised a walk them.
One of them belonged to a local business group and subsequently asked if I would give a talk to their members. No problem, I thought as there were usually a couple of dozen at their meetings - on the night of my talk over a hundred turned up!
I now have a repertoire of a dozen walks, most of them in Hammersmith and Chiswick but I also venture into central London with tours based round the many palaces we have (or had) in the city. As well as keeping me fit both mentally and physically, what I particularly enjoy is meeting new people and opening their eyes to where they live.
A local resident said the other week " but there is no history in my street" so I invited her to come on my next walk. Two hours later she realised how wrong she was - every street has a tale to tell.
My volunteer work at the archives continues which gives me more research opportunities and material for new walks, I have given several talks to local groups and also written the history of the area for a book shortly to be published. I certainly never envisaged when I decided to help at the archives that my life would change direction and I would embark on a completely new career.
Caroline MacMillan is a writer and author and has just published a new book -'Wild About Hammersmith and Brook Green' which is available from Amazon.