By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 2 days ago
WHAT THE BUTLER SAW! Anyone who’s seen Downton Abbey will remember Carter the butler. He is exactly how a butler would have been in the 19th century and, strangely enough, the butler at the Hall during the early part of the 20th century was also called Carter!
Although most big houses had a house steward who was in charge of accounts and general running of the household, a butler was more commonly engaged by the wealthy. He was usually a grand, authoritarian figure, commanding respect and awe and most of the servants would have been scared to death of upsetting him! He was dressed like a gentleman of the period and generally ran the household with an iron fist.
As I said, the butler at the Hall was called Gus Carter and he was with the family for over 40 years, joining the staff in the mid-1930s. When the family left the Hall in the 1950s and bought the smaller Hollybush House in nearby Newborough he went with them until his retirement. He and his wife celebrated their Diamond wedding anniversary in 1972.
However, when at the Hall his main duties would have been looking after the wine cellar and silverware or plate as it was known. This was kept in a room next to his bedroom so he could keep an eye on it and make sure no-one stole anything. Similarly with the wine cellar, he would have kept it all under lock and key so none of the servants could have a crafty drink when no-one was looking. There was actually a Chubb walk-in safe in the basement where, I assume, the more valuable items were kept for special occasions. Near to the butler’s room was a Chubb wall safe, which would have been used for keeping guests’ valuables in while they were staying at the Hall. Not unlike a hotel nowadays! Carter also waited on table at all the meals and at night, secured all doors and windows and checked the fires were safe before retiring to bed. If there was no valet in the house then the butler would also have been responsible for lookin...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 16th June 2019
THE KITCHEN MAID’S STORY: If you were young, free and single – oh, and very well-to-do – the 1920s was the decade to live in! The upper classes had lots of time on their hands and enjoyed post-First World War delights such as the theatre and jazz clubs.
Not so for the lower classes, in particular a young girl who was to become the kitchen maid at Hoar Cross Hall in the 1920s. The ‘depression’ after the First World War brought stark poverty to her home and many like her. Her name was Jean Rennie, and she was extremely intelligent having won a scholarship to Glasgow University to study French and music. However, the £5 bursary she got was taken by her father and used to buy whiskey in his local pub. Her hopes of a career in music were dashed and she needed to find employment.
Jean was now known as Jenny and had many jobs as a servant, including one in a castle in the Highlands! She was, in her own words, a good housemaid but never a good servant. With memories of hungry children fresh in her mind she could never get used to the wanton waste of food left on plates, in the homes she worked in. Her mistresses were always untidy with stockings, shoes and underwear “flung everywhere” and powder “spilt lavishly” – this always rankled with her and she never really got used to the ways of the aristocracy.
She gradually travelled down the country and eventually found a job in London. Although she was still a scullery maid, she worked under a skilled chef who taught her much and she hoped for a career as a cook. Her employers were good and so were the wages. When she got the job at Hoar Cross Hall she could not only read a menu (in customary French) but also write one and prepare many of the dishes herself. Lady Dorothy Meynell was very impressed with her and as her husband, Hugo Meynell was about to take a small shooting party to their Laughton estate, she asked Jenny to go with them to do the cooking. Jenny recalle...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 09th June 2019
THE SCHOOLROOM MAID'S STORY: For the first 75 years of the Hall’s history about 50 servants were employed by the Meynell family in the house and grounds. Among these was a young girl of fifteen who started work in 1920 as a Schoolroom Maid. Her name was Miss Inez Sophia Large and she had connections to Hoar Cross through her grand-parents, William and Mary Tooth, who lived in the village where William was the blacksmith; his smithy was just along from the Meynell public house. He had worked on the ironwork of the Hall during its construction in the 1860s. Inez’s aunt, Constance Madeley, was the wife of the landlord at the Buffalo Inn, in nearby Newborough, and it was through her that she secured the job at the Hall. Inez’s parents were themselves in service; her mother had been a lady’s maid and her father was a butler for the Spanish Ambassador in London – from which source Inez assumes her Christian name originated.
There was little choice but to go into service in those days (her sister, Beatrice, was also a nursery maid with the Earl and Countess of Lichfield), and she was engaged on a salary of £18 per annum. Her mother made her uniform, which comprised of a morning dress and an afternoon dress, and Lady Dorothy Meynell supplied her cap. She was the personal maid to Lady Dorothy’s eldest daughter, Dorothy, who was just four years younger than Inez. She also looked after Dorothy’s younger sister, Rachael.
The schoolroom at this time was situated just off the main Entrance Hall, and immediately below the nursery. Inez worked under the supervision of Mrs Catt, the housekeeper, Miss Rhodes, the lady’s maid, and the head housemaid, Rose.
Her day began at 6am every day and she was so afraid of oversleeping that she kept an alarm clock under her pillow! The first job of the day was always to clean the grate and get the fires lit, then sweep and dust the schoolroom, lay the table for breakfast, call the governess, Miss ...