By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 3 days ago
As mentioned in earlier blogs my dad used to be a racing driver during the 1950s and ran his own team in the 1960s, travelling all over Europe in his trusty Volkswagon van with his two mechanics and driver. He didn’t have big sponsorship money behind him and most of it was done on a shoestring but he came back with lots of funny stories of their van breaking down or some rural ‘hotel’ that they had stayed in. From each country that he visited he always brought me back a doll dressed in the traditional costume of that country. There was quite a collection and I still have them; I used to put them on display in the Library when our house was open to the public.
Because of this background in motor racing, my brother Gavin wanted to start kart racing when he was about 14 and kept pestering my dad to get him a kart. Dad promised that he would take him to the races but said he didn’t have time to do the preparations and so Gavin had to learn the hard way how to do it! He made lots of mistakes early on, including the engine nearly falling off in one race, but he got there in the end!
As he got better he moved into the seniors when he was 16 and started to win trophies – now he was getting serious! He raced at a place called Chasewater near Lichfield and finished second twice in the regional championships, regularly winning races against over 40 other drivers (see header pictures). The Welsh Championships found him coming in 5th. He also did some British championship races against 160 other drivers around the country, finishing in the top 30 but as he never had new tyres like most of the top drivers, it stopped him moving all the way up. The kart racing created a new interest for my dad and he was glad to get out of the house at weekends since splitting up with my mum. The atmosphere at home was always tense and if they accidentally bumped into each other in a corridor somewhere it would usually spark an argument. Kev and I would keep the house open to the p...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 13th September 2021
This week I’ve done a historical blog about the servants who lived at the Hall from the 1870s to the 1950s when the Hall became empty. They were an essential part of keeping a big house running but were often not appreciated by the aristocracy as they went about their day to day duties.
The life of a servant in Victorian times was a hard one. They had to rise at 5am to clean and light all the fires and dust and polish the floors, then do a day’s work, often not getting to bed much before midnight. No wonder they didn’t live to a great age in those days! By the end of the 19th century there were nearly one and a half million servants; most young girls went into domestic service when they left school. A large house with neither running water nor electricity would need a lot of help to keep things going. There was also the continuous cooking that needed to be done – for the family above stairs and the servants below. Everyone had meals at different times; the servants would obviously eat before or after they had served the family. The children and nursery staff would eat at around 5pm and then there were the afternoon teas and full English breakfasts! Everything had to be made from scratch of course so the cooks must have been cooking something or other from dawn until dusk. It must have been exhausting!
In the grounds there were around 20 gardeners and groundsmen who helped to keep the constant weeds down and tend to the rose bushes and hedges. This in itself would have been a full time job. The kitchen gardens and greenhouses would have provided a lot of the produce they ate as well as the pheasants and other game birds that were reared to be eaten. There was also a carp pool for their fish stock. In total there were about 50 servants employed by the Meynell family which included cooks, housemaids, chambermaids, lady’s maid, a governess, a nanny, a butler, footmen and a house-keeper among others. All staff were expected to attend the 9am service which was...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 06th September 2021
One of the great things about living in a stately home is that you can have a wild party with the loudest of music – and no-one will hear it! I was now going out with Kev, whom I had met at college. Mum was a bit disappointed that my sensible boyfriend and I had parted company after 18 months of an on/off relationship but she accepted Kev into the fold and eventually met all the other members of the band. I think she wanted to put her mind at rest that they were a bunch of nice lads and not a drug crazed rock band eating bats! Which of course they were! No – I’m only kidding! After the awful split up at Christmas my parents were now living at each end of the house – what a carry on – some nights were spent with my mum and other nights with my dad as we tried to spread our affections and loyalties between them. But sometimes it was hard and I was glad to leave the oppressive atmosphere at home and stayed out after college as much as possible, spending time with Kev and the band.
Of course we all still liked to party like most young people and we often held parties in the west wing apartment at the Hall where we had got to know the latest residents there. A large crowd of people would meet up at the Meynell, the local pub in the village, and then we would all troop up to the Hall at closing time and sneak into the west wing via the basement door, which was the way in for the people who lived in the apartments. Up the spiral staircase we would all go and eventually we got to our destination, trying to beat the time switches which kept the lights on until we got there. We were always terrified that the lights would ‘time out’ before we got to the next one along the basement passageway and everyone would be making ghostly sounds and chasing each other into dark rooms off the main route. Good job no-one could hear us!
The spooky basement corridor
As everyone had heard about the ghost stories at the Hall, occasionally at these parties we would ...