By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 1 days ago
HOAR CROSS HALL – LIFE BELOW STAIRS: This week I’ve done a history 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 exp...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 25th May 2020
ALICE – THE GHOST IN THE MIRROR: Whilst researching the history of my former home, Hoar Cross Hall, I came across this fascinating story from author Graham Phillips who had visited the Hall to do some research into the story of Alice and the mirror that inspired Lewis Carroll. As many of my regular readers will know, Hoar Cross Hall is a very haunted house and so it was incredibly interesting to hear another theory on the ghost of the little girl who haunts the rooms and corridors.
In 1865 Lewis Carroll wrote another story about Alice following on from ‘Alice in Wonderland’. It was called ‘Alice through the Looking Glass’. In this story Alice climbs onto the mantlepiece over the fireplace in her lounge and finds that she can climb through the mirror into another world which is reversed, just like a reflection. Once again, she encounters strange figures in a world dominated by a chess set and nursery rhyme characters, among others. But what inspired Lewis Carroll to write about a little girl having lots of adventures?
Alice climbing through the Library mirror
In the 1850s Charles Dodgson (Carroll’s real name) studied at Christ Church in Oxford. A new dean, Henry Liddell, began working there around about that time and brought with him his wife and young family. One of his daughters was called Alice and this little girl was widely thought to be the inspiration behind his stories but Carroll always denied this.
In 1852 he became a tutor for the children of Charles Wood of Hickleton Hall in Yorkshire. During the summer a friend of the children, Mary Heath, stayed at the hall and this is the little girl believed to be his inspiration for Alice. But also, the room in which he taught the children had a lovely mirror over the mantlepiece which is exactly the same as the picture of the mirror in his story ‘Alice through the Looking Glass’. So it seems that lots of things from that time inspired him!
The Mad Hatter
When Charles W...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 17th May 2020
THE WAR YEARS AND BEYOND: During the Second World War, life in country houses changed dramatically. It was no different at Hoar Cross Hall. The flower borders on the main lawns were turfed over to reduce maintenance and vegetables were grown in areas formerly restricted to flowers. Evacuees from Birmingham came to stay for the duration of the war and they lived in the basement, as it was considered to be the safest place. I imagine that they must have been in the care of the servants as they were living amongst them but it must also have been quite exciting for them to move from a bombed out city to the relative safety of the countryside, although they must have missed their parents of course. Many children in those days never left the cities and towns where they lived and often didn’t know what a cow looked like in real life! To see all the lawns and woods at the Hall must have been incredible for them although I’m not sure if they were allowed to wander around the grounds.
Two of these youngsters returned to the Hall in the mid-1980s and spoke to my mum about the kindness they received from the family. They also told her about the ‘secret airfield’ hidden away in a copse behind the ha-ha wall (the wall separating the bottom of the grounds and the deer park). Apparently aircraft were kept here in readiness for action, it being a Satellite Landing Ground (SLG) site serving Fradley aerodrome, near Lichfield. The Hall was also offered as an Auxiliary Red Cross Hospital during the war but nothing came of this, probably owing to the lack of mains water. However, during the First World War, the Meynell home in London was offered to the War Office and the Red Cross and became a Military Hospital for officers, being used by Francis Meynell himself who was wounded in action.
One feature at the Hall was the daily barometric readings; these had been taken since 1880 up until the Second World War, when readings ceased. The Clerk of Works at Hoar Cross, namely ...