By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 2 days ago
MIDNIGHT POOL PARTIES: After leaving school I spent a year at Burton-on-Trent Technical College studying to be a secretary but my year at college had come to an end - now to find a job! It didn’t take too long as there was plenty of employment around in those days and I was soon offered a position with a small engineering firm in Burton. As I didn’t drive there was still the problem of me getting to work and dad managed to talk the residents of the apartments into taking me, as they were going to Burton every day as well, and it would save him coming out twice a day (no doubt he was thinking about the petrol he would save too!)
Kev and the band were getting a few gigs around the area and after singing with them for a little while I gave it up and let a more professional singer take over – I needed to work on my confidence first! We still went to the 76 Club though to see live music – it was the start of the punk era and we saw the Sex Pistols there when they were just starting out – I have to say they didn’t get a very good reception as they couldn’t even start the first song properly and were actually booed off stage which was a ‘first’ for that club. Their ‘punk’ behaviour almost started a riot in what was normally a peaceful hippy venue!
My mum still wasn’t convinced that Kev was the right person for me and was becoming quite determined to split us up. She tried to talk me into giving Kev up for six months - but we didn’t want to be parted. When he walked 7 miles from Burton to see me my mum asked him to dig a border (our borders were about 30 feet long!) as a way of proving himself. He did it too, bless him! We were very determined to stay together but my mum started to plan ways to prevent this – one of her schemes (we discovered) was to suggest to the local Police that Kev’s band were all taking drugs which led to the drug squad regularly following us. It was quite comical as we would be walking do...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 16th January 2020
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SONS: As previously mentioned in earlier blogs my dad used to be a racing driver during the 1950s and ran his own team, Shardlow Motor Racing, in the 1960s, travelling all over Europe in his trusty Volkswagon van (see picture above) with his two mechanics and racing 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.
My collection of foreign dolls
Because of this background in motor racing, 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. 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 bum...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 12th January 2020
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-k...