By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 3 days ago
BECOMING A ROCK CHICK: My schooldays were coming to an end now and I absolutely couldn’t wait to leave. The school itself was an old Victorian grammar school in Uttoxeter which still had wooden desks with inkwells in them! Even the teachers wore their mortar boards and gowns just like the ones at Eton and Harrow – or the Beano! However, in the last two years there I had made a few good friends and we would go into town every lunch time to meet up with a group of guys that worked at the local J. C. Bamford firm. They were all into motor bikes and one of the first films I watched was ‘Easy Rider’. They also went to a lot of concerts to see live music, something which was totally new to me – I’d only seen dance bands at the New Year’s Eve Balls (yawn), even though I loved music. They opened my eyes (and ears) to a new type of music and always bought me a ticket for the next concert they went to but my mum would always say ‘No’, much to my disgust!
Eventually I started dating one of the lads who was actually 21 so a bit older than my 16 years but as he was quite sensible my mother approved of him and eventually let me go to concerts with him. Over the space of a few months we saw Jack the Lad, Dr Feelgood and The Who. The Who were incredible and Keith Moon even smashed his drum kit up as their grand finale! We also went to this really cool place called The Highwayman. Up to this point my only socialising was at the banquets with my parents watching my every move – now I could get out and away from them as my boyfriend had a car! I loved the dark, smoky atmosphere of this place with its loud rock music – we would go there in a convoy of minis and motor bikes, driving fast through the lanes. With places like this to go to, life could only get better – couldn’t it?
In September I started college in Burton-on-Trent – another big change for me. It was nice to be in an environment where I was treated a b...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 10th February 2019
HYSTERICAL PRODUCTIONS: By the end of 1974 we had done about 40 banquets at the Hall and they were still going strong. Most of the original cast were still with us but we were on our second King now and also doing our own catering and bar, whereas when we first started, we had a catering firm in to do it all. Every weekend over 200 people came to sample our Noble Brose, Roast Lambe and Saracen’s Delight and sing along to ‘I’m Henry VIII’ whilst drinking beer, wine and mead. But it was a very adult environment for 15 year old girls to work in; a few of my school friends also worked at the banquets as wenches and we were constantly being chatted up by men who bought us drinks all evening. The cast were all married men but that didn’t seem to bother them and one or two of my friends were always sneaking off with one or other of them. But despite the seventies shenanigans the nights were always a good laugh and there were lots of funny things that happened. Myra (the fire-eater’s wife) and I always did the cloakroom and one time this lady took her coat off and as she did so her halter neck top came undone and she stood there in her bra and skirt for all to see!
Menu from a typical banquet
Once the banquets started we would join in with the singing, even standing behind the main act and pretending to be the backing group. Another member of the cast would wear a sombrero and shake maracas to a Latin song while we threw petals all over him – don’t ask me why! My dad didn’t seem to mind me doing all this but when my mum started singing along and dancing about with some of the guests, he wasn’t too happy and one time started shouting at her in front of everyone, which was a bit embarrassing! The next day, when cleaning up, we would find all sorts of things which people had left behind: scarves, perfume, money, cigarettes and even a set of false teeth left on the mantelpiece! I had found a little hidey ...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 03rd February 2019
RAGS TO RICHES: My family originated from Derby and my parents were married there in July 1952. Mum was 19 and dad was 36 so quite a bit older. They both lived in Derby and were very arty; my dad went to the Derby Sketching Club in his free time and my mum attended art college. I’m not sure where they met but it was either at something art related or at a dance, as was usual in those days. My dad was a sculptor by trade; I think his interest was sparked by seeing all the beautiful alabaster in Italian churches during the war. After the war he set up his own business making alabaster lamps, bowls and candlesticks among other things (see header picture). He would go to the alabaster mines at Chellaston near Derby and bring back huge slabs which were then cut down to smaller sizes at his works in Crosby Street. He also owned a car as well as his own business so was quite the catch for my mum! After they married he built a little bungalow next to the works for them to live in, which is still there after all these years although the works have now been demolished.
For someone from his background, owning your own business was something of an achievement, being born the illegitimate son of a servant girl during the First World War. Even his birth is a story in itself as his mother worked at a nearby stately home as a servant and fell for the son of the house. My mum told me all about it years later – how they had fallen in love and were ‘walking out’ together even though it was forbidden in those days for the aristocracy to mix with the servants. However, the son caught tuberculosis and sadly died so my grandmother had to bring my dad up alone with help from her own parents, and without getting married (this is where my dad gets his double-barrel surname from). When my dad was about 4 years old my grandmother married a sailor (also called Bill) and they had a little girl, my Aunty Dorothy. He told me how his grandparents brough...