Autumn in the kitchen

Autumn was a busy time for the cooks at Ickworth. With the shooting season beginning, Lord Bristol would invite many guests to his renowned parties. After a crisp and muddy day’s shooting out on the estate, the men would be anticipating the evening’s meal.

Downstairs, alongside tackling the washing up in the scullery, Arianna would be peeling the vegetables and once Mrs Finkle had perfected the delectable sauces, help to load up the silver trays.

Upstairs in the dining room, Thomas would serve the guests in the Rotunda, ensuring the cutlery shines like a mirror and that their port glasses sparkle in the candelabra’s light.


Autumn Cobnut Cake:

6ozs cobnuts, shelled
6ozs butter
10ozs self-raising flour
4ozs golden syrup
2 teaspoonful ground ginger
¼ pint single cream
1 medium sized fresh egg, beaten
3ozs Demerara sugar, (extra to sprinkle)
3 pieces stem ginger in syrup, drained and chopped

Preheat the oven to 325ºF/Gas 3. Grease and line a 6 or 7 inch round cake tin.
Put the shelled cobnuts on a baking sheet and put in the oven for about 30 minutes until toasted. Leave to cool slightly and then roughly chop. Put 5ozs of the nuts in a bowl with the flour, ground ginger and chopped stem ginger. Put the butter, syrup and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved.
Remove from the heat and stir in the cream, then the egg. Add to the dry ingredients and mix. Turn into the tin and level the surface. Scatter with the reserved nuts and a little
extra sugar. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until just firm to the touch and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.Take care not to over bake this cake or it will dry out. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Crab apple jelly
4kg crab apples
2kg  caster sugar
1 lemon, juiced)

Wash the apples and place in a saucepan with enough water to cover the fruit. Bring to the boil and simmer until the fruit is soft, about 30 minutes.
Pour the pulp into jelly bag or several layers of muslin and let it drip overnight into a pan.
The following day, measure the juice and add sugar in the ratio of 10 parts juice to 7 parts sugar. Add lemon juice and bring to the boil, stirring to ensure the
sugar is dissolved. Keep at a rolling boil for 40 minutes and remove froth. When the jelly is set pour into warm, sterilised preserving jars and tightly seal while still slightly warm.
Spiced parsnip and apple soup
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
8 oz parsnips, peeled and chopped
2 large Bramley apples, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 pints of hot vegetable stock
2 teaspoons of curry powder
2 tablespoons mango chutney
A teacup of double cream
Salt and pepper.
A little oil or butter.
Fresh chopped parsley.

Heat oil in a large saucepan, and cook onions until transparent. Add parsnips, onions and curry powder and cook a little. Add stock, salt and pepper, and bring to boil. Turn down to simmer until veg is soft. Add chutney, and pass through a sieve until smooth. Reheat, and
served topped with a spoon of cream and fresh chopped parsley.

Diary of a Housemaid – October




As the days are getting shorter and the warmth of the sun is starting to dull the basement of this great house is becoming intolerably cold. It is a type of cold I have never experienced before. At our little cottage in Chevington the stove manages to keep the downstairs rooms warm enough, and at night I have my siblings to cuddle up with to keep snug. Before the housekeeper presented us housemaids with lovely thick woollen jumpers earlier this week every time I breathed out it was as though I had become a dragon with the amount of mist that came out. The other servants did warn me about the cold, it is true, but in the dusk of the summer it was hard to believe them.

I have been at Ickworth for several months now. Time has flown by so quickly. I remember the day I first arrived. It was terrifying! Compared to my neat little life in Chevington the confusing warren of stone corridors in the grand house were overwhelming. What if I could not remember my duties? What if I could not remember the names of the other servants? What if I got lost, and, most horrifying of all, what if I met His Lordship or Her Ladyship when I was cleaning the upstairs rooms? All these worries proved to be unnecessary as I soon fell into place as a cog in the clock-work of Ickworth life below stairs.

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Diary of a scullery maid – September


Arianna Diary logo

Written by Sienna James


Dear Arianna,

I write to you from my bed. It has not yet been two full days since dearest little Frederick was born, and for one of the first times he is sleeping.

His papa is quite awed, Freddie is his first child remember, and neither of us could be happier. In the recent weeks he has been turning our cottage’s attic into a nursery of sorts and I have been recalling the toys you and James used to play with when you were new-born babes.

Freddie was pronounced a ‘healthy lad’ by the doctor and is curled up, all red-faced and scrunched, but mercifully quiet. I am afraid this will be the last time I can write to you for a short while as Freddie will take up all our thoughts and attentions. He is such a dear thing.

When will you come to visit us, Arianna, to see your half-brother? Perhaps in a few months when Mr Fairfax and I have become more used to having a baby in our cottage. And James too, I miss my eldest son.

I shall say goodbye for now – I imagine Freddie will wake soon enough



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Gracious, when I picked up this letter this morning I didn’t know it would contain such news. Of course, I have expected it all through September but had heard nothing and so assumed that my mother would write a few weeks after her baby was born.

My half-brother, Frederick. James, Arianna and Freddie. I must say those names fit together nicely, but it is terribly odd thinking mama has a third child now. It was always just James and I. I wonder if he has heard too, perhaps I will visit him this Sunday.

Earlier, when I first read the letter, I spoke to Rose, one of the housemaids. Aparently she has several younger siblings at home and her home is just a walk away. I’m not sure whether I like that idea or not as being so far away from Derbyshire has meant I have been able to distance myself from mama’s new husband and family.

I can hear the trolley’s wheels clattering on the uneven stone flags. Dinner is on its way! I helped prepare some pasties for the servant’s supper and washed the blackberries for the pie Mrs Finkle managed to prepare with some of the leftover pastry.

Blackberries are such a wonderful autumnal taste, don’t you think? The blackberry crop in Suffolk is much better than Derbyshire’s too.

Here comes the trolley around the corner. I’m famished.

Diary of a Housemaid – September


September 1935

It is harvest time! I love this time of year! The whole family always goes to help Father in the fields. The boys join men from the village in cutting the crops, even little Alfred and he is only seven, and the women spend the morning making lunch. We then all meet for a huge picnic. This will be the first year that I cannot attend. I have spent much of my time this month staring out of the windows at the dusky orange light that tries to find its way into the basement. To be able to take a few hours each day just to go outside and breathe in the fresh air! On my days off this is exactly what I have been doing. I either walk the grounds of the estate or I walk back home. Mother often has a nicely fresh-baked loaf to greet me and my brothers and sister are always excited to see me.

I do not get so many chances to meet with my brother William though, as his employment in the village brickyards means that he is rarely at home when I am. However this weekend I received a note from him inviting me to go to the pictures in Bury St Edmunds. I was so excited! He borrowed Father’s cart and drove me into town. We went to see a movie called Top Hat. It was thrilling, filled with dance, drama and the most beautiful costumes. On my return to Ickworth I taught some of the other girls a number of dance moves I saw Ginger Rogers performing. Though I know I did not look anything like her, in my imagination I was in America dancing with the stars.


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The Hall Boy’s Journal

September is an odd month, isn’t it? The weather can either be as hot as July or as cold as a November evening.

Last Sunday was my half-day off and me being me, I decided to make the most of the decent weather while it lasts. Soon enough I’m sure we’ll all be stuck grumbling about the cold and huddled around the fire in the servants’ hall.

I didn’t see Ma and Pa as I often do on my half-day. Instead I thought I would escape from the servants’ quarters and go off on a jolly. Sometimes I’m so caught up in polishing this, folding that, scurrying after whats-his-name that I forget all about the estate.

But it’s a bloomin’ beautiful place, specialy   especially  when the sun is low like this.

Right, signing off now as I can hear Mr Prosser’s footsteps down the corridor.









Diary of a Scullery Maid – August

Arianna Diary logo

Written by Sienna James


Ickworth is truly gorgeous in summer-time.

At every twist in the path flowers bloom in pink, yellow and blue. When Nancy and I walked a little this evening I noticed how a rose, coloured like a baby’s flushed cheeks, leant against the sandy brown of bricks. Really, it is an artist’s paradise.

“Funny, isn’t it,” Nancy began, twirling a lock of shiny hair around her finger. “Funny how the basement can be so stuffy and how we can complain, yet outside it is so peaceful and so pretty.”

We could just see the towering dome of the Rotunda, half in shadow, rising up above the shrubs and trees.


The Footman’s Story – Part Three


Written by Romain Arrayet


Today was the Children’s School Picnic; Lady Bristol opened up the gardens to the children of the village. There was were outdoor games, sumptuous food and iced lemonade. Luckily the sun was shining and the garden looked as wonderful as ever in the yellow warmth. With the exotic smells and shady stumpery, you could have been in Southern France.

For me the day started as normal. I got up at 6.00 in the morning and got on with my duties, starting by taking coals to the sitting rooms, trimming the lamps and filling them with oil before preparing the family’s breakfast table.

I must have had my own breakfast at about eight o’clock, when cook was ready for us. I began taking food upstairs for the family and Lord Bristol was the first to come down but the others followed soon afterwards.

Mr Fox called me down to his office so Laurie and Martin had to clear the breakfast table without me. I can still feel my heart pounding wildly about in my chest as I had no idea why Mr Fox would want to see or talk to me at all. I know that yesterday I made a mistake when bringing the luggage to the rooms but I didn’t think he knew about it. Fortunately I had realised my error in time and exchanged the mistaken luggage before he or Mr Prosser noticed.

When I arrived in his office he did not reprimand me (see – ‘reprimand’ – isn’t my English getting better by writing these entries?).

“Thomas, my boy. As you must know, today Lord and Lady Bristol have invited the children of Horringer for a picnic in the garden. I have asked you to come down here as I want you to aid the preparation of the tables and the setting of the games. When the children arrive you will make sure they all stay within the garden and not come wandering into the house. All your normal duties for today have been shared between the other footmen. Some of the maids will be there in the garden too to look after the children and cook will send someone from the kitchens to attend the food and drinks.” Perhaps these were not his precise words, but certainly the gist of it.

When Mr Fox had explained everything I found myself both relieved and rather excited at the day ahead.

I arrived to see the preparations in progress. Jim asked me to place the games around the cricket field and Alice wanted my help bringing food from the kitchens out into the garden.

By the time the children arrived I’d already had my lunch. I managed to sneak into the kitchens just long enough to filch a slice of lemon cake from the tin…

Lady Bristol had given Jim some bunting to decorate the garden which that had been made by the children themselves for the extra special occasion. She stayed with us to welcome our guests and I must admit I was quite nervous in her presence. However she retired to the house after drinking a glass of lemonade and, to my surprise, playing a game of hopscotch with a group of young girls. It did make me smile to see the look of clear awe on their faces as a real lady joined in their games.

It was nice to be outside today amongst the beautiful gardens at Ickworth – it really was a lovely warm day. I enjoyed a jumping bag race with the youngest children and croquet with some of the older ones.

Later in the afternoon it was time to say goodbye to our little visitors. I helped Jim bring the tables back inside and then joined everyone in the servants’ hall for tea. After that I resumed my day as a footman, preparing the dinner table, serving food, pouring coffee for Lord and Lady Bristol…

I am writing this while I wait to hear the bell to let me know I can clear the coffee tray away from upstairs. It has been a rather different day for me and I have enjoyed the change. I forget how tense and – what’s the word? – tight-of-air the basement can be. No, that’s still not the word I want. Hang on, I’ll ask Rose. She seems to be a marvel with words.

There, I knew she’d have it. Claustrophobic.

Anyway, the bell has just rung and it’s time to go.

Au revoir for now.


The footmen are forever polishing.