The winter of 1935 was far colder than ours has been this year. Some counties had snow on Christmas Day, most had snow throughout January and February. At Ickworth House there is a lake called the Fairy Lake – surrounded by rushes and reeds, populated by moorhens and swans. Domestic staff who worked at Ickworth in the 1930s have recalled how they used to skate on the lake during the winter months. A photograph of some young gamekeepers slipping and sliding on the lake is displayed in the Ickworth Lives exhibition at the National trust property. The following piece is a fictional tale based on the memories of those who used to work at the House.
Snow and Ice and All Things Nice
It snowed again this week and now that the mayhem of shooting season is over I have more time to go out and enjoy it. If the snow is still around on Saturday night Mrs Seddons (our housekeeper) has said she will allow us junior ones an hour or two outside after supper.
Jim is putting together a sledge for us – a
ruff ruf rough bit of wood smoothed down with a little ridge at the end to hold the feet of the person up front. Rough is a strange word – it don’t look right on the page!
I know Rose, Carrie and some of the other housemaids are going. The footmen (Laurie and co) are playing it cool (no pun intended there) and are saying that such
sillyness silliness fun and games in the snow is for children. I’m going to ask Arianna is she is allowed to attend. The kitchens have laws of their own. Cook is queen there – not Mrs. S. I’m sure she can spare a scullery maid for an hour or two. I knows of a few footmen who could help out if not. They’d like that! Heh!
I went down to the Fairy Lake last Sunday after church and the snow was nowhere near thick enough for a sledge. It now sits a good seven inches on the balustrades outside the House. Good, deep, compact stuff! Just right for bombing it down the hill to the walled garden. I’m so excited – I can’t wait!
It was cold enough last Sunday for me to put my new skates to the test though. I’ve been saving my wages to buy a pair of skates for ages and then, when the time came to it, I only went and got them for free! Mrs. S – the angel that she is – pulled me aside one afternoon and I thought I was in for it. Thought she’d discovered that packet of Woodbines in my side cupboard. Turns out her nephew outgrew his skates and was going to throw them out. She saved them from the skip and, blow me, handed them straight to me!
“I thought you might appreciate these John.” She said.
Not half! Of course I offered my thanks over and over and over again. She seemed happy
enouf enough with my response – and it was no act neither. The skates fitted perfect like. I joined a few of the younger gamekeepers on the lake, skating this way and that, up and down (mostly down on my part to be truthful). The boys warn’t even wearing skates! Just ruff rough boots with rubber soles. They didn’t even wear mittens or a scarf! I was wrapped up like a fresh leg a ham from the butchers. These outside chaps must get used to the cold.
What a feeling, though! Joining those silly moorhens scooting over the lake. You feel like
your you’re flying, skimming over the fish an frogs cased under the thick sheet of ice. The feeling can’t be beat, I reckon.
Well, here’s hoping the snow lasts for Saturday.
Signing off for now,
John Mayhew, hall boy.