This Saturday (26th April) the basement of Ickworth House will spring to life again with 1930s servants scurrying along the myriad of corridors and cooks baking delicious dishes in the kitchen. The theme for this week is ‘East Anglian Dishes’.
26 April: East Anglian Dishes:
Weather on this day in 1935: Cool, windy, bright intervals.
Lord Bristol owned acres of farmland in Suffolk, Lincolnshire and Essex. Much of the business of the estate was in farming. With the arrival of Spring the whole estate is waking up; lambs are being born, the pesky park deer are eating the spring wheat in the fields, and the gamekeepers are starting to rear game for the next season.
A few days have passed since the junior servants attended the Easter dance in the village and gossip is still flowing. Has a housemaid met a young man? Did the footman drink a little too much that night and is he still suffering from the effects? All the junior staff who attended are in trouble with the housekeeper as they arrived back late, waking everyone up in the process.
The Dance: the junior staff could discuss the music / dancing / boys / girls / the footman getting drunk / they are late back because they got lost in the park on the way home.
This storyline is based on the experiences of Mrs Brunning: ‘we got lost in the park once didn’t we? When it was foggy we did didn’t we? In the night…I was scared to go through the park by meself anyway…your father-in-law, he used to ride with me through the park after that.’
The Senior Servants [the Butler]: on the 4th May 1935 Lord Bristol attended the Royal Academy of Arts banquet in London. This annual event opened the exhibition and was held at Burlington House. The butler could be preparing to travel to London with Lord Bristol, making sure his best suit of clothes is ready.
The glorious weather couldn’t last long and this week it was back to thundery storms and heavy rainfall. On the 21st of April Princess Elizabeth celebrated her 9th birthday at Windsor Castle. In the morning she attended Divine Service in the Private Chapel with the King, Queen and other members of the royal family. The afternoon was spent at the windows of the royal apartments listening to the bands of the royal horseguards which played on the east terrace by command of the King. Later the Princess had a birthday tea party which was attended by the King and Queen, the Duke and Duchess of York, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, the Duke of Gloucester, and Princess Victoria.
It was my birthday this week. I did not tell anyone about it but apparently my brother William wrote to Florence to let her know. Florence and the other housemaids then put some money together and they bought me a selection of film magazines and a box of toffees from town. I woke up on the morning of my birthday to find a little brown paper package at the end of my bed. It was a lovely surprise!
Easter was late this year and the local Easter dance was the day after my birthday. Mrs. Seddons gave us housemaids and the footmen permission to attend, though we had to be back by ten in the evening. I spent a good hour getting ready, trying on the new dress Mother made me. Florence let us all use her lip-rouge and we tried to fashion our hair like that of the girls in the film magazines. This was more difficult than we first supposed it would be. I do not understand how these girls can look so perfect! The dance itself was lovely. The hall was filled with couples dancing and friends laughing, everybody was having fun. I even met a young man! George is visiting family who live nearby but he lives in a place called Watford. That is near London! He is so sophisticated, so unlike the boys from around here. Sadly he is travelling back home in a week but we agreed to meet on my half-day for lunch and a walk around the estate. I am so excited!
In the week leading up to Easter, which fell on the 21st April, the weather had improved and England was finally bathed in sun. The Royal family were out and about this week soaking up the warmth and two of their dogs were prize winners at the King’s Lynn Kennel Society Dog show. Princess Elizabeth joined her family to attend the Royal Maundy at Westminster Abbey. The King was 70 years old and the customary distribution of Maundy Money was therefore given to 70 pensioners of each sex. It was the young princess’s job to hand each pensioner £1 and as many pence as the King was in years of age. The money was specially minted for the occasion and consisted of silver pennies, twopences, threepences.
This Friday visitors to Ickworth House, a National Trust property in Suffolk, will be transported back in time to 1935. The basement of the great house will become a hive of activity as the Living History servants celebrate Easter. Cooks will be creating traditional Easter dishes in the kitchens and the younger servants have the annual Easter dance to prepare for. Each Living History day revolves around a storyline for the actors to follow and as readers of this blog I thought I would share this with you. If you come and visit Ickworth this Friday you will then be able to follow more closely the gossip and conversations of the Living History servants.
Theme for 18th April: Easter
Weather: Mild and sunny.
Easter is late this year and Spring is well under way. There are lambs in the fields, the sun is starting to warm up, and the front lawn is covered in an array of colourful little flowers.
Although Easter was not as commercial as it is today, it was still celebrated in the 1930s. Lady Bristol provided a special service downstairs for the female servants, much to the younger housemaids’ dismay, and the kitchen staff prepared special Easter dishes.
All servants might discuss how they celebrate Easter – my Grandma told me how her family used to collect hen’s eggs in the morning and paint the shells in their own individual designs. Her mother would then serve the eggs to them for breakfast (a real treat).
Some snippets from oral histories provided by people who worked at Ickworth House in the 1930s:
Lady Bristol’s Morning Prayers, as described by a kitchen maid:
‘…cook and the housekeeper, six housemaids and us three in the kitchen we all had to go to prayers…in the housekeeper’s room…We first of all had to stand in the hall for her to come in and she come down every morning and she went and sat down at the end of the table [and] Lady Bristol used to read out the Bible as we all sat there. And I was looking more at…er…examining…thinking about her hair, and things like that more than what she was reading!’
England was enjoying a lovely warm spring – but The Times reported on the 18th how New York was still caked under a layer of thick snow!
A few choice news stories that appeared in The Times this week in 1935…
Mid-April saw the first use of cat’s-eyes on British roads. 1935 was a year of road safety; with the introduction of the 30m/p/h speed limit, compulsory driving tests, and research into the most efficient methods of reducing deaths on roads. It was calculated in The Times this week that 238, 946 people died in road accidents in 1934 and that 200 children had been killed since the start of the new year.
This was also a week of extreme weather, on both sides of the Atlantic. Great Britain finally thawed out after having been covered under a blanket of snow since the previous month. What came now was heavy rain, flooding roads and houses. Mississippi was hit by a powerful tornado and the mid-west of America was suffering from continuous dust storms, the drifts high enough to cover fences and carts.
A few choice news stories that appeared in The Times this week in 1935…
31 March – 6 April:
This week two famous birthdays were celebrated. The 7th of April marked the anniversary of William Wordsworth’s birth in 1770. In commemoration the sound of bird’s song, recorded at Dove Cottage where Wordsworth once lived, was broadcast across the Atlantic to America and Canada. An early form of tweeting? Earlier on in the week it was the 70th birthday of Lord Derby. To celebrate 3,000 people attended a tribute at Public Hall in Preston where performers each represented a different phase of Lancashire life. Lord Derby was given a gold rosewater dish and a message of greeting signed by over 80,000 Lancashire residents.