Diary of a Scullery Maid – February

Arianna’s Diary, written by Sienna James

Arianna Diary divide

February 8th

I’ve pasted this letter from my dear brother James into my diary. One day I’ll tease him about it terribly. He does seem so lovesick!


February 5th

Dear Arianna,

I don’t suppose life at Ickworth is much different since I last wrote – more dishes, I expect? I hope you’ve got lots of blankets at night, the frost doesn’t half bite at the farm. I knew bringing Granny’s old woollen quilt down from Derbyshire would be useful in the winter.

I haven’t got heaps of time to pen this letter. I have to be out in the paddock fetching the horses in a few minutes, so I’ll get down to the subject quickly. Fact is, Arianna, I’ve decided to go a-wooing. Only Valentine’s Day once a year! And I’m going to make the most of it.

Her name is Charlotte and she is the sister of Joe here on the farm. Joe’s a decent old bean and he invited me to their little cottage one evening. His father, you see, is a tenant of the farm and they live about a mile away. Charlotte Vaughn is such a smashing girl and I’m quite sure you two would be friends instantly. Of course, she is three years older than you, but it’s only two months until your fifteenth birthday. She really is marvellous, Arianna, and I would dearly like her to be my Valentine this year. 

The reason I am writing is to ask your opinion on how best to woo her. That’s what sisters are for! What do you think, Arianna? Flowers? Sweetmeats? Poems? Chocolates? I remember you used to tell me that soppy old story. Shakespeare, wasn’t it? Well, I would rather not act the Romeo and call up to dear old Juliette from the farm’s dung heap. But don’t girls like that sort of thing? Put yourself in Charlotte’s shoes, sister, and try to imagine what would make you happy on Valentine’s Day.

Make sure to reply soon. Do take pity on the struggling, lovesick heart of your brother and give me some needed advice! Who knows, perhaps I’ll have a sweetheart on Friday after all… Can you imagine? Your clumsy older brother parading around with a smashingly pretty girl? I must say the idea makes me chortle, so you must be in fits of giggles.

Love as always,


February 14th

What can I say? James and Charlotte. Perhaps I should get used to those two names together. I had never really considered that James might get a sweetheart one day. He’s just always been my older brother, and although he is four years older than I am, we’ve always been the best of friends. We became especially close after Papa’s death and then when Mr Fairfax came into our lives. I’m glad James asked my advice instead of writing to him! God forbid! I’ll never forget those days before the wedding when Mr Fairfax refused us admittance to the larder and pantry, just in case we young, foolish children should dare touch the cake. He was a brute!

Anyway, the whole affair with Charlotte finds me wishing him well and yet wishing he hadn’t discovered her. See, I rather fancied myself in the role of matchmaker. The next time James visited Ickworth, I was going to try and introduce him to one of the housemaids -maybe Flo, Carrie or Rose. Of course, I suspected that would have been thought as getting ‘above my station’, but it was a nice thought to occupy my mind while I washed dishes. Yet it doesn’t matter now and I feel rather mournful about it all.

I have not yet heard back from James so I don’t know whether Charlotte is his sweetheart or not. I hope my advice for a posy of wildflowers with a pretty card worked the trick. I am curious to meet her and I find myself wondering at such silly things like the colour of her hair or the sound of her voice. Is she a hearty girl with a Suffolk accent and round, rosy cheeks? Or is she a girl who has a laugh like the flutter of a butterfly’s wings and wears gowns of pure white?

I do wish he would reply so I can know how it all went!



The Hall Boy’s Journal

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.