The Hall Boy’s Journal

Ickworth hall boy, John Mayhew, describes his latest adventure in the ongoing series written by Eleanor Betts, historical researcher and consultant for the National Trust.


The weather has perked up somewhat in the last few weeks. The muds pretty much dried up and I’ve started walking the grounds again during my hours off. Sketchbook and pencil to hand, of course, just in case I spot a subject to study.

Now, I’m not one for flowers really – I’m more of a bird man – and maybe it’s because it was such a long, grey, dull, bear bare winter but I keep getting stopped in my tracks when walking the woods and meadows to admire the beautiful spring blooms. I’m blooming mad, I reckon, taking a fancy in something so girlish and silly as flowers. Either that, or I’m destined to work in the gardens.

Them gardeners don’t half give me a right rollicking when I pass them with my sketchbook – all jest, of course. ‘Here’s our little Constable out on a jolly…Enjoying the fruits of are our labours are we?!’ I first thought they were calling me a peeler, but have since found out that this man Constable was some painter and not a member of the police force. And, ‘enjoying the fruits of our labour’ – well, that’s a gardener’s joke if ever I’ve heard one! Especially those chaps as work in the walled garden. Anyhow I reckon they’ve imagined some gripe with us house staff – probably because they spent the freezing winter outside in the snow and rain. Well, I can tell them with some certainty that it warn’t much warmer inside! A good deal drier, I will admit, and there was far less white stuff lying about inside to make snowballs with – just the frost on the window sills.

So when I was out last week I managed a few sketches and thought “hang on one measly minute! I wonder where I placed that journal of mine?” I knew I’d never keep it up. I mean, what’s there to write about over the winter months – and how to keep a shivering hand still enough to scribble a few words?! Well, I’ve got some sketches to paste in now – to fill up those pages – but it didn’t half take me an age to find the blasted thing. I turned my room upside down – quite literally at one point (well, it’s its contents at least).

I’m one of those chaps who once started on a mission never gives up until its it’s completed. Silly really, and what a pile of mess I was faced with afterwards! There came a point, my books scattered across the floor, my bedding pulled about and my mattress overturned, that I began to suspect the journal had been lifted by prying hands. I was just about to confront Laurie – that footman is always the chief culprit – when the journal made itself known to me. Somehow I managed to jolt the shelf high up above my bed and the blooming book fell right on my head! They do say that authors make their mark on the world through their words, so I suppose it goes without saying that the written word can make its mark on the authors too – a horrible purple bruise sort of mark right above my left eyebrow! I looked quite a sight and got the sympathy of the girls at tea – of course I made up some daring adventure to explain it.

So I have my journal to hand again and I am determined to keep it up this time – I’ll try, at least. Here’s to the summer and to many more adventures on the Ickworth Estate.

Writing off for the day,

John Mayhew, Hall Boy.

And after all that – I’ve only gone and mislaid the sketches.



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