Living history at
Blickling Hall, Tuesday 19 November
What a wonderful
evening when over 50 of us were transported back into
history by a young scullery maid occasionally assisted
by a smartly dressed Lord Lothian.
The maid, Kath
Watts, bumbled in and in her strident Norfolk accent,
told us her below stairs story of Blickling in 1937:
earning 5 shillings a week (25p in today’s money) and
sleeping in an attic room which she shared with Joyce;
beginning her day at 6am,finishing at 10pm. Her first
task was to make cook Flo Wadlow a cup of tea which
she carried up 65 stairs. Kitchen utensils were then
carefully placed in order of use, ready for the
preparation of a buffet breakfast.
Scullery maids were
not allowed to enter the dining room as only the
Footmen and Butlers were given the task of putting
food on the table. Kath told us of Philip
Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian, who was a British
politician and a diplomat who lived there at this
time. He was friends with Lady Astor who was a
frequent visitor and the first lady MP in British
history. Kath told us with great delight the favorite
foods of the Marquess: curry, fish & chips, and
white peaches grown at Blickling. It was a revelation
to all of us present.
would pick flowers from the garden and apparently had
a flair for flower arranging in the house. Scullery
maids were not allowed to pick flowers.
Blickling Estate was
first mentioned in Domesday. Influential owners
included Sir John Fastolf of Caister, 1380-1459. His
coat of arms is still displayed. Also Sir Geoffrey
Boleyn the grandfather of Ann Boleyn who is said to
have been born at Blickling. The present red brick
building was built by Sir Henry Hobart after he
purchased the property in 1616 for £5,500 - the
rebuilding cost £11,000. Blickling is one of the
most important Jacobean houses in England.
Our scullery maid
then chose from the audience a potential footman and
personally checked that he had the strong calves
needed to enable him to jump on the back of carriages.
They were paid by height. During Victorian times
footmen were required to whistle as they carried the
food to the dining room - if you whistled you couldn’t
eat! For the first two years of WW2 Aircrews from RAF
Oulton were billeted here and treated the Hall kindly.
Philip Kerr the 11th
Marquess died in 1940 in America. Blickling and
its estate passed to the National Trust. During
one survey they discovered a ‘Servants punishment
room’ on the roof including original graffiti. I
wonder if Kath knew of this. Did she spend time there?
I hope not.
The real Kath Watts
is still with us at 99 years old. What a wonderful
lady, and what changes she experienced! Today we can
enjoy this magnificent house with all its stories and
history from upstairs to downstairs where we can still
meet “Kath” and others working in the kitchen. I will
definitely be making another visit shortly.