New lease of life for Hatfield House kitchens
PUBLISHED: 08:31 22 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:24 20 February 2013
A MAID who worked at Hatfield House in the 1930s was invited back as an honoured guest when Lord Salisbury thanked those have helped restore the kitchen to its former glory.
A MAID who worked at Hatfield House in the 1930s was invited back as an honoured guest when Lord Salisbury organised a cheese and wine party to thank those who in the past six months had helped to restore the kitchen at his familys Hertfordshire stately home to how it was when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert came to dinner in 1846.
Florence Copeland now Florence Wadlow was 22 when she was taken on as a kitchen maid in 1935 with special responsibility for cooking the meals for the 26 servants.
Flo, now 97, travelled up from Norfolk where she now lives to give the guests a firsthand account of life below stairs in the pre-war years when her working day stretched from 6.30am to 10.30pm and the brightly burnished copper saucepans were cleaned after every meal with sand and soft soap. They had to be washed very carefully to make sure there was no sand left in them otherwise Lord Salisbury would have got grit in his mouth and he wouldnt have liked that. Fortunately cleaning the saucepans wasnt my job. It was the scullery maids.
I loved working here, she assured the present Marquess while she stood beside him and talked for 20 minutes in a firm voice, without notes or pause for breath, describing in graphic detail who did what in the kitchen.
Families who visit Hatfield House this summer can listen to a recording of Flos reminiscences by dialling a number on a 1930s Bakelite phone in the kitchen.
On the other side of the servants hall with its high ceiling and shelves lined with Victorian copper pans, jelly moulds and utensils, there are two interactive screens where visitors can see actors playing the part of servants who worked at Hatfield House 100 years before Flo.
Work on the restoration of the kitchen, still room, pastry room and scullery began last October and took six months to complete.
The domestic quarters in the basement of the stately home had been in daily use from 1611 when the mansion was built for the first Lord Salisbury until 1939 when the fourth Marquess offered the house to the government to be converted into a hospital as part of the familys war effort.
Over a Hot Stove, written by Flo Wadlow describing her life in service, is available from Mousehold Press, Victoria Cottage, Constitution Opening, Norwich, NR3 4BD. Price: 10.95.