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Gentle Readers: Amanda Millay on New Noblewoman has found modern fashions inspired by Downton Abbey. She has graciously allowed me to reproduce her article for this blog. It will lead you to her blog, The New Noblewoman, which features all things fashion.

Downton Abbey is not just successful as good entertainment. Women everywhere are clamoring for clothing inspired by the show, and finding that modern-day retail wear is not even as pretty as the show’s most simple dresses.

The longing for Downton Abbey-inspired fashions, and the very few options available at the retail level, indicate that a change is needed in women’s fashion. Most women can’t afford a $1,000 dress, and designers and manufacturers will continue to make cheap, ugly, throwaway clothing until people stop buying it. But there is one option remaining for turning the fashion tide: Making or buying only top-quality, beautiful clothes, and making do with a limited wardrobe . . . like most people did for centuries. We should bring the emphasis in fashion back to having a few quality items, rather than amassing a huge quantity of synthetic items that we grow weary of or that go out of style after a few months. Women are already realizing this, and have started searching out homemade clothing (and making their own) in the quest to bring some true style back into fashion.

So can women today find anything that’s comparable to Downton Abbey fashion (without making it, or wearing an evening gown during the day)? I’ve scoured online women’s boutiques and department stores, and after looking through thousands of dresses, here are the best options I’ve found for Downton Abbey-inspired style. There are some great dresses at exorbitant prices, but in this list, everything is less than $200.

(If you’re looking for authentic vintage style, check out the Ladies Emporium,Recollections, Etsy, or this list of retailers from Sense & Sensibility Patterns.)

Long Dresses for a Look That’s Casual or Elegant

The ladies of Downton Abbey are usually dressed to impress. But it’s possible to find empire-waist dresses and long dresses in a variety of styles that have a bit of pre-World War I British flair. Click here for the rest of the article on New Noblewoman.

Other links:

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Last night PBS showcased the Christmas special of Downton Abbey. Did you find the finale of Season 2 satisfying? Too cliched? Did you encounter unexpected twists? Or did you guess just about every plot point as my neighbor did? Warning to those who have not seen the Christmas special: This post contains nothing but plot spoilers!

Julian Fellowes with Dan Stevens and Elizabeth McGovern.

Julian Fellowes with Dan Stevens and Elizabeth McGovern. Credit courtesy Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE

I found the details of how the Crawleys treated the servants at Christmas quite interesting, giving them gifts and allowing them a free day.  Sir Richard’s response to the Crawleys’ generosity towards the servants told much about him and foreshadowed the difficulties he would encounter with Mary. They are constantly at loggerheads and his jealousy towards her real feelings for Matthew bubbled over.Sir Richard’s jealousy of Matthew bubbles over. He and Mary are constantly at loggerheads. While he seemed a harsh man, in the end it turns out that he truly cared for the eldest Crawley sister. Even as they make googoo eyes at each other, an upright and uptight Matthew informs Lady Mary that they can never be together because of his guilt trip over Lavinia’s death. Her reply, “Didn’t they teach you never to make promises?” This story line, ending in their engagement, finally gives the viewer a happy ending

With Mr. Bates in prison, the viewer is beginning to wonder if things will ever go right for him and Anna.  I am beginning not to care. The trial was over the top and melodramatic, but it did showcase O’Brien’s attempts to say and do the right thing. As for Anna’s reaction to hubby’s impending life/death sentence in prison – violin strings please.

This viewer sorely missed seeing Sybil and Tom. Their absence created a glaring hole in the story line, although their good news about her pregnancy meant joy for Cora and a Fenian grandchild for the skeptical earl.

It was a delight to see Edith boldly cast her hook and line at Sir Anthony Strallan, one of the few able bodied single men left standing after the war, albeit a little long in the tooth.

In order to be thought a hero,Thomas absconded with the earl’s dog, Isis, a most foul deed that backfired. With this act he entered the pantheon of  the ten most dastardly villains in entertainment history. Isis escapes from the shack

The story of Mr. Mason, William’s father, and Daisy provided a sweet sub plot. Daisy talks to William via the ouija board and Mrs. Patmore.

Many plot points were tied up during the finale, which redeemed Season 2. I do hope that Sybil and Branson will return, for I felt their absence keenly. As for Bates and Anna, their down-in-the-luck story line is getting a little old. While a happy couple makes for boring fiction, the relentless bad luck that this couple experiences has entered the realm of the absurd. It is also time that Edith enjoys her moment in the spotlight. She’s changed this year. While she still gives Mary a couple of good digs, she has become a more rounded character. What did you think of the last episode? Alas we will have to wait 11 months before Season 3 airs. Can we even stand it?

Today I conclude this year’s coverage of Downton Abbey. Future posts will return to the Georgian and Regency eras, where this blog ideally resides. Thank you, readers, for your patience as my Downton Abbey fever ran its course.

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Season Two of Downton Abbey is winding down on PBS tonight with the Christmas Special. Americans can watch previous episodes online through March 6, 2012. All I can say is – it’s about time. I don’t know about you, but this season seems a bit long and dragged out. I don’t think the one-hour airings between 2-hour book-ended shows helped. Several of us talked over the water cooler at work and felt that the one-hour airings were too short and ended abruptly. Plus some of the plot lines were a bit predictable. Be that as it may, I still prefer this series heads and shoulders above almost anything shown on cable these days.

To assuage your Downton Abbey cravings before Season 3 airs (Yesss!), an excellent artist named Kyle Hilton has created a series of paper dolls for you to download and play with. (The concept was by Willa Paskin. Vulture commissioned the four sets of paper dolls.) Perhaps you could even create your own story lines. Matthew and Mary come with a surprise, and Violet’s been given a range of expressions! Or not.

The paper dolls that are missing whose story line I would like to change are those for Mr. Bates and Anna. Perhaps Kyle is studying up on prison uniforms of the time, or figuring out how to place those two dolls in their marital bed. I also miss having the earl and his countess.

I quibble, however. These are such fun! Click on the links below to print out the paper dolls. You will have to cut them out the old-fashioned way – with scissors.

Meanwhile, I shall be on tenterhooks all night long waiting for the Christmas finale. See you there and at the twitter party with moi and one of your favorite Janeite friends, Laurel Ann Natress, editor of the anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It. Hash tag: #DowntonPBS

Paper dolls courtesy of Kyle Hilton

Links:

Kyle writes about his paper dolls and why they are free:
Personally, I think artists selling artwork that is largely someone else’s intellectual property is wrong.  It may not be a clear, black and white illegal issue, but the selling designs of t-shirts, posters, or even something like these paper dolls that are based off something someone else created (like tv shows, movies, etc) is to me, a cheap and easy way to make money.  There are a ton of shirts and posters out there that get around the issue by not directly showing a character or a logo, but in my opinion are still depending on the intellectual property of someone else’s creation.  I know not every illustrator sees it the same way, but for me, I’d rather make these dolls because I love doing it, share them for free at the highest resolution Tumblr allows and not get involved in trying to make money that for the most part belongs to people like Vince Gilligan, Mitch Hurwitz and Tim and Eric.  Plus, how often is stuff free? Not getting money for these means I’m free to make terrible, terrible mistakes!

All ads are placed here by WordPress. I make no money from my blog.

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My regular Jane Austen readers have been patient as I succumbed to Downton Abbey fever and began to cover events 100 years after Jane Austen’s death. Customs changed during that intervening century. Take the matter of dress. While proper Regency ladies changed their outfits from morning gowns to walking gowns when they went out, and changed into dinner dress when dining, by Victorian and Edwardian times the custom of a lady changing her clothes throughout the day had turned into a fine art.  One could get by with no less than 4-5 changes per day. A woman who packed to visit a country estate was sure not to be seen in the same outfit twice. This meant that for a 4-day visit she would need at the very minimum to have her maid pack 16 changes of outfits. One can only imagine the work of a lady’s maid to keep all the clothes and unmentionables in perfect (and clean) condition. Such attention to detail required quite a bit of organization.

Morning dress, 1815. Ackermann plate. While she looked proper in her at home attire, this morning dress looks stodgy compared to the Edwardian teagown.

Corsets were worn all through the 19th century and into the early part of the 20th century. Women were constricted into these garments for most of their waking day, but there were times when they were free from these tight-laced garments.  During the early 19th century, upper class women at home would wear comfortable (but beautiful) morning gowns. Dressing gowns were also worn. Such gowns were meant to be seen by the family and close relatives only. The moment a woman expected to be seen, she would change into more proper dress.

Cora, the Countess of Grantham, lived during a time when teagowns were all the rage. These beautiful ornate gowns had the advantage of being simply cut and worn without a corset. It was possible that for just a few hours she could relax comfortably before dinner.

They were generally loose-fitting and elaborately trimmed, and gave full vent to the dressmaker’s or couturier’s skill and taste for theatricality. Tea-gowns were influenced by historical styles from eighteenth century Watteau-pleats, to renaissance hanging sleeves and empire waistlines and quite often, all of them at the same time. Never has so much love and art been invested in such an arguably unnecessary garment. All kinds of informal garments including tea jackets, peignoirs, dressing gowns, combing sacques, morning robes and dressing jackets also had their place in the leisured Edwardian lady’s wardrobe, all of them beautifully decorated and almost all of them now obsolete. 1900-1919: The Last Age of Elegance 

American dancer and actress Irene Castle wearing a teagown, 1913

It had long been the custom for a lady to entertain both male and female visitors in her boudoir. (Read my article on this topic.) During the Regency era, dressing gowns were quite plain and simple compared to teagowns.

1810-23 dresssing gown. Image @Met Museum

At times the teagown gave rise to temptation, for a woman could entertain in private and not need the services of her maid:

Worn between five and seven oclock,  gave rise to the French phrase ‘cinq à sept‘. This referred to the hours when lovers were received, the only time of day when a maid wouldn’t need to be there to help you undress and therefore discover your secret. – “Style”, The World of Downton Abbey, Jessica Fellowes

Early 19th century dressing gown. Image @Met Museum

Attired in her tea-gown, a soft flowing robe of filmy chiffon or fine silk, trimmed with an abundance of lace and often free of corsetry, the hostess must have been a tempting prospect for many men. Such loose gowns afforded women great comfort, ease of access and a tremendous sense of femininity. Little wonder then that whilst hemlines rose and fell the tea-gown, which had appeared in England as early as 1875 lingered on until the 1920s. – Edwardian tea gowns, fashion era

This Lingerie-style dress embellished with Irish crochet, c.1905 (below) can be seen in more detail on Vintage Texiles. Made of sheer cotton decorated with lace and ruffles, this sheer dress required a slip.

Edwardian teagown, 1905. Image @Vintage Textile

More on the topic:

Read more on the topic: Tea Gowns, Edwardian Promenade

Image of an early 19th century dressing gown at the Met Museum

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We’re well into Season 2 of Downton Abbey and some obvious patterns in coupling are beginning to emerge in this historical or historic melodrama. Let’s examine how some of our favorite characters are getting on, shall we? (Caution: there will be spoilers for those who have not kept up with the series. Some might also be offended by the language in parts.)

Bates and Anna: The Daisy Saw Chain of Desire

Yes, we will, no we won’t Yes we will, no we can’t. Yes we hope, darn she’s back!

It’s hard to remain on Team Bates when all this couple is allowed to do is react to circumstances beyond their control. We want to root for them, don’t we? The lovely maid Anna and stoic Bates have won our hearts from the start. After becoming sweethearts against his will (for he is married, after all, a minor matter), they give each other romantic looks and sighs, and confess their modest dream of starting their own inn and family.

Bates and Anna. Image courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE

Then a nasty surprise in the shape of the very inconvenient Mrs. Bates arrives to dampen their plans (but not their ardor).

The wickedly delicious Vera Bates lights up the small screen with her foul plans to destroy the couple and the Grantham family because of her intense hatred for her husband. Bates turns into such a milquetoast when she spouts her venom that you just want to kick his butt to force him into action and whack her one. Alas, he remains a milquetoast.

It is up to Sir Richard to use his nouveau riche power and slap the woman down. Vera more than meets her match in Sir Richard, and frankly, these two spark more fire in their short scenes together than Anna and Mr. Bates ever could.

Poor Bored Lord Grantham

Being the head of a landed estate and master of a multitude of subordinates just isn’t enough to keep him busy, thus poor Lord Grantham is shown reading the newspaper in half his scenes in Series 2. His disappointment at not being given an active commission and sent to the front, where he would stand a 50-50 chance of being killed or maimed, sends him sulking to his small corner of the library.

To make matters worse, now that Cora has won her war of wills over Isobel, she has more important matters on her mind than to keep his lordship entertained. The soldiers must be taken care of: Lists made, sheets folded, accommodations planned, meals ordered, and the day in general organized.

Poor pitiful Lord Grantham is starting to feel neglected and lonely. Rather than working with his steward to reorganize his farms to grow vegetables for the army, and mobilizing his workers to do all they can for the cause, the earl behaves like a spoiled two-year old and attends to matters that are best left to others – namely that of hiring a comely war widow as the new maid. To be fair, Carson consulted him first, but shouldn’t this be Mrs. Hughes’ decision, plain and simple?

The Mary-Matthew-Lavinia Triangle

First Mary didn’t want Matthew. Then she wanted him. Then she changed her mind. Then she changed her mind again, which is when he left her, suspecting that she only wanted him for his eventual title not his humble self. Their parting in Season One gave satisfaction to noone but Mary’s sister Edith.

So Mary had to search in other quarters to snag herself a man. He’s not as pretty or accommodating as Matthew, but boy-oh-boy does her new rough-around-the-edges, no-nonsense and ruthless tycoon promise an exciting romp in bed. In the high stakes game that is the marriage mart, love played absolutely no role in Mary’s decision to bind herself to Sir Richard.

Woebetide Mary.

After rejecting his one true love, Matthew hied away from Downton Abbey, only to return two years later with a fiancee named Lavinia. His choice for a wife is as exciting as a crumpled piece of paper. On their first meeting, Mary sidles up to Lavinia with a polite but fixed stare and welcomes her to the Abbey. Lavinia, in awe of her surroundings and the fact that she will one day rule as supreme mistress of the premises, fails to notice the electric looks of longing and passion that pass between Matthew and Mary.

Masochistic Mary, who’s stiff upper lip is firmly planted in front of her clenched teeth, actually tries to be supportive of Lavinia while pretending to be a mere friend to Matthew.

C’mon, Mary! Fess up! One word from Matthew and you’ll drop Sir Richard like a hot potato and jump into Matthew’s sack. Mary experiences a hiccup in that desire when she discovers that Matthew’s unfortunate paralysis has resulted in his inability to perform those rites of passage that turn a blushing young bride into a woman of the world. But then she consoles herself with the thought that, thanks to Pamuk’s manly charms, she has already crossed that heavenly threshold.

Upon seeing Matthew lying prostrate in bed and learning that his prostate is of no use whatsoever, Miss Swire, who still hasn’t figured out that bees come from bees and birds from birds, cries her virginal heart out. She senses that whatever Matthew is trying to tell her must not bode well for their marital relations (whatever that means!).

As for Matthew’s steadfast love for Lavinia: I scoff. I laugh. I guffaw. Honestly, if both women competed in The Dating Game, Lavinia wouldn’t even come in third.

Upstairs Downstairs Love

First he drove her, now he wants to ride her. Branson’s a brash young Irishman who knows his worth. It’s a new age, and social unrest and the war have turned the world topsy turvy. It’s not unusual for a healthy young servant buck to turn his lascivious eyes on the master’s nubile daughter, but to act on his emotions and dare to declare his love? Now that’s awfully balsy of him…n’est pas?

Branson’s object of desire, Lady Sybil, is no namby pamby miss. She was all for the suffragette movement before the war, and actively supported Gwen’s right to improve her life with a typewriter. Sybil’s become a VAD, or volunteer nurse, and washed men’s bloody stumps and tended to their most intimate ablutions. She’s even seen their parts! (Our lovely Sybil has come of age in more ways than one.)

Still, her attraction to Branson, and his to her, is a social taboo that defies the world order as Lord Grantham and his mama know it. Will they find out? Will our hapless couple overcome all obstacles on their path to true love? Or will they part in sweet sorrow? Stay tuned as their world churns.

Lady Edith and Uh, Uh, Uhm ….

Lady Edith on her fine piece of equipment. Image courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE

Poor Lady Edith. As if it weren’t bad enough to be caught in the middle of two dynamic and beautiful sisters, she was born with neither personality nor looks. It was Sybil who advised Edith to find her special talents. Well, we know all about one of them – to make Mary’s life hell. But then the war interrupted her favorite sport of baiting her sister. What to do? Drive a tractor, of course, and make sport with the farmer’s wife’s husband after digging deep furrows in his fertile ground. A discreet romp on top of the hay (with all their clothes on) and a joining of moist lips was all it took for the farmer’s wife to aim her proverbial pitchfork at Edith and order her off her man and the land she was plowing.

Poor Edith. Now what? She starts wandering around the house like her papa, with wide vacant eyes, making me wonder if Season 2 is turning into Downton Abbey and Zombies. Then, all of a sudden, Edith discovers the joy of letter writing and transcribing the thoughts of injured soldiers. She plumps up their pillows, fetches their newspapers and books, and takes lessons from the family dog to learn how to become a loyal and useful shadow.

Edith’s good deeds garner her accolades and she blushes from the unexpected glory. Can Edith be saved? Will she turn into an interesting character? So far she’s fooling everyone except Lady Mary, who turning bug-eyed keeping her eyes on both Matthew and her back-stabbing sister.

Yo Mama Wuz Right and U Wuz Wronged

We kind of liked Ethel from the moment we met her, didn’t we? Cheeky and uppity, a bit selfish, too assured, and totally clueless. She’s going to move up in the world and nothing, not even a maid’s position, is going to stop her. When O’Brien plays her tricks on Ethel we laugh,while feeling sorry for her. It’s our first glimpse of the young maid’s vulnerability. She’s all bravado and not too smart.

Caught by Mrs. Hughes in bed with an opportunistic snake, Ethel is cast out of Downton’s downstairs with nothing but the clothes on her back and a growing surprise in her belly. Alas and alack, Ethel’s story arc reflects events that actually happened in the past.

While the Lothario walks away with impunity, the seduced young woman must pay a steep price and become a social pariah.

This Marriage Makes Kim Kardashian’s Seem Eternal

William loves Daisy. Mrs. Patmore loves William like a son. Daisy adores Thomas, but he’s, like, TOTALLY unavailable.

Good old Mrs. Patmore, feeling sad about her nephew’s death, pushes an unwilling Daisy into William’s arm. “C’mon, luv”, she urges the young scullery maid, “It can’t hurt being nice to him – the poor sod is going off to war! What harm can it do?” So a reluctant Daisy goes along with the well-meaning cook and hands William her photo, which is akin to Britspeak for “engaged to be married.” Armed with her image, William knows that he can face a fearless death, which he does, for he returns from Amiens with shattered lungs and takes to his death bed.

Daisy is cattle prodded by the well-meaning staff to marry poor William, who is stoic with the thought that although he is unable to deflower her in his pathetic condition, he can keep her in flour (and butter and tea) for the rest of her life by bestowing her with his name and pension.

The Right Honourable Violet Crawley, Countess of Grantham, and Everyone Else

Whenever Violet encounters anyone, the two immediately become a couple, with Violet gaining the upper hand within a milli-second. Take Violet’s scene with the reluctant minister, for example. With a firm grip on her walking stick, a cemented half smile, and an implacable attitude, she twists his aging co hones by sheer force of her will until he succumbs and marries poor Daisy and the near-dead William, whose face has turned blue. Had Violet been born in another time and social strata, she would have become a dominatrix par excellence!

One other couple must be mentioned: Thomas and O’Brien. As thick as thieves, these two villains cannot get enough of each other and their machinations. Of all the couplings in Downton Abbey, surely this one is meant to last.

And now we can all settle in for the next installment of Season 2 and the goings on at the Abbey. From what I understand, Season 3 is guaranteed. Which coupling shall last? Which shall be fruitful and multiply? And which shall wither on the vine and remain barren? Stay tuned.

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(Hint: for quicker download, click on title of this article.) As viewers of Downton Abbey, we think we have gotten to know Highclere Castle and its setting well.  Sir Barry remodelled Highclere Castle for the third earl of Carnarvon from 1839 to 1842. The architect had just finished building the Houses of Parliament. The house once looked quite different and was Georgian in feature, as this image shows.

highclere-castle-in-the-18th-century

Extensive renovations were made during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In the mid-19th century, Henry, the 3rd earl of Carnarvon, transformed the house into a grand mansion with 60- 80 bedrooms (the sum varies according to the source) and over 120,000 square feet. The staircase, also designed by Thomas Allom, sits in the tower designed by Charles Barry.

Highclere Castle after renovation

Highclere Castle after renovation. Sir Charles Barry’s renovation was in the “High Elizabethan” style. The building was faced in Bath stone.

The Architectural Design

Architectural design for the tower of Downton Abbey by Sir Charles Barry, 1842. Image@Christie’s

The BBC said about Barry’s Houses of Parliament:

A good example of the period’s confused love affair with the past, it was summed up earlier this century as classic in inspiration, Gothic in detailing, and carried out with scrupulous adherence to the architectural detail of the Tudor period. – BBC, A British History of Architecture

This description can easily be applied to Highclere Castle with its whimsical look back to Tudor times.

The term “Jacobethan” refers to the Victorian revival of English architecture of the late 16th century and early 17th century, when Tudor architecture was being challenged by newly arrived Renaissance influences. During the 19th century there was a huge Renaissance revival movement, of which Sir Charles Barry was a great exponent – Barry described the style of Highclere as “Anglo-Italian”.[3] – Wikipedia

The Facade and Front Door

The front door

Many visitors come to this blog looking for a floor plan of Highclere Castle. This one depicted below sits on the Highclere Castle website and is a bit hard to read. Not all the rooms are currently in use, and a number, such as the music room, are available to be rented as conference rooms.

The House Plan

In the television series, the servant quarters and kitchens were not filmed at the Castle, but were constructed at Ealing studios in West London.

From The Victorian Country House by Mark Girouard.

Entrance Hall and Saloon

stairs and hall

Stairs and hall

Red stairs birds eye view

Red stairs birds eye view

Pillars

Pillars

Passage above saloon leading to the bedrooms

Interior of Highclere Castle

Saloon from gallery above. The room was designed by Thomas Allom and completed in the 1860s.

Saloon seating space Picture by Paul Hilton ©

Saloon seating space Picture by Paul Hilton ©

Salloon

Saloon

Detail of saloon ceiling

Detail of saloon ceiling

The Music Room

Music room

Music room

Music room

These days the music room is available as a conference room.*

The Library

Double library

Double library with coffered celings holds over 5,000 books.

Comfortable seating within the library

Comfortable seating within the library

The library is unusual in that it consists of a two part room. The opening between the two areas is featured by columns. This room is also available to rent as a conference room.*

The Drawing Room

The drawing room image @Boston Globe. The drawing room was designed by Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon,  in the "rococo revival" style .

The drawing room image @Boston Globe. The drawing room was designed by Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon, in the “rococo revival” style .

The Dining Room

Much drama is centered in the dining room. The actors often took days to film a scene, and it was quite a feat to keep the food looking fresh and to maintain continuity in both the drinking glasses and on the plates. Read Downton Abbey: Dining in Splendor for more information.

The dining room

The dining room

diningroom-highclere

Image @Conferences UK

Bedrooms

Modern bedroom

Renovated bedroom

One of the bedrooms in need of renovation. Image @Daily Mail

One of the bedrooms in need of renovation. Image @Daily Mail

This image on Huffington Post shows more details about Downton Abbey/Highclere Castle and values the mansion:

valuingdowntonabbey

More on the topic:

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This Sunday, PBS will air on most stations an hour presentation of  Secrets of the Manor House, a documentary narrated by Samuel West, that explains how society was transformed in the years leading up to World War One. Expert historians, such as Lawrence James and Dr. Elisabeth Kehoe, discuss what life was like in these houses, explain the hierarchy of the British establishment, and provide historical and social context for viewers. For American viewers of Downton Abbey, this special couldn’t have come at a better time.

The British manor house represented a world of privilege, grace, dignity and power.

For their services for the King in war, soldiers were awarded lands and titles. The aristocracy rose from a warrior class.

This world was inhabited by an elite class of people who were descended from a line of professional fighting men, whose titles and land were bestowed on them by a grateful king.

Manderston House, Berwickshire.

For over a thousand years, aristocrats viewed themselves as a race apart, their power and wealth predicated on titles, landed wealth, and political standing.

Huge tracts of lands with fields, villages, laborers' cottages, and forests surrounded country estates.

Vast landed estates were their domain, where a strict hierarchy of class was followed above stairs as well as below it. In 1912, 1 ½ million servants tended to the needs of their masters. As many as 100 would be employed as butler, housekeeper, house maids, kitchen maids, footmen, valets, cooks, grooms, chauffeurs, forestry men, and agricultural workers. Tradition kept everyone in line, and deference and obedience to your betters were expected (and given).

22 staff were required to run Manderston House, which employed 100 servants, many of whom worked in the gardens, fields, and forests.

As a new century began, the divide between rich and poor was tremendous. While the rich threw more extravagant parties and lived lavish lives, the poor were doomed to live lives of servitude and hard work.

Lord Palmer pulls on a false bookcase to open a passage to the next room.

Manderston House in Berwickshire represents the excesses of its time. The great house consists of 109 rooms, and employed 98 servants just before the outbreak of World War One. Twenty two servants worked inside the house to tend to Lord Palmer and his family. Every room inside the house interconnected.

The curtains in the ballroom of Manderston House look as fresh as the year they were made in 1904.

The curtains and drapes, woven with gold and silver thread, were made in Paris in 1904 and cost the equivalent of 1.5 million dollars. Manderston House itself was renovated at the turn of the century for 20 million dollars in today’s money. This was during an era when scullery maids earned the equivalent of $50 per year.

Once can clearly see the differences in bell sizes in this photo.

The servant hall boasted 56 bells, each of a different size that produced a unique ring tone. Servants were expected to memorize the sound for the areas that were under their responsibility.

Scullery maids were placed at the bottom of the servant hierarchy. They rose before dawn to start the kitchen fires and put water on to boil. Their job was to scrub the pots, pans and dishes, and floors, and even wait on other servants.

Life was not a bed of roses for the working class and the gulf between the rich and poor could not have been wider than during the turn of the 21st century.

Thoroughbred horses lived better than the working classes.

While the servants slept in the attic or basement, thoroughbred horses were housed in expensively designed stable blocks. As many as 16 grooms worked in the stables, for no expense was spared in tending to their needs.

The stables at Manderston House required 16 grooms to feed, care for, and exercise the horses.

As men and women worked long hours, as much as 17-18 hours per day, the rich during the Edwardian era lived extravagant, indulgent lives of relaxation and pleasure, attending endless rounds of balls, shooting parties, race meetings, and dinner parties.

Up to the moment that war was declared, the upper classes lived as if their privileged lives would never change.

The Edwardian era marked the last great gasp of manor house living with its opportunities of providing endless pleasure. For the working class and poor, the inequities within the system became more and more apparent. The landed rich possessed over one half of the land. Their power was rooted in owning land, for people who lived on the land paid rent. The landed gentry also received income from investments,  rich mineral deposits on their land, timber, vegetables grown in their fields, and animals shipped to market.

The lord of the manor and his steward can be seen walking among the farm laborers, many of whom were women.

The need to keep country estates intact and perpetuate a family’s power was so important that the eldest son inherited everything – the estate, title, all the houses, jewels, furnishings, and art. The laws of primogeniture ensured that country estates would not be whittled away over succeeding generations. In order to consolidate power, everything (or as much as possible) was preserved. Entailment, a law that went back to the 13th century, ensured that portions of an estate could not be sold off.

The Lord Mayor of London was seated at the center of the table next to the Countesses of Stamford and Lichfield.

The system was rigged to favor the rich. Only men who owned land could vote, and hereditary peers were automatically given a seat in the House of Lords. By inviting powerful guests to their country estates, they could lobby for their special interests across a dinner table, at a shoot, or at a men’s club.

Thoroughbred horses were valued for their breeding and valor, traits that aristocrats identified with.

The Industrial Revolution brought about changes in agricultural practices and inventions that presaged the decline of aristocratic wealth. Agricultural revenues, the basis on which landed wealth in the UK was founded, were in decline. Due to better transportation and refrigeration, grain transported from Australia and the U.S. became cheaper to purchase. Individuals were able to build wealth in other ways – as bankers and financiers. While the landed gentry could still tap resources from their lands and expand into the colonies, the empire too began to crumble with the rise of nationalism and nation states.

The servant hierarchy echoed the distinctions of class upstairs. The chef worked at the end of the table on the left, while the lowest ranking kitchen maids chopped vegetables at the far right. The kitchen staff worked 17 hours a day and rarely left the kitchen.

Contrasted with the opulent life above stairs was an endless life of drudgery below stairs. On a large estate that entertained visitors, over 100 meals were prepared daily. Servants rose at dawn and had to stay up until the last guest went to bed. Kitchen maids, who made the equivalent of 28 dollars per year, rarely strayed outside the kitchen.

Steep back stairs that servants used. Out of sight/out of mind.

One bath required 45 gallons of water, which had to be hauled by hand up steep, narrow stairs. At times, a dozen guests might take baths on the same day. House maids worked quietly and unseen all over the manor house. The were expected to move from room to room using their own staircases and corridors. Underground tunnels allowed servants to move unseen crossing courtyards.

Manderston House's current butler shows the servant's hall

Maids and footmen lived in their own quarters in the attic or basement. Men were separated from the women and were expected to use different stairs. Discipline was strict. Servants could be dismissed without notice for the most minor infraction.

Footmen tended to be young, tall, and good looking.

Footmen, whose livery cost more than their yearly salary, were status symbols. Chosen for their height and looks, they were the only servants allowed to assist the butler at dinner table. These men were the only servants allowed upstairs.

Green baize doors separated the servants quarters from the master's domain.

Green baize doors were special doors that marked the end of the servants quarters and hid the smells of cooking and noises of the servants from the family.

The Jerome sisters were (l to r) Jennie, Clara, and Leonie.

As revenues from agriculture dwindled, the upper classes searched for a new infusion of capital.This they found in the American heiress, whose fathers had built up their wealth from trade and transportation. Free from the laws of primogeniture, these wealthy capitalists distributed their wealth among their children, sharing it equally among sons and daughters. The ‘Buccaneers,’ as early American heiresses were called, infused the British estates with wealth. ‘Cash for titles’ brought 60 million dollars into the British upper class system via 100 transatlantic marriages.

Working class family

Transatlantic passages worked both ways, even as American heiresses crossed over to the U.K.,  millions of British workers emigrated to America looking for a better life. The sinking of the Titanic, just two years before the outbreak of World War One, underscored the pervasive issue of class.

Most likely this lifeboat from the Titanic was filled with upper class women and children. Only 1 in 3 people survived.

The different social strata were housed according to rank, and it was hard to ignore that a large percentage of first class women and children survived, while the majority of third and second class passengers died.

Labor strikes became common all over the world, including the U.K.

Society changed as the working class became more assertive and went on strikes. The Suffragette movement gained momentum. Prime Minister David Lloyd George was a proponent of reform, even as the aristocracy tried to carry on as before.

Lloyd George campaigned for progressive causes.

Inventions revolutionized the work place. Electricity, telephones, the type writer, and other labor-saving devices threatened jobs in service. A big house could be run with fewer staff, and by the 1920s a manor house that required 100 servants needed only 30-40.

Change is ever present. The last typewriter factory shut its doors in April, 2011.

Women who would otherwise have gone into service were lured into secretarial jobs, which had been revolutionized by the telephone and typewriter.

Many of the aristocratic young men in this photo would not return from war.

The manor house set enjoyed one last season in the summer of 1914, just before war began. Many of the young men who attended those parties would not return from France. Few expected that this war would last for six months, much less four years. Officers lost their lives by a greater percentage than ordinary soldiers, and the casualty lists were filled with the names of aristocratic men and the upper class.

Over 35 million soldiers and civilians died in World War 1

Common soldiers who had died by the millions had been unable to vote. Such inequities did not go unnoticed. Social discontent, noticeable before the war, resulted in reform – the many changes ushered in modern Britain.

As the 20th century progressed, owners found it increasingly hard to maintain their manor houses. According to Lost Heritage, over 1,800 have been lost.

Watch Secrets of the Manor HouseJanuary 22 on PBS. All images from Secrets of the Manor House.

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Highclere Castle as Downton Abbey was a beautiful setting

Now that the last episode of Downton Abbey has aired, I can reflect back on the series and revisit some of the most surprising scenes. Indeed, the unexpected plot developments, which kept the viewers on their toes,  helped to make this series so unforgettable. Throw luscious costumes into the mix, stunning locations, a wealth of detail about Edwardian life, and great acting and you get one of the best costume dramas in recent years. Oh, the series had its faults with one or two too many stereotypical characters, but overall I give it a grade of A.

Reader alert: Spoilers!!

Surprise #1: Thomas kisses the Duke

Thomas (Rob James-Colier) and the Duke of Crowborough (Charley Cox)

This scene, which upset parents watching with their children, helped to seal the character of Thomas, the first footman, and clued the viewer into the the Duke’s motives for hightailing it to Downton Abbey when he thinks Mary will come into a boatload of money.

The duke learns the true situation of Lady Mary's finances from Lord Grantham.

The Duke finds and burns Thomas’s letters, which were the footman’s only means of blackmailing him, and then he scurries away the moment he discovers that Lord Grantham’s estate is entailed to the closest male heir, making his chance to marry into the Grantham fortune less than zero. Thomas goes on to demonstrate his sleazy character in many more ways, but his move on the Duke packed a real punch.

Surprise #2: Lady Mary is not just another cookie cutter heroine

Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley

From the moment we meet her, Lady Mary comes off as a cold, calculating, and complex woman, whose vulnerability does not come into full view until the third episode. When the viewer meets her, she worries about having to wear black after the death of her fiance on the Titanic and only mourns the fact that she cannot mourn him. Haughty and immodestly aware of her attraction to men, her pursuit of a wealthy and titled husband begins to take on a hint of desperation, which is why her fall from grace with Evelyn Napier’s attractive Turkish friend, Kemal Pamuk (Theo James), is even more shocking.

Surprise #3: Lady Mary, Lady Cora, and Anna share a terrible secret that cannot be contained

Lady Mary is in deep trouble after Pamuk dies in her bed.

The scene in which Pamuk dies in Lady Mary’s bed and the women secretly carry him back to his bedroom could have descended into slapstick comedy, but it did not due to great directing and acting. As I watched, I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or whoop it up. All I knew was that in no way did I anticipate this plot development, which would affect Mary’s story arc and uneasy relationship with her mother for the rest of the mini-series.

Consequences of Lady Mary's fall from grace. Anna and Cora carry Pamuk back to the bedroom.

Handsome Pamuk is reduced to a limp corpse. And Mary? What on earth was she thinking? When Matthew finally proposes, Cora reveals to Violet that Mary wants to confess about the circumstances of Pamuk’s death, prompting the dowager to exclaim:  “She reads too many novels. One way or the other, everyone goes down the aisle with half the story hidden!”

Surprise #4: The Enjoyable Saga of One Upmanship Between Two Well-Matched Battle Axes

Violet, the dowager countess (Maggie Smith) and Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton), Matthew's mama

Violet and Isobel: Two strong-willed women, both firm in their belief that they are right, one with modern notions, the other clinging to old-fashioned ways, provide a colorful but minor story line. Isobel Crawley, despite her comparative lack of social status (when matched against the Dowager Countess), manages to make her will known and felt. Violet can only sputter and rage at Isobel’s interference, and she finds scant satisfaction in proving Isobel’s diagnosis and treatment of Molesley’s skin condition wrong. But Isobel was not born yesterday, and at the Flowershow Death Match she shames Violet into giving the trophy for best roses to Molesley’s papa, instead of appropriating it as her own for the umpteenth time.

Violet graciously gives this year's prize to old Mr. Molesley.

In their scenes together,  Penelope Wilton  gave the incomparable Maggie Smith a run for her money. The enjoyable interplay between these two marvelous actresses was as surprising as it was worth watching.

Surprise #5: Cora’s Pregnancy

Lord Grantham's surprise at learning of Cora's pregnancy. (Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern)

Did you see this scene coming? I did not, although it made sense, for this unexpected pregnancy explains much about the entail and why Matthew Crawley was only the presumptive heir and therefore essentially helpless in changing his situation. As long as the earl could possibly sire a son, Matthew’s claim to the inheritance would remain tenuous. The entail could not be broken for the Grantham was still  a healthy and virile man, as this scene shows. The pregnancy led us to discover…

Surprise #6:  O’Brien’s True Malevolent Impulses

Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) holds the fatal bar of soap

O'Brien shoves the bar of soap in harm's way.

Cora’s fatal flaw was in thinking that she and O’Brien had developed a mutual friendship and trust. While Cora receives glimpses of O’Brien’s true character, she never fully understood the anger and insecurity that her ladies maid harbored. O’Brien’s pang of conscience about shoving the broken half of the bar of soap from under the bath tub came too late, and Cora slipped and fell, losing the male heir that she and Lord Grantham so desperately wanted.  O’Brien’s dark impulse was for naught. Cora wasn’t actively looking to replace her, but only helping her mother-in-law in hiring a new ladies maid. This surprising news hit the viewer at the same time as it did O’Brien.

O’Brien’s momentary second thought comes too late. (Siobhan Finneran)

Surprise #8: The Spiteful Tug of War Between Two Sisters

Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) realizes that her sister Mary was behind Lord Strallan's cool departure.

At first the viewer felt a great deal of sympathy towards plain Lady Edith, who was only to happy to go after Lady Mary’s leavings. But as the mini-series progressed, the viewer came to understand just how much animosity the two women felt towards one another and how far they would go to extract their revenge, Lady Edith writing the Turkish embassy about Mary’s part in Pamuk’s death, and Lady Mary sabotaging Lady Edith’s happiness with Sir Anthony Strallan, who was about to propose.

Lady Mary salutes her triumph over Lady Edith.

In the end, neither sister came up smelling like a rose. The surprise was that their story line was written so well that many viewers came away feeling sympathy towards both women.

Surprise #9: Lady Sybil’s Firm Stance Behind Women’s Rights

Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findlay) urges Gwen (Rose Leslie) to keep trying to find a job as a secretary

Lady Sybil’s story arc did not truly begin until the second episode and reached its full glory in episode four, when she is struck during an election rally and is carried from the scene bleeding.

Matthew Crawley and Lady Sybil at the election rally

A smart, independent, and kind woman, one can only hope that Lady Sybil’s character gains traction in the second series that is currently being filmed. The surprise here is that quiet, sweet Lady Sybil is truly the most daring and courageous of the three sisters. Jessica Brown-Findlay has true star status, and any time she came on the small screen, she lit it up.

Lady Sybil's daring new harem pants.

 

The family reacts to Lady Sybil's harem pants. Priceless.

Surprise #10: The ending

 

Lord Grantham, "I regret to announce we are at war with Germany."

Obviously a second series is in the works, for the story line is left hanging. World War I has broken out, causing consternation among the group.

Matthew refuses Lady Mary's acceptance of his proposal after her baby brother's death, and vows to leave Downton Abbey to make his own way.

Lady Mary accepts Matthew’s proposal, but he refuses her, unsure of whether the baby’s death had anything to do with her acceptance, and he declares his intention to leave Downton Abbey and make his own way in the world. Lady Mary, in a Scarlet O’Hara moment, realizes too late that she waited too long to accept Matthew.

Lady Mary understands she has made a mistake in waiting so long to accept Matthew's proposal.

Bates,  who cares for Anna as much as she cares for him, refuses to discuss his wife’s whereabouts with her.

Bates (Brendan Coyle) and Anna (Joanne Froggat) find themselves in the throes of bittersweet love.

And so, the viewer must wait an entire year to see what will happen to the characters in Downton Abbey, testing our patience sorely.

None too soon, Thomas announces his resignation to Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes

In addition to my ten choices, there were other surprises and great story arcs in Downton Abbey: Cook’s failing eyesight and the operation that saved it, Daisy’s blindness towards Thomas’s true character, which leads her to lie,

Daisy is haunted by what she saw in the corridor and her lies about Bates.

Mrs. Hughes’s longing for her own family, which made her momentarily receptive to an old flame’s advances, and Mr. Carson’s past as a performer, of which he is ashamed.

Mrs. Hughes says no to Joe, an old flame (Bill Fellows).

For those of you who missed certain episodes or who would like to watch the series again, PBS has made it available for online viewing until February 22. DVD’s are also available for sale.

My question to you is this: Of all the characters and story lines, which was your favorite? Please feel free to leave a comment.

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The servants in Downton Abbey. Image courtesy @ITV and PBS Masterpiece.

Downton Abbey. Gosford Hall.  Manor House. Regency House. Each film follows the servants and takes the viewer up and down back stairways, into kitchens and butler’s pantries, and stables and courtyards. But how were the servants’ quarters laid out, and where were they placed in relation to the public and private rooms that the family used? Each house had a different arrangement, to be sure, but patterns did exist.

A narrow corridor leads from the kitchen. Image courtesy @PBS Masterpiece.

The interior and exterior shots of Downton Abbey were filmed in Highclere Castle,but because the servant kitchens and bedrooms below-stairs no longer existed as they once were, the servant quarters for the mini-series were reconstructed in Ealing Studios in London. The cost of reconstructing these “plain” rooms was relatively affordable. Imagine if one of the elaborate public rooms had to be reconstructed. As script writer Julian Fellowes observed: “The thing about filming in these great houses is that if you were to start from scratch, you simply couldn’t build this and if you did you would have used up all your budget in one room.”

Servant stairs in Downton Abbey. Image courtesy @PBS Masterpiece

The ground plan from Eastbury Manor House is representative of a great house. It shows the servant quarters at the right near tight round servant stairs, or back stairs, that the servants used instead of the grand staircase reserved for the family and their guests. Maids were expected to work invisibly and sweep and dust when the family was asleep, or work in a room when the family was not scheduled to use it. In fact, many of the lower servants never encountered the family during their years of service.

Unless they were polishing or cleaning the grand staircase, the servants would use the backstairs for all other occasions. A small housemaid’s closet would be located near the back stair on the bedroom floor to accommodate brushes, dusters, pails, and cans. In “modern” Victorian and Edwardian houses, such a closet might  contain a sink that provided water for mopping.  Some great houses boasted a linen-room on the bedroom floor, where clean bed linen and table linen were stored. In this instance, a dry environment was essential.

Late 19th c. maid and lad at the back entrance

Servants were expected to enter the house in their own entrance, even in smaller houses, such as townhouses.  The Regency Townhouse Annex shows a typical entrance below street level. If you click on the links on the various rooms, you can see the other servant areas in this site.

Stairs to servant’s entrance. Bath. Image @Tony Grant

In a country house, the entrance would be in the back of the building or from a courtyard, where supplies could be delivered. The philosophy of a smooth running household was that servants were out of sight and out of mind.

Belowstairs entrance, Bath. Image @Tony Grant

Upon entering, servants would walk along a long hallway to reach the servants’ rooms and other work areas such as the kitchen, scullery, servant’s hall, housekeeper’s room, butler’s room, storage room, etc.  Country were at least two or three stories tall. Servants climbed the stairs and came down them again all day long, cleaning, hauling water, carrying meals or coal for fires, and a myriad other duties. They rose before the family, often from top floor garrets with small windows, and worked long after their employers had gone to bed.

Interior, Upstairs Downstairs web page. Notice the tiny garret bedrooms.

In this image, you can see the small garret rooms reserved for servants in the attic of a townhouse. Men’s and women’s quarters were separated, as in Downton Abbey, with the women’s quarters called the virgin’s wing. The most common servant quarters are described below.

A meal belowstairs. Downton Abbey. Notice the servant bells on the back wall. Image courtesy @PBS Masterpiece

Servant’s Hall:

The servant’s hall was a common room where the work staff congregated, ate their meals, performed small but essential tasks, like mending, darning, polishing, ect. A long table was its main feature, as well as a window that would let in enough light for the tasks that needed to be accomplished. This window is a feature in images of several servants halls, which makes me think it was essential, for many of their tasks (darning, polishing shoes, ironing, and the like) required good light.

1907 Watercolor of the windows in a servant’s hall

The servants would regard the hall as their living room, for they ate their meals there and congregated in the hall for the evening. Often the cook did not regard making the servants’ meals as part of her duty, and this task would be left to the kitchen maids. Servants would also receive the visitors’ servants here (as in Gosford Park), persons of similar rank, or their own visitors on a very rare occasion.

Image of Victorian servants eating dinner in the servants hall.

The servant bells were located in this area, as well as hooks for coats and uniforms.

Daisy puts on her coat as William speaks to her just outside the servants hall. Downton Abbey. Image courtesy @PBS masterpiece

The servants followed a hierarchy downstairs as strict as upstairs, and the upper servants, the butler, housekeeper, cook, valet and ladies maid would be served meals and tea by the lower servants.  The highest ranking servant was the stewart, then came the butler and housekeeper.

Anna completes a task in the servants hall. Downton Abbey. Image courtesy @PBS Masterpiece

The ladies maid would defer to the housekeeper and the valet to the butler. Standing low down was the scullery maid or tweeny, who often was just a young girl of twelve or thirteen. Her hours were the longest, for she would make sure that the water was boiling for the cook before she began her day.

Kitchen:

The long work table is the focal point of the kitchen. Downton Abbey. Image courtesy @PBS Masterpiece

The kitchen even in great houses were utilitarian, and positioned away from the family quarters to keep cooking smells away yet near enough for the delivery of food. Kitchens were also located near an entrance were supplies could be delivered, and near the kitchen gardens (but not always. See below.)

Harewood house and grounds. The kitchen was a 20-minute walk to the walled garden.

Kitchens tended to be oblong and dominated by a large kitchen table, where the majority of food preparation was done. The window would be ideally positioned to the left side of the range, and the kitchen dresser, where essential equipment was held, would stand close to the work table.

Kitchen suite, 1900 house.

The cook worked under the housekeeper, but the kitchen was her domain. She saw to its cleanliness and neatness, and made sure the larders were well-stocked. Not only were the floors, shelves, and work spaces scrubbed, but they had to be thoroughly dried to prevent mold and mildew from contaminating food stuffs and work tops. The arrangement of the scullery and kitchen was convenient, so that one did not need to cross the kitchen to reach the scullery. Natural light in both rooms needed to be ample. 

This kitchen in the Royal Crescent in Bath needs renovation and preservation.

She (for by the end of the 19th century, most of the cooks in British households were female) oversaw the meals and kitchen staff, consisting of kitchen maids and the scullery maid.

Scullery and kitchen in the Fota House, Ireland

Scullery:

Cleaning in the scullery

The scullery was always located in a separate room from the kitchen so that food would not be contaminated by soiled water. Double stone sinks were the main feature of this room, where pots and pans and the servants’ crockery were rinsed and cleaned. The family’s fine china would be washed in a copper sink, whose softer surface prevented chipping. A cistern above the sinks was used to flush the drains, which led out of house. This was one reason that sculleries were located next to the outer walls and nearest the courtyards or an outer garden. Often, the scullery had no door into the kitchen (only a pass through), and one could enter the room only from the outside. An outside door in the scullery was also known as the “tradesmen’s entrance”.

Scullery, Image @Harewood House.

Food preparation also occurred in this area, such as chopping vegetables. Hygiene was essential in order not to contaminate existing food supplies, or the people within the house with soiled cutlery or water. This meant constant hauling of fresh water, scrubbing, washing, and cleaning. The scullery floor, made of stone, was lower than the kitchen’s, which prevented water from flowing into the cooking areas. Dry goods were stashed well away from the scullery, which also had to be kept dry in order to prevent mold. To prevent standing in water all day long, raised latticed wood mats were placed by the sink for the scullery maid to stand upon.

Panorama of a Victorian scullery with boiler and laundry features

Sculleries also contained a copper for boiling clothes on laundry day, washtubs, washboards, irons, and cabinets for cleaning supplies. In 1908, an eight-room house required 27 hours per week of labor, which did not include laundering clothes. One can only imagine how long a house the size of Downton Abbey took to manage.

Scullery sinks, Chawton

She stood at a sink behind a wooden dresser backed with choppers and stained with blood and grease, upon which were piles of coppers and saucepans that she had to scour, piles of dirty dishes she had to wash. Her frock, her cap, her face and arms were more or less wet, soiled, perspiring and her apron was a filthy piece of sacking, wet and tied round her with a cord. The den where she wrought was low, damp, ill-smelling, windowless, lighted by a flaring gas-jet……with many ugly dirty implements around her. – The History of Country House Staff

In this 17th c. image, the scullery maid stands upon a platform to keep her feet dry.

In Downton Abbey, the scullery maid is nowhere to be seen. (Daisy is the kitchen maid,  with vastly different duties.) Two modern women who played the scullery maid in Manor House quit the series, unable to pursue that role for the duration of the series. Only the third person, Ellen Beard, who had a better understanding of the scullery maid’s duties of endless washing, managed to remain at her station until the very end. Click on this link to hear a short podcast of a Scottish scullery maid, who described her job as slave labor.

The butler polishes the silver, 1868.

Butler’s room and Butler’s Pantry

The duties of the butler confine him to the drawing-room and dining-room. The dining-room, however, is his particular domain; he sees that everything is in order, that the table is laid correctly, the lighting effect satisfactory, the flowers arranged, and in short that the room and appointments are in perfect readiness for a punctual meal. In this work a parlor maid assists him by sweeping and dusting, and a pantry-maid helps him by keeping everything immaculate and in readiness in the pantry. The butler serves at breakfast, luncheon and dinner.” – Vintage Maids and Butlers

Butlert’s pantry, 1896. Staatsburg House, McKim, Mead, & White

The butler’s rooms, which included the Butler’s Pantry, were located in the basement nearest the dining room upstairs and back entry, and had no connection with the kitchen, except for service. When he was summoned, even in his rooms, the butler could appear quickly. In smaller establishments, such as Matthew Crawley’s house, the butler also acted as valet. In all instances, except for the steward, he was the highest-ranking servant, answering directly to the master.

One of the duties of the butler (Mr. Carson in Downton Abbey) is to account for the wine. In this instance, he notices a discrepancy in the tally and the books. Image courtesy @PBS Masterpiece

The butler’s pantry was kept under lock and key, so that thievery was impossible at best, and at the very least deterred. A plate-closet or safe were placed there, as well as a private scullery for cleaning. The butler’s bedroom was a necessary (and lockable) adjunct in large houses for the protection of the plate.

Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson chat in her sitting room. Downton Abbey. Image courtesy @PBS Masterpiece

The Housekeeper’s Room

The housekeepers room in large establishments served as both a sitting- and business-room where she would take the directions of the day from the lady of the house. She would also entertain visitors of similar rank in her quarters. The housekeeper oversaw the female servants, and when she walked, a thick assortment of keys, symbols of her status and which dangled from her waist, would jiggle and certainly make a sound.

The housekeeper’s room in Uppark. At times the upper servants would congregate there for tea, and in some houses, for dinner.

Before dinner in the servants hall, the upper servants would assemble in the housekeeper’s room, also known as the Pug’s Parlour, and walk in for dinner, with the butler leading the way. This was known as the Pug’s Parade. After dinner, the upper servants would withdraw to the housekeeper’s parlor again for conversation.

Servant Bedrooms

Anna and Gwen confronted by O’Brien in their unlocked room. Downton Abbey. Image courtesy @PBS Masterpiece

In the latter half of the 19th century, servants slept in attic bedrooms. These were often cold and damp in the winter and hot in the summer, with little light coming in from small windows. Some male servants slept downstairs to guard the family silver. The furnishings in servant quarters were basic and essential. A servant might have a locked box in which personal materials were kept, but the rooms were open and subject to inspection by their employers.

The valet’s simple bedroom. Downton Abbey. Image courtesy @PBS Masterpiece

One source for servant quarters and duties of the servants cautioned that books about servant etiquette discussed ideal behavior. In reality, servant turnover was high, theft did occur, and servants did not always know their place. In this humorous Punch cartoon, the mistress arrived home unexpectedly, catching the servants eating upstairs and generally misbehaving. The truth, I suspect, is somewhere in between.

“Oh, hey, the missus! Servants eating a meal upstairs.” Cruikshank. Punch

Sources: (A long list that fleshes out the topic.)

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The valet (rhymes with pallet) is a personal manservant who tends to his master’s every need, from a clean room to seeing to his clothes to making sure that his entire day goes smoothly from the moment he rises to the time he goes to bed. Also known as a gentleman’s gentleman, the valet is the closest male equivalent to a lady’s maid.

Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth) dresses with the help of his valet, who stands ready to put on his coat. In this scene, Mr. Darcy changes his mind and chooses another coat before visiting Elizabeth at the inn. Image @Pride and Prejudice, 1995

Mrs. Beeton describes a valet’s duties in her excellent 1861 book on household management:

His day commences by seeing that his master’s dressing-room is in order; that the housemaid has swept and dusted it properly; that the fire is lighted and burns cheerfully; and some time before his master is expected, he will do well to throw up the sash [open the window] to admit fresh air, closing it, however, in time to recover the temperature which he knows hismaster prefers. It is now his duty to place the body-linen on the horse before the fire, to be aired properly;

Edwardian clothes horse. Image @Denhams.com

to lay the trousers intended to be worn, carefully brushed and cleaned, on the back of his master’s chair; while the coat and waistcoat, carefully brushed and folded, and the collar cleaned, are laid in their place ready to be put on when required. All the articles of the toilet should be in their places, the razors properly set and stropped, and hot water ready for use.

Barry Lyndon (Ryan O’Neal). While the master shaves, his footmen assist him, making sure his implements are at hand. His valet would have overseen the arrangements and will sharpen the razor and clean the shaving brush after Barry has finished shaving. Image @Barry Lyndon

Gentlemen generally prefer performing the operation of shaving themselves, but a valet should be prepared to do it if required; and he should be a good hairdresser. Shaving over, he has to brush the hair, beard and moustache, where that appendage is encouraged, arranging the whole simply and gracefully, according to the age and style of the countenance. Every fortnight, or three weeks at the utmost, the hair should be cut, and the points of the whiskers trimmed as often as required. A good valet will now present the various articles of the toilet as they are wanted; afterwards, the body-linen. Neck-tie, which he will put on, if required, and, afterwards, waist-coat, coat, and boots, in suitable order, and carefully brushed and polished.”

Other valet duties:

Ian Kelly (Brummel) and Ryan Early in Beau Brummel (2006 play)

  • As his master goes out, the valet hands him his gloves and hat, opens the door for him, and receives his orders for the rest of the day.
  • He puts his master’s dressing-room in order, cleaning combs and brushes, folding clothes and putting them in drawers.
  • If his master has no clothes sense, the valet will select suitable clothes, making sure they are clean, particularly the collars, and maintained in good repair.
  • He consults with the tailor, perfumer, and linen-draper.
  • He awaits his master’s return, making sure that his drawing room is picked up by the maids, and dusted and swept by them, and that the room is made ready with a lit fire and candles.
Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Bates (Brendan Coyle) assists Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) in Downton Abbey. A valet and his master become close over the years. Image @Downton Chaser

  • The valet stands ready to help his master dress for dinner or any other occasion.
  • He makes sure that the washing table is ready, filling the ewer and carafe with fresh water, and placing the basin towels, brushes, hot water, and shaving apparatus near at hand.
  • In case of wet weather, when his master has returned from riding, the valet lays out a change of dry linen and clothing, and is ready to assist his master out of the damp clothing.
  • He helps his master prepare for journeys, packing enough linen and other clothing for the trip. At the Inns, he takes charge of his master’s comfort as he would at home, and has everything ready to assist his master in dressing and undressing.
  • If no footmen is available during the journey, the valet will also see to these services, even at table.
Bates at the moment he is informed that he must leave Lord Grantham's service. Despite their long association, it was imperative that a valet was physically capable of performing all his duties, including standing in as footman when the occasion required. Bates' reliance on a cane prevented him from carrying a tray. (We all have learned that Lord Grantham is a softie and kept Bates on.) Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Bates at the moment he is informed that he must leave Lord Grantham’s service. Despite their long association, it was imperative that a valet was physically capable of performing all his duties, including standing in as footman when the occasion required. Bates’ reliance on a cane prevented him from carrying a tray. (We all have learned that Lord Grantham is a softie and kept Bates on.) Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

The valet keeps his master’s clothes in good repair:

  • Hats are kept well brushed on the outside with a soft brush, and wiped inside with a clean handerchief.
  • Clothes placed in a wardrobe are covered with brown holland or linen wrappers to secure them from dust.
  • He places boots and shoes cleaned by the under footman in the dressing room.
  • Slippers are aired by the fire.
  • As soon as his master finishes shaving, the valet will clean the razor and brushes.
  • Before he hangs damp clothing by the fire, he rubs the cloth with a sponge until the smoothness of the nap is restored. If the clothes are allowed to dry before brushing, then later brushing might not remove the roughness.
Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

In Downton Abbey, Matthew resists Molesley’s services, causing an undue amount of stress to the butler, who also acts as his valet. Credit: Courtesy of © Nick Wall/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Valets in humbler households:

The butler in a second or third rate establishment takes on the duties of the house steward, valet, and footman as well. He is likely to pay market bills, assist his master in dressing, serve at table and oversee the wine and silver, and superintend other male servants.

Sources:

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Tea is always served by the host/hostess or a friend, never by servants. Tea is never poured out, then passed several cups at a time, the way coffee may be, because it cools very quickly. Instead, it is always taken by the guest directly from the hands of the pourer.” – Etiquette Scholar

The ceremony of making tea is almost always included in costume dramas like Downton Abbey or a Jane Austen film, such as Emma. When Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess of Grantham invited her daughter-in-law, Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), to the Dower House for tea in Downton Abbey, the arranged time was most likely at four o’clock in the afternoon.

 

Cora and the Dowager Countess sit down to tea

In one particular scene, the two women entered the drawing room in which a small table had been laid out with an elaborate tea set, fine china, and silver spoons. An assortment of tiny sandwiches, cookies, and scones were arranged upon a beautiful batttenburg lace tablecloth that covered the table. Low tea (an Edwardian dowager would never have said high tea) was meant to blunt the appetite before dinner.

The duchess pours boiling water over the tea leaves in the tea pot

A tea ceremony provided an intimate setting between the hostess and her guests, for it was the hostess who prepared and served the tea, catering to each guest and handing them their custom-prepared tea one cup at a time. In this time honored ritual, one of the most important questions the dowager would ask was: “Would you care for weak tea or strong tea?” Cora’s preference would guide the Countess in the next stage of tea preparation, for if she said “strong tea,” then the Dowager would pour the tea as she had prepared it into Cora’s cup. Had Cora said “weak tea”, the Countess would pour a smaller quantitiy of the brew into the china cup, then top it off with hot water.

Cora eats a crustless sandwich as her mother-in-law prepares the tea

The Dowager would then ask her guest how much milk and sugar to add. She would have poured boiling water over the tea leaves in a tea pot, and steeped the leaves for three minutes, all the while conversing with her guests. At this point the water was no longer boiling. Then the Countess would pour in the milk. (If she poured it in first, she would have found it difficult to judge the strength of the tea by its color.) Hudson, the butler in Upstairs, Downstairs, said about pouring milk into tea: “Those of us downstairs put the milk in first, while those upstairs put the milk in last.”

In this instance, the Dowager leaves her guest in the middle of serving tea, a faux pas

History of Low Tea

On September 25, 1660, Samuel Pepys recorded: “did send for a cupp of tee (a China drink) of which I had never drank before.” By June 1667, tea was considered to be a healthy drink. One day Pepys arrived home to find his wife making tea, which his apothecary had found good for her cold.

Emma, 1996 (with Kate Beckinsale). Emma and Harriet drink tea during Mrs. Elton's first visit

Samuel Johnson was a self-described “hardened and shameless tea drinker, who has, for twenty years diluted his meals with only the infusion of this fascinating plant; whose kettle has scarcely time to cool; who with tea muses the evening, with tea solaces the midnight, and with tea welcomes the morning.” His chronicler James Boswell observed that “It was perfectly normal for him to drink sixteen cups in very quick succession, and I suppose no person ever enjoyed with more relisht the infusion of that fragrant leaf than did Johnson.”

Silver tea set by Odiot, Paris, circa 1880. Image @A.Pash and Sons, Mayfair

Until the 1760’s, only the rich could afford teapots, which were made of silver. Then in 1765 Queen Charlotte commissioned Josiah Wedgwood to create a tea service made from his quality cream colored earthenware, which he named Queen’s Ware (with the Queen’s permission, of course) and gave to her as a gift. From that moment on he was the Queen’s potter. Wedgwood’s creamware was thin, attractive and durable. After receiving the Queen’s patronage, his firm became quite famous. The attractive new tableware quickly became popular, and by 1775 other manufacturers, including those on the Continent, had widely copied Wedgwood, imitating Queensware and creating increasingly fanciful teapots. It is said that this tableware was instrumental in spreading the popularity of tea.

Wedgwood Queensware, c. 1790. Image @Christies

In 1840, the Duchess of Bedford began serving tea with refreshments in the afternoon to appease her appetite before dinner, and the custom of afternoon tea, or low tea, took off. To read more about drinking tea between the 18th and mid-19th centuries, read my post about Tea in the Regency Era.

Some interesting facts about tea:

  • Notice, this is a change: The difference between high tea and low tea: Low, or afternoon, tea is served at four o’clock with light snacks, such as sandwiches, cookies, and scones. High tea is a full meal served with tea, including meat, bread, side dishes and dessert on a table of regular height. Hence high tea.

16th century tea bowl, Korea

  • Tea cups at first were fashioned after Chinese bowls without handles or saucers. In the mid 1750-s, a handle was added to prevent ladies from burning their fingers.
  • A saucer was once a small dish for sauce. During the Dowager Countess’s day, it was acceptable to pour tea into a cup’s saucer to cool the beverage before drinking it.
  • In the late 17th century, a lady would lay her spoon across the top of her cup to signal that she was through drinking. Other signals included turning the cup upside down, or tapping the spoon against the side of the cup.
  • Filling the cup with tea almost to the rim is considered a faux pas.

"Might I give you this cup?" The Dowager hands her tea to Moseley while visiting Matthew Crawley.

Sources:

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Inquiring reader: Sit back, relax, and grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine! This is a long post about foxhunting. (Note: because of the helpful suggestions from equestrian readers, crucial edits have been made.)

Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle) and the start of the hunt

The fox hunting scenes in PBS Masterpiece Classic’s Downton Abbey fascinated me and prompted me to ask: How accurate was the depiction of this sport? Aside from the fashions, how different was fox hunting in the Edwardian era from the Regency era? And what happened to that wily fox, whose odds of escaping a score of determined hunters and a pack of excited hounds must have been close to zero? Or were they? My research uncovered a few interesting bits of information:

Hounds milling before the hunt. Notice William with refreshments. Downton Abbey

Description of the Hunt:

In 1910, 350 hunts existed in Britain, almost twice as many as today. Foxhunting was one of the few country sports in which women played an active role. It had become so popular that foxes were even imported from Europe to meet demand. The anti-hunt movement was a fledgling organisation concerned largely with horse beating and vivisection. For the vast majority, fox-hunting was seen as a harmless and ancient tradition. – Manor House

Before the start of an Edwardian hunt. Image @The Antique Horse

The Master will sound his horn and he and the hounds will take off on the hunt. Everyone else follows. The hounds are cast or let into coverts, which are rough brush areas of undergrowth where foxes often lay in hiding during the day. Sometimes the huntsmen must move from covert to covert, recasting the hounds until a scent is discovered. Once the hounds pick up the scent of a fox, they give tongue. The hounds will trail and track for as long as possible. Either the fox will go to ground or find an underground den for safety and protection or the hounds will wear him out and overtake him in a kill. Temperature and humidity are huge factors in how well hounds keep the scent of a fox. Often the chase involves extreme speed through brush and growth. A rider will need to be skilled in racing, jumping brooks, logs, brush, and the horses must be in excellent condition as well.”  – The history of fox hunting

Moving accident by flood and field

Moving accident by flood and field

Filming the Fox Hunt for Downton Abbey:

While the crew were at the castle they filmed various scenes, inside and out. Lady Carnarvon explained that on one particular day they filmed a hunt. “It was wonderful. It was a beautiful day on the day they were doing it too. The funny thing is the one thing I asked them not to do was go across the lawns because there was to be a wedding. They started very early and they were all hanging around. They were going up and down for hours on end, and then suddenly just out of the laurel bushes went a fox – a real fox. The fox took off towards the secret gardens and the hounds turned in full pursuit. The fox wasn’t caught. It just ran off. The hounds were eventually brought back having gone through a couple of cold frames in the garden. I could see the location manager thinking that is the one thing I asked them not to do,” she laughed. – Highclere Castle is the star of the screen

Dirt dog work, circa 1560

History of the Fox Hunt:

Talk of horses, and hounds, and of system of kennel!

Give me Leicestershire nags, and the hounds of old Meynell!

While Hugo Meynell is widely considered to be the father of modern foxhunting as we know it today (his Quorn Hunt between 1753 and 1800 was quite fashionable), hunting foxes with hounds was not new. Evidence exists that fox hunting has been practiced since the 14th century. In 1534 a Norfolk farmer used his dogs to catch a fox, which consisted of hunting on foot and trailing the animal back to its den. Foxes were thought to be “vermin” and left to commoners to hunt. In those early times, royalty and the aristocracy hunted stags, or deer, which required great swathes of open land and an investment in horses, hounds, and stables. Considering the chasing and killing of vermin to be beneath their status, the aristocracy continued to chase stags until these animals became scarce.

Hunting with hounds on foot

Hugo Meynell began breeding hounds that could keep up with the foxes at the same time that an increased number of 18th century men could devote their time to leisurely pursuits. Consequently, the sport of fox hunting began to take off. (See Rowlandson, The Humours of Fox Hunting: The Dinner, 1799 for a depiction of a group of men enjoying the after effects of a hunt.)

There were no formal hunt clubs during this period. Rather, large landowners kept hounds that accompanied them on private hunts. The hunts were not very effective in controlling the number of foxes in any given area, but the sport was safer than the practice of using spring traps, which could snare a human as well as a fox. (Animal traps from the 16th century. )

 

18th century spring trap

By the early 19th century, a more formal style of foxhunting began to be organized. Roads and railways had cut the land into smaller portions, and it became more convenient for rich landowners and their guests to hunt foxes. Railways also gave a larger number of people in towns and cities easy access to the countryside and an opportunity to join in the sport.

The rising middle clases, eager to improve their social standing, joined the clubs, and by the late 19th century the sport had reached the height of its popularity. In fact, the demand for foxes was so great that some hunts were called off if the probability was high that the fox would get killed. Foxes were so scarce that a large numbers of the animals were imported from Europe to be sold in England.

The Bilsdale Hunt. Image @MSNBC.com

The oldest continuous fox hunt in England is the Bilsdale Hunt in Yorkshire, established by George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham in 1668. Since 2005, foxhunting with hounds has been illegal in Britain, but there are groups that are still unhappy with this turn of events, for foxes are still allowed to be hunted and shot in England. Supporters of the foxhunt state that organized foxhunts never caught enough foxes to affect the total population and that the kills were clean. In addition, foxhunting supports a minor economy of farriers, grooms, horse stables, dog kennels, trainers, veterinarians, shops, inns, taverns, and the like. Since it became organized, the hunt also provided a spectator sport to local villages and market-towns and inspired railroads to expand their services so that participants could join the hunts and travel up and back within a day. The landscape also benefited from the hunt in that landowners planted low bushy coverts for the foxes and maintained their hedges to facilitate jumps. – Encyclopedia of Traditional British Rural Sports: History of Fox Hunting

 

Foxhunting Schedule:

Fox hunting began on the first Monday of November; traditionally a hunt was held on Boxing Day (Dec 26).

In the early morning workers stopped up the holes of the dens where the foxes rested, forcing these nocturnal animals to find shelter above ground during the day.

Around 11 a.m. the riders (field) would assemble, with around 40-50 hounds.

The Master of the Hounds was in charge of the hunt and supervised the field, hounds, and staff. The huntsman, who had bred the hounds and worked with them, would be in charge of the pack during the hunt.

Chasing the fox. Downton Abbey

Once the group was assembled, the hunstman would lead the pack of hounds and field to where a fox might be hiding. When the fox was flushed out into the open, the group would pursue the fox, with the huntsman leading the group. The field would follow at a gallop and watch the hounds chase down the fox.

When the fox was cornered, the hounds took over.

Hunt festivities included lawn meets, where food and drink were served to the people who gathered together, and hunt balls.The cost of horses, outfits, and operating expenses made the activity prohibitive for those with limited means, and only those with a great deal of money could afford to participate. – What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, Daniel Pool – p171-173

Women and Foxhunting:

Waiting for the hunt to begin, Downton Abbey

Few women rode in a fox hunt during the Regency period. It took great skill and courage for a woman to join the hunt, for in those days the side-saddle lacked the leaping horn, which offered a more secure seat and made taking fences safer.

The Inconvenience of wigs, Carle Vernet. Image @Yale University Library

By the mid-19th century, women began to join in the sport in greater numbers. An article written by Catriona Parratt discusses women’s involvement:

“Preeminent among these activities was foxhunting, one of the few sports for which there seems to have been no rigidly prescriptive code limiting women’s participation. In fact, some women embraced the sport with a zest which was evidently not considered inappropriate. This may be explained in part by the extreme social exclusivity which attended to the leaders of the foxhunting set. Members of the aristocracy and the upper middle classes were probably sufficiently secure in their status to ignore, to some extent, more bourgeoise notions of respectability… According to one enthusiast, 200 riders was considered a poor turn out, while few meets attracted less than 100 men and women. A figure of thirty women is given in an account of the Tipperary Hunt in the 1902 season, but the overall evidence is very impressionistic…

There are also several accounts of women achieving the honour of being the first to ride in at the death of the fox, something which seems not to have offended their supposedly more delicate sensibilities. In a 1900 meeting of the Dartmoor Pack, the brush [tail] was awarded to a Miss Gladys Bulteel, of whom it was noted that her pony “was piloted with exceptional skill,” while in a previous month’s run of the same pack, a Miss Dorothy Bainbridge claimed the coveted trophy. None of this is to suggest that women participated in equal numbers or on equal terms with men… Rather, it is clear that some women were active, enthusiastic, and skillful participants who were drawn to the sport by “the enjoyment, the wholesomeness, even the nerve-bracing dash of danger.” – Athletic “Womanhood”: Exploring Sources for Female Sport in Victorian and Edwardian England Cartriona M. Parratt*, Lecturer, Dept. of Physical Educ

Kemal Pamuk (Theo James) meets Lady Mary

Comments about the Fox Hunt in Downton Abbey from the Horse and Hounds forum:

As I researched foxhunting, curiosity led me to a discussion forum at the Horse and Hounds website. I wanted to know what the experts thought of the foxhunting scenes in Downton Abbey. Here they are in a nutshell, with the names of the individuals taken off:

Master of the Hunt sounds the call

They should have told that daft lady [Mary] side saddle person to put a bloody thong and lash on her hunting whip and hold it the right way too..thong end up please. Suppose we should be grateful it was’nt filmed in high summer! And WHY film the field and hounds all mingled but apparently in full cry..UUURRRGGGHH it drives me nuts.”

“Not unless they have a leather loop on one end for the thong and lash? Do sidesaddle whips have bone “gate hooks” on the top end?? In one shot the lady did have a thong attached ..but still holding it the wrong way anyway, shortly before, no lash!! Pathetic.”

“My thoughts that the horses were not typical or hunters of that era, also would there have been a coloured, I thought that the craze for colours was a recent thing and they were frowned on in ‘those days’. “

The field follows the Master and pack

I am amazed that finally a TV programme has made the effort to show not only a hunting scene but a lady hunting on PRIMETIME TV and people are moaning about minor details! I hunt side saddle, I do it because I love it, so I was over the moon to finally see something relevant to it on t.v. Would you have preferred they didn’t show it at all and cut the hunting scenes entirely??

Lets not forget these programmes are filmed for public entertainment, they are not historical documentarys. Please could we all be a little more supportive of equines on TV regardless of the reasons, then maybe we would see more.”

“Well if you want to moan about the most minute details of the scenes (and don’t forget, what you see on screen in a STORY not a documentary !!!) why not start with the fact that the forward seat was unknown in Edwardian times?”

Master of the Hunt and pack set off ahead of the field

We noticed the coloured horse too and said no way would they have had one of them!! They only pulled carts in those days. Still – we all got excited when the hunting scene started!!”

Lady Mary and Evelyn Napier, Downton Abbey

Lady Mary and Evelyn Napier

Did anyone spot which hunt’s tail coat was being worn by Mr Evelyn Napier?”

“It was the vine and craven hunt huntsman David Trotman scarlet coat with gold vine leafs on black collar. The Vine & Craven [were] filming at Highclere Castle…”Horse and Hounds forum

Riding hell bent for leather through the fields. Downton Abbey

Master of the Hunt and other staff:

The Master of the Fox Hounds (MFH) or Joint Master of the Fox Hounds operates the sporting activities of the hunt, maintains the kennels, works with, and sometimes is, the Huntsman. The word of the Master is the final word in the field and in the kennels.  The Huntsman is responsible for directing the hounds in the course of the hunt.

The Huntsman usually carries a horn to communicate to the hounds, followers, and whippers-in.  Whippers-in are the assistants to the Huntsman. Their main job is to keep the pack all together.”  – Human roles in fox hunting

The huntsman drinking a pre-hunt drink. Image @Icons A Portrait of England

From Baily’s magazine of sports and pastimes, Volume 2, 1861, p. 182: “As well might you assert that because a nobleman throws open his house and grounds to the public one or two days in the week from free goodwill that he has not the right to exclude any persons he may object to. A Master of fox hounds hunts his country upon the same conditions. Any landowner can prevent him riding over his fields or drawing his coverts. By the landowners he stands or falls. He recognizes no other power to interfere with his conduct in the field.”

Edgar Lubbock, Master of the Blankney Hunt

Description of the above image: Edgar Lubbock LLB was the Master of the Blankney Hunt at the turn of the 20th century. He was born on 22 February 1847 in St James, London the eighth son of Sir John William and Harriett Lubbock. Educated at Eton and the University of London he studied Law and became an accomplished lawyer. Through his career he held varying positions, including Lieutenant of the City of London, Director of Whitbread Brewery, Director of the Bank of England and in 1907 Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire. He died in London on 9 September 1907 aged 60 whilst Master of the Blankney Hunt. – Metheringham Area Mews

The Dogs:

The true point of riding to hounds was (and is) to watch the hounds work. Those who galloped wildly or jumped unnecessarily were termed “larkers” – an insult – and disdained by the serious hunters. – Word wenches, fox hunt

The hounds are the most vocal component of the hunt and the means by which the fox is flushed out and then chased until it was too exhausted to go farther. In England, there were two breeds of dogs that were necessary to the hunt: Harriers, which are slightly smaller than foxhounds, and who chased the fox over hill and dale; and terriers, who followed the fox into the den and dug it out.

Harriers (Hare Hounds or Heirer)


The Harrier, also known as the Hare Hound or the Heirer, is a hardy hound, with a strong nose, that was developed in England to hunt hare.  Hare hunting has always been popular in England, sometimes being even more popular than fox hunting because hunters could trail their hare hounds on foot, without the need for the many horses required to follow fox hounds on the hunt. Moreover, hare hunting was never reserved to royalty; it was always accessible to commoners, who could add their few Harriers to a “scratch pack” made up of hounds owned by different people and still participate in the sport. Reportedly, in 1825, the slow-moving Harrier – in size between the larger English Foxhound and the smaller Beagle – was crossed with Foxhounds to improve its speed and enable it to better hunt fox in addition to hare. – Harrier overview

Terriers

Fox Terrier. Image @Chest of Books

With the growth of popularity of fox-hunting in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries, terriers were extensively bred to follow the red fox, and also the Eurasian badger, into its underground burrow, referred to as “terrier work” and “going to ground”.[1] The purpose of the terrier is that it locate the quarry, and either bark and bolt it free or to a net, or trap or hold it so that it can be dug down to and killed or captured.[2] Working terriers can be no wider than the animal they hunt (chest circumference or “span” less than 35 cm/14in), in order to fit into the burrows and still have room to maneuver.[3] As a result, the terriers often weigh considerably less than the fox (10 kg/22 lbs)[4] and badger (12 kg/26 lbs),[5] making these animals formidable quarry for the smaller dog. – Wikipedia

My terrier no longer has the slender girth to chase a fox into its den, for he eats too many doggie biscuits.

Read more about terriers:

The Kill:

Foxes were killed in one of two ways:

1) Hounds chased the foxes until they were caught and then dispatched it. There seems to be a widespread disagreement about the kill, some saying it was quick, and that the fox died from a nip to the back of the neck, and others saying that the fox was repeatedly bitten or torn apart, and sometimes died slowly from its injuries.

2) The fox went to ground (inside a hole or den), and then was dug out with terriers.

Animal rights experts also found the chase itself, with the fox hunted to the point of exhaustion, cruel.

A lurcher adopts a fox cub, the opposite of a kill. Jack and Copper are famous in the U.K. Image @Animal Tourism.com

I could not show an image of a kill, so I’ve presented you with the opposite image: This young lurcher has adopted a fox cub. Jack, the hound, and Copper, the cub, are famous in the U.K. for their playful wrestling matches. Image @Animal Tourism.com

Final Words about Foxhunting in America:

Since Cora (the Countess of Grantham) in Downton Abbey was an American heiress, the information below regarding the American fox hunt is appropriate to this post:

Description of a Fox Hunt by a New England minister

Fox hiding in the covert.

Foxhunts were imported into America in the 17th century. In 1799, a wry New England minister gave a glimpse of the sport in the New World: “From about the first of Octor. this amusement begins, and continues till March or April. A party of 10, and to 20, or 30, with double the number of hounds, begins early in the morning, they are all well mounted. They pass thro’ groves, Leap fences, cross fields, and steadily pursue, in full chase wherever the hounds lead. At length the fox either buroughs out of their way, or they take him. If they happen to be near, when the hounds seize him, they take him alive, and put him into a bag and keep him for a chase the next day. They then retire in triumph, having obtained a conquest to a place where an Elegant supper is prepared. After feasting themselves, and feeding their prisoner, they retire to their own houses. The next morning they all meet at a place appointed, to give their prisoner another chance for his life. They confine their hounds, and let him out of the bag—away goes Reynard at liberty—after he has escaped half a mile—hounds and all are again in full pursuit, nor will they slack their course thro’ the day, unless he is taken. This exercise they pursue day after day, for months together. This diversion is attended by old men, as well as young—but chiefly by married people. I have seen old men, whose heads were white with age, as eager in the chase as a boy of 16. It is perfectly bewitching. The hounds indeed make delightful musick—when they happen to pass near fields, where horses are in pasture, upon hearing the hounds, they immediately begin to caper, Leap the fence and pursue the Chase—frequent instances have occurred, where in leaping the fence, or passing over gullies, or in the woods, the rider has been thrown from his horse, and his brains dashed out, or otherwise killed suddenly. This however never stops the chase—one or two are left to take care of the dead body, and the others pursue.” – Colonial Williamsburg, Personable Pooches

Middleburg Christmas parade. Image @Washington Post

Comment made on a Word Wenches post by a reader who lives in Virginia’s hunt cup country: I live in Virginia hunt country, in fact in the Old Dominion hunt area.  My property deed has one covenant on it. We must allow the huntmaster through. We can deny the rest of the hunt if we want. The covenant was signed by King Charles (I am not sure which one). Fauquier County has 3 hunts and the U.S. largest Steeplechase race, the Gold Cup. .. Many of the more recent mansions (post US Civil War through the 1920s) in Fauquier and neighboring Loudoun were built as hunt houses. – Word Wenches, Fox Hunting

Jacqueline Kennedy. Equestrian outfit in the 1970s.

Etiquette and Dress Code of a Fox Hunt:

The etiquette of the hunt field was (and is) as intricate and strict as that of the ballroom. I imagine (and please correct me if I am wrong), that each club has its own variation of rules. Loudoun County is west of Washington D.C. and sits near the middle of the hunt country of Northern Virginia, where Jacqueline Kennedy frequently hunted when she lived in Georgetown. Click here to read the extensive rules of etiquette of the Loudoun Hunt: Etiquette and the rules of Attire.

Edwardian riding habit. Image @side saddle girl

More on the foxhunt:

Addendum to original post:

This post began innocently enough, for I had no idea about the emotions surrounding the fox ban. Various views are presented in the comment section. Tony Grant, who writes for this blog and who lives in London, said in an email:

A fox creeps in Tony's yard towards the dustbins

Because foxes are no longer hunted their population has expanded unbelievably. They no longer keep to the countryside but live in the towns and cities as scavengers. They live in dens created in parks and the bottom of peoples gardens. They scavenge dustbins. We have an epidemic where I live in South London. They walk down my road and enter my garden on a regular basis. They are not afraid of humans.

Here are some pictures taken in my back garden. This fox wanted to raid our dustbins.

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