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Life In Service; a personal recollection. (January 1994)

The mother of a Feltwell resident describes the career structure which existed for girls in service, starting 74 years ago at Lynford Hall.

I went to work at Lynford Hall when I was 14; my aunt did laundry for the Hall and as I had just left school she told mother that there was a vacancy for a housemaid. I went in as the sixth housemaid of six. I had to take care of the staff rooms at first, when I was being trained, but when I progressed I went into the main rooms at the front of the house. We polished the steel backs of the fireplaces with a burnisher, which you fixed on your hand and worked with till they shone. The reception rooms were done very early in the morning, from 6 o'clock, and during dinner we emptied ashtrays and wastebins in the drawing room so that everything was kept spotless. It was a long day, but we did have fun! The Royal Hunt Ball was held there in Captain Montague's time, and the head housemaid was allowed to pick the best housemaids to watch the Prince of Wales from the balcony. I was one of the chosen, so I must have been doing well. Yes, I did miss my mother when I first went; I cried and cried for the first week, and then the head housemaid said I could have a day off and go home. I had a bicycle and don't think I've ever cycled so fast in my life! I could see Mother waiting for me. I've been back to look at Lynford Hall when they have the antique fairs there, and I always feel I still belong there. It was a lovely house; it had as many windows as the days in the year.

I became third housemaid after two years and I earned 17 a year. It was 14 when I started as sixth housemaid and mother would get 12 shillings for my laundry. Then there came a vacancy at the London house in Berkeley Square and as I was doing well I was offered that. The head housemaid there said to me after a while that I should strike out on my own, so I went to a really good agency, because that way you'd get good people, and I went as head housemaid to Sir Walter and Lady Allen in Kensington. I think the five years I spent with them were some of the happiest of my life. After a bit Sir Walter had to call a meeting of the staff as he had lost a lot of money in Australia and had to reduce the staff. Ladyship said would I remain behind after the meeting and she asked me to stay as Cook. I was very reluctant as it was such a responsible job and I didn't feel trained for it, but I took it and I really earned some money then.

Sir Walter was Chief of the Metropolitan Police and their son Gubby played cricket for England. While I was with them I cooked dinner for the whole of the Australian cricket team when they were visiting England. Mr Gubby was a lovely man and he had special ladyfriend who would come to tea when his mother was out playing bridge. He'd always say to me ."Mother needn't know!" and I'd tell the padour maid to raffle the cups loudly before she took the tea into them! He always rang down to thank me and would give us tickets for the theatre if he had any. I'd say to the parlourmaid, 'We can keep quiet for such nice people!

When we went to the house in Scotland for the shooting and the salmon fishing it was really very hard work; we travelled by train and had special uniforms for travelling in and when we arrived we had hardly any time off at all. But normally we had an afternoon off every week, and every other Sunday off. The head parlour maid and I managed to get our time off together and we went to the theatre and the pictures. We had our holidays together and it was when we visited her family in Durham that I met my husband. There was a police sergeant on the scene in London so I had to keep them apart, which wasn't difficult given the geography! But we did have some fun. We teased the oddjob man unmercifully and he used to get so cross with us he said he'd tell Ladyship, but he never did.

Lady Allen was a lovely person. She had a day in bed every week and I had to go up every morning for my orders. I took the orders for food to Harrods once a month; the tea came from Fortnums and the fish and poultry from Macfisheries. I paid all the bills by cheques which Ladyship gave me; at Harrods they would then give me a discount which was mine to keep. I always told ladyship about this and she would say "That's nothing to do with me; that is yours." They were wonderful people to work for; we always had invitations to family weddings and we weren't given the back seats! I didn't mind all the hard work; you were taught to do things properly and take a pride in your work, and I saw more things in service than I ever would if I'd stayed at home, and we did have fun!

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