Lanhydrock is a magnificent country house in Bodmin, Cornwall. It's another National Trust property with lots to see and good facilities, although the restaurant and cafe were ok but uninspiring. Entry is £11.80, and well worth the expense if you're at all interested in social history. You can see kitchens, nurseries, and servants quarters, as well as the usual grand country house rooms.
With so much to see and such a lot of photos, this excursion will be spread over two postings.
The gardens were full of magnolias, azaleas, and rhododendrons and were well worth seeing, though perhaps of limited interest if gardening isn't your thing.
It's quite a way from the car park to the house but is downhill on the way there. There is a free shuttlebus running every few minutes if you can't face the walk.
The engine rooms
Life for a Victorian servant could be very hard: up before dawn to start their toil, not going to bed after the last family member had turned in and only one afternoon off a week, if they were lucky.
Servants at Lanhydrock House in Cornwall were luckier than most. The Agar-Robartes family took a real interest in their employee’s welfare, providing medical care for them and their families if they fell ill.
They also made a point of referring to employees as ‘staff’ rather than 'servants'. They provided them with a good standard of living, and even gave them birthday presents and annual treats, such as trips to the theatre or picnics in Newquay.
This created a great deal of loyalty amongst the staff, with some staying in service with the family for generations. Sylvanus Jenkin the steward (1851-1909), was the 6th generation of his family to help the Agar-Robartes manage their estate.
"Moisten salt with vinegar or lemon juice to make a paste for a bright finish, or a paste or rotten-stone (decomposed limestone that is used in powder form as a polishing material) and olive oil for a dull finish. You can also simply sprinkle salt on the dull areas and then scrub with a vinegar-soaked rag."
Below: with Easter just finished, hands up if you've baked a Simnel cake like this one? Give yourself a Gold Star if you did!
The Clement Jeakes & Co range took 4 days to reach the right temperature, so it was kept lit at all times. Flour chests and a slate lined sink completed the furniture. The walls were painted blue because it was believed to repel flies.
"It wasn't just the family and the servants who were kept apart. Male and female staff were kept completely separate, even to the extent of having different stairs and doorways to prevent them coming into contact with each other.
The only time everyone met up was at mealtimes in the Servants’ Hall, when everyone would sit together in a strict order of hierarchy.
The butler and the housekeeper would sit at either end of the table and the other staff were seated in order of status. Meals were eaten in silence. But when the butler and housekeeper left, the servants were free to talk amongst themselves."
(Right: a "male member of staff" uses the biggest pestle and mortar I've ever seen!)
Sides and joints of meat are hung from the steel bars across the ceiling, and there is an insulated chest to keep meat cool.
The Dairy at Lanhydrock, was designed with elaborate cooling systems using piped water from the hill above, and uses both marble and slate to keep the dairy products and desserts cool.
The jellies on show were real, but probably Chivers!
Life upstairs was much more luxurious of course, but wasn't all joy. More to come shortly!