Saturday, 30 August 2014

The Housekeeper's Room

This is the last of my posts about Tredegar House. Though obviously not as grand as the upstairs rooms, I found the housekeeper's room quite pleasant.

Working for a very eccentric person like Evan Morgan may have had its trials. Having worked for a working class bully I suggest working for an upper class satanic gay animal loving party-er would possibly be preferable. Morgan might have broken a lot of social rules, but I'm guessing he would have likely understood the code for servants. During his inter-war time servants were harder to find given that factory work paid better and gave more personal freedom. 

And of course in all times the housekeeper was one of the top tier of the servant hierarchy, holding the keys to the provisions cupboard and responsible for keeping it stocked. This is a list of the provisions used at Tredegar House in the three months, November 1834 through January 1835. It's unbelievable how much they went through:

Meat (pounds/lbs)
Beef - 9,546 
Mutton - 4,277
Veal - 808
Lamb - 116
Pork - 3,608

Butter - 1,056 (lbs)
Cream - 424 (quarts)
Cheese - 419 (lbs)

Beer - 28 hogsheads (6,860 litres or 1,812 U.S. gallons)
Ale - 28 hogsheads

[My guess is that in the early 1800's these beverages were still consumed in preference to water which was often unsafe.]

Wine (bottles)
Port - 176
Sherry - 355
Madeira - 194
Claret - 292
Other ports - 206

Fowls - 482
Turkeys - 80
Geese - 21
Ducks - 40

Eggs - 204 dozen
Sugar - white - 779 lbs
           - moist - 250 lbs
Tea - 104 lbs
Coffee - 64 lbs
Wheat - 242 bushels (complicated to convert due to historical changes / imperial vs US, but I'm going with 6,534 kg or 2,970 lbs)
Coal - 207 tons

That's for three months. Can you even get your head around this amount of consumption? I can't, even taking into account this will have included twenty or more servants.

From The Complete Servant, Sarah & Samuel Adams (the book on the desk):

The situation of a housekeeper, in almost every family, is of great importance. She superintends nearly the whole of the domestic establishment, has generally the control and direction of the servants, particularly of the female servants, has the care of the household furniture and linen, of all the grocery, dried and other fruits, spices, condiments, soap, candles, and stores of all kinds, for culinary and other domestic uses. She makes all the pickles, preserves, and sometimes the best pastry. She generally distills and prepares all the compound and simple waters, and spirits, essential and other oils, perfumery, cosmetics, and similar articles that are prepared at home, for domestic purposes. In short, she is the locum tenens [Latin, place holder], the Lady Bountiful, and the active representative of the mistress of the family; and is expected to do, or to see done, everything that appertains to the good and orderly management of the household.

She ought to be a steady middle-aged woman, of great experience in her profession, and a tolerable knowledge of the world. In her conduct she should be moral, exemplary, and assiduous, as the harmony, comfort, and economy of the family will great depend on her example; and she must know, that no occurrence can be too trifling for her attention, that may lead to these results and whereby waste and unnecessary expense may be avoided.

The spice cabinet. These days one doesn't appreciate how expensive spices were/are. Until one calculates the price per pound or kg. Then it makes complete sense to lock them up!

When the entire management of the servants is deputed to her, her situation becomes the more arduous and important. If servants have hardships to undergo, she will let them see that she feels for the necessity of urging them. To cherish the desire of pleasing in them, she will convince them that they may succeed in their endeavors to please her. Human nature is the same in all stations. Convince the servants that you have a considerate regard for their comforts, and they will be found to be grateful, and to reward your attention by their own assiduity: besides, nothing is so endearing as being courteous to our inferiors.

Female servants who would pursue an honest course, have numberless difficulties to contend with, and should,therefore, be treated kindly. The housekeeper in a great family, has ample means of doing good; and she will, doubtless, recollect that it is a part of her duty of protect and encourage virtue, as the best preventive from vice.

In families where there is a house-steward, the marketing will be done, and the tradesmen's bills will be collected, examined, and discharged, by him; but in many famlies, the business of marketing, and of keeping the accounts, devovles on the housekeeper. It is therefore, incumbent on her to be well informed of the prices and qualities of all articles of household consumption in general use; and of the best times..."

I know, it was just getting good, but that's the end of the page I photographed.

Even the housekeeper had her little excesses...

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Tredegar House - Downstairs

As I mentioned, one grand house blends into another without something special to see or some personality to remember. The downstairs portions of these places are fairly predictable as well, though I'm always open to being surprised. There was one house we visited on this same trip where the kitchen would have been the envy of most modern chefs if only for the architecture. 

Otherwise the standard features include the bells that called the servants to the various rooms in the house. I never see these without thinking of Downton Abbey. (BTW, the next series of Downton Abbey is being filmed at Alnwick Castle, of Harry Potter fame. I'm looking forward to seeing if I recognise anything in common between the two films. Also, must find out how to visit inside Alnwick Castle, not just visit the gardens - it's not a National Trust Property. Have a feeling it might need to involve running their 10K race, but even that could be fun, exploring the grounds!)

There is almost always some sort of fake food around, hopefully to help children's imaginations. Everything I've read about living in grand houses is that the food was definitely not great. By the time it got transported from kitchen to dining room and served it was almost never hot. Which would help all those ladies stay skinny, right?

Better than the fake food, I love seeing the rows of copper pans. Those alone would cost a fortune, surely?

Of course there is always some hulking great stove - or two. 

I am particularly fond of menus. Usually there are not a lot of things there I would be excited to eat, if I even knew what they were. I'm more intrigued by the idea of knowing how to make those things and to present them beautifully. One day I'll have to do a series on 'Master This Menu'.  This is the menu for the Servant's Ball in 1921. Surely it must have been a buffet? One does find that there was an extraordinary amount of meat eaten back then, veggies being what poor folks could raise and eat. Also there seems to be a lot of desserts. My tummy hurts just reading the list, though I could fancy a bit of 'cream vanilla'.

Loved the art nouveau pattern on this platter. Art nouveau preceeded the inter-war years, but if anything I love it even better than art deco...

These 'jelly moulds' would likely have been as much for savory fare as for the gelatin and fruit concoctions I recall from my grade school days. Can't say I would be terribly excited about cold meat served up in cold gelatin. It wasn't until I moved to Britain, where vegetarians are quite common, that I realised gelatin was an animal product, even the stuff used to capture fruit. Doesn't bear thinking about, so I don't; I just eat it.

That is one of the things in my pantry shelves that needs 'used up', packets of gelatin. Can't wait to see the expression on Bill's face...

Friday, 22 August 2014

Tredegar House - Upstairs

I do love history, but a person can't absorb it all, so there are pockets that I stick with most often. If you've come here often you'll know that one of them is the interwar period - the 1920s and 1930s - between World War I and World War II.  

The walls are painted Indian Yellow, apparently a popular colour during the 17th century, but the name sounds to me like from the days of Empire. Oh duh; Britain's colonisation of India started in 1612.

As we went up the Great Staircase, which has had several renovations and around which was hung the family portraits 'of persons who built a great fortune in the 19th century and of those who spent it all in the 20th!', I spotted a rather Freudian looking one (as in Lucien Freud, grandson of Sigmund). That style made me guess when the person had lived, even though it turned out to have been painted c. 1913 by Ambrose McEvoy, 'a popular society portraitist' who predated Freud.

"Evan Morgan (1893-1949) was a Bright Young Thing of the 1920s, interested in society, fashion, literature, and mystical matters. A famous eccentric, he was known for his wild parties at Tredegar House." 

I would also add that, in spite of having had two wives, he was definitely more interested in men.   And he practiced black magic which involved turning a crucifix upside down for their rituals. When not involved in Black Masses, he was acting as chamberlain to Pope Pious XI. Weird, eh? Funny enough, Evan's also an exact contemporary of my paternal grandfather, who died before I was born, also at the age of 56. 

"Many of his regular guests were major artistic or society figures of the day, such as H. G. Wells, Ivor Novello, Prince Paul of Greece and Nancy Cunard."
I wonder how much they knew about his 'religious' practices?

Evan Mogan's first wife was Lois Stuart, an actress and artist. They married in 1927 as a matter of convenience: Evan needed a respectable cover for his homosexuality and Lois's family had concerns about her scandalous affairs with the Earl of Pembroke and the Duke of Kent.  The marriage ended in 1937 not only because they separated but because she died whilst visiting the Cartier family, the famous jewelers, in Budapest. Lois had hoped to return to her acting career and had begun taking slimming drugs which led to a fatal heart attack at the age of 37. You can just about see what she looked like during her married life here.

The King's Room - Evan's bedroom in the 1930s & 40s.

Of course, it was a room with a view...

Bill once explained to me about the men I saw carrying really tatty old leather briefcases on the Metro. He said that the leather meant they had money; the age and tattiness meant they had had it since their university days, which means they come from money. Well, that's one theory anyhow.

Did I mention he liked animals and had a bunch running around Tredegar House?

That's Evan with the bird. The expressions of the others in the photo are priceless. Is this the parrot that bit Herman Goring's nose?

I grew up with these boxes around; haven't seen one in ages!

I do love little excesses like this; extra long curtains are often seen in grand houses. When I made an enormous draping valence years ago, I gave it 'puddles of velvet' on each side. It was fun!

These cabinets make my mouth water. I would fill them with my fabric stash! Well, maybe books and fabric stash...

The bawth room.

Why don't we have bathrooms like these any more?

Wife #2: Russian Princess Olga Dolgorouky (please forgive my camera reflection).

The Dolgorouky's were one of Russia's oldest aristocratic families and Olga's half-sister was married to a Romonov prince. Her family fled Russia after the 1917 Revolution when Olga was a child. She spent most of her youth in Paris and London. A society beauty, in 1939 she was featured on the front cover of 'The Tatler'. Olga lived at Tredegar house during WWII and was popular with the estate workers. She trained with St Johns's Ambulance and volunteered at the local hospital.  She married Evan, 22 years her senior, for his money. However, the marriage was annulled after only five years. One wonders if it was his lifestyle or the fact that his money was running out that caused them to part. Olga moved to Guernsey where she died in 1998. She corresponded with the National Trust about Tredegar House, particularly to help them with the presentation of her bedroom, the Red Room.

Tredegar House and Evan Morgan both have plenty of admirers. Each link has some additional amazing tidbit. He exemplifies a part of why I find the interwar years so interesting, particularly here in Britain. It was clearly a crazy time in an already rather crazy place.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Tredegar House

This is a test: 

How much can I remember about this place we visited three months ago? A bit, not much. Thank heavens for the Internet!

Great article on Welsh dragons (not that I got through it all...)

Where is it? Ummm...near our campsite in Wales? Oh yes, 'Monmouthshire'.

The house made me think of a heavily decorated cake.

Who lived there?  Can't remember his name, but one of the Bright Young Things I must look up. Oh yes, and they were related to Captain Morgan, the famous buccaneer - remember him? I've just learned that's also a brand of rum.

The place was decked out as for the wedding of William Morgan and Elizabeth Dayrell in the 1670s. Also, it being a bank holiday they had a Pirates Day with lots of activities and costumes for the honour the buccaneer.

What did I like about it? I'm always impressed by thick walls, leaded glass windows, rich chandeliers, and elaborate table settings, but I really loved the sumptuous bedrooms and enormous bathrooms. Also the stories about the interwar Morgan and his beautiful wives. It won't all fit into one post...

How will I share my experience? Pick my favourite photos (some of which have text to help out) and do some Internet research, which I always love.

Floral Brussels carpet made in Paris in the early 1800s. In the 1600s this room was
"the Drinking Room' (presumably for the men after dinner). In later centuries it became "the Morning Room" (used by ladies to pursue their lady like activities).

Why would I bother? Partly because others might enjoy seeing the place they may never visit, but mainly to document our amazing life. I come back to my own blog time and again. It's become more than a journal, it's nearly a reference for ideas, places and people that capture my imagination.

The Red Room, which once had 'gilt leather' hangings. I read in Fussell's book about uniforms (see 2014 reading list to the right) that the colour of the jackets worn for the hunt is called 'hunting pink'. Normal people would call it red. BTW, one doesn't say 'horse riding'; it's just 'riding'.

Becoming members of the National Trust was definitely a good move for us since we decided to travel around Britain in the motor home this year.  However, much as I love history and architecture, the grand houses begin to blend together into one large extravagance unless I capture some unique idea about the place. It is often about the people who built or inhabited, renovated or sold off these houses. They are mostly all arrogant, to be sure, but also clever, beautiful, sometimes creative, very often peculiar or unbelievably stupid. Sometimes it's the guide who takes us around who infects me with their passion for the garden, the family or the art on the walls. Now and then I find that I'm walking in the same place as Henry VIII, Charles II or Elizabeth I once did and I get a little shiver. Other times I see some little decorating idea I could copy or I'm awed by the detail of some lady's needlework. 

The 'hook' that Tredegar House gave me was not Captain Morgan, but Bright Young Thing, Evan Morgan. More about him later.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Mom's Birthday

I'm sure I've mentioned at some point that I have over a hundred letters that my Mom wrote to my Dad during the first year of their marriage in 1944-45. My Dad was sent to Italy about a week after they married and she wrote him - and he her - several times a week if not nearly every day. I don't have my Dad's letters, but they would have been nearly impossible to decipher anyhow.

I have this wishful thought of publishing these letters, if only to be sure Mom is remembered after I'm gone. I know they are full of mush, but they have other surprising details about her life and the times as well. A fantasy idea, I'm sure, but I do plan to scan them to share with my Uncle Pat and type them up just in case...

                                                               Tuesday P.M.
                                                               Nov. 21 - 

Hello My Darling --

     Golly but it seems like years since I've heard from you - I wonder how much longer it will be - I miss you so much Lyle and miss your letters too -

     I've written you a letter almost every day - but haven't mailed them - the only kind I've been able to write wouldn't be the kind to send - I'm sure they wouldn't do a thing for your morale - I've been pretty far down in the dumps Lover - but I feel better now - I went home Sat nite and just got back this a.m. - Gee but I enjoyed it. It was like a tonic - you know - Mother didn't really believe we were married - She still isn't sure - She really tickled me - I told her I'd send the certificate for proof - She took your address - She has a new way to send candy overseas - so is going to make you some -

     While I was home I was going thru some things in my cedar chest and came across all those notes you wrote me and I left in various places - drawers pockets etc - while we were at the Cadillac - Remember? I enjoyed them all over again coming across them unexpectedly that way.  Golly Mr B - I sure do love you -

     Mother sort of outdid herself on my Xmas present - I had to go with her to buy it - a fur coat - a satin robe-bed room shoes to match - 2 boxes of stationery a box of matches with my name on them - How about that - nothing but the coat is a Xmas present - The other stuff she just bought at odd times - Oh yes and she wanted to know which we wanted her and Larry to buy us for Xmas - silver or china or crystal - I'm just leaving it up to her - 

     Rec'd a letter from your Mom today - She writes the sweetest letters - I enjoy them very much - 

     I was sure Lou and Mr Dunn would be quite unhappy with me - for staying in Okie City Mon too - but they didn't seem to be. Mother sent them a qt. of wine back - I think that helped a bit -

     Larry is Staff Commander of 7th Fleet - I wrote you that he was on the Admiral's Staff - didn't I? Mother is quite proud of him -

And so on and so forth... 

The strange thing is that although they were both professional photographers, I have no wedding photo for them. I can follow that, given that it was a JP marriage in Ft. Smith, probably in a hurry before he got shipped abroad. However, there are also no photos of them together. The Christmas card below is the closest I can find. There is one photo of me and my Dad when I was an infant, but none of me and Mom. I find that all very odd.  Perhaps what they say about the cobbler's children having holey shoes and the plumber's faucet leaking is true, eh?

Oh well, this is me wishing my Mom a happy would have been 96th birthday.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Birthday Gifts to Myself

My 58th birthday passed pretty much without notice this year, but for my dear friend Vivien's kind remembrance. Others were away or busy or whatever. I didn't mind but then I did and then decided it was too late to worry about it.

One thing I did do was think about what I wanted to give myself for my birthday and to carry that out. So, each month I look at my Amazon wishlist and spend £10 on books. Several of the books I decided I would rather read at the library, particularly the fiction that I might not want to re-read. Some of the books no longer interested me at all.   I noticed that some of the more recently published books are listed as having fallen in price by as much as 40% since I added them, so I decided to go through the four pages of books and to first select the cheapest ones (1 pence plus £2.80 postage). The more expensive books may get even cheaper in the meantime!

In June I bought:

Uniforms - Why We Are What We Wear, Paul Fussell. It was an OK book, but mostly about what men wear.

Class - A Guide through the American Status 

System, Paul Fussell. It's much more fun to read about other cultures, ie Kate Fox's Watching the English, than about your own, though I did put a lot of things into place, things I'd just always thought of as 'how people are'.  On the negative side, Bill has now learned the word 'prole'.

Vita - The Life of Vita Sackville-West, Victoria Glendinning. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it being about a rather odd but compelling woman who lived during the interwar period. I might yet learn to love gardening!

In July I bought:

Tim Gunn - A Guide to Quality Taste and Style. A rather disappointing book. I learned a bit about the author but can't say he told me much about the ideas in the title. 

The Edwardian Country House, Juliet Gardiner. I gather this was written following a reality TV series which I very likely would not have watched, but the book has been quite enjoyable. I'm very nearly finished reading it. 

Modern Fashion in Detail, Claire Wilcox. I flipped through this at the library one evening and never forgot the glorious photos of designer details. I've not yet re-read this and taken in the text as well as photos, but I'm looking forward to it!

August's selections have just been made and I'm waiting for:

The Fishing Fleet - Husband Hunting in the Raj, Anne deCourcey (I've read several of her books and loved them all)

Eating for Victory: Healthy Home Front Cooking on War Rations

Child of the Twenties, Frances Donaldson

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Culloden Moor

I didn't expect to find a National Trust museum at Culloden (Cull-LAW-den) Moor but since it was there and it was free - to us, as National Trust members - we went in. To be fair, there isn't a huge amount you can say about a field where 200+ years ago a lot of men died in a short, bloody battle. However, they managed to eke out a whole building - plus gift shop and coffee shop - and a GPS-enhanced recording to carry as you walk around the mown paths in the wind and the rain. I discovered my best tightwad defense against the gift shop enticements was to remind myself I'm Irish, not Scottish. My people only lived in the southwest of Scotland for 30-50 years after which most of them immigrated to America or Australia. Also that the whole tartan thing is a complete hoax.

The thing that completely flummoxed me at this National Trust museum, once I got over the missing comma that made me think they were claiming the civil war happened in the 1630s (so perhaps I was being a bit pedantic), was that I never once found the word 'Catholic'. The Scots who gathered to fight for 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' were just hoping to back away from the Presbyterian church to the Scottish Episcopalian church, according to the National Trust. Apparently there were no Catholics. They never mention that Prince Charles was Catholic, the very reason he got so much support from France and from Rome, where he was born and died. 

This really confused me, so I went to ask some of the staff at the nearest desk. I just wanted to verify that we were talking about the Prince Charles I thought we were, to make my point that it was a little odd to talk about Scottish Episcopalians but not Scottish Catholics.  I asked three different women, one of whom went back to speak with the Director, to confirm that Charles was in fact Catholic. The first two didn't have any idea and the last thought this was so, but didn't know for sure.  Obviously, they don't work at the National Trust for Scotland because they love history. If you don't love history, perhaps you should just stop here...

Almost half a century ago, I started loving the stories of Henry VIII (who, desperate for a male heir, split from the Catholic church and created the Anglican / Episcopalian church) and of his younger (Protestant) daughter, Elizabeth I. Blame Stewart Granger and Jean Simmons

Of course Elizabeth I died without an heir and James VI of Scotland became James I of England. His grandmother was Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII. The Latin for James is Jacobus and this is where we get the term 'Jacobean', referring first to the reign of James I, but later giving the name Jacobite to the supporters of James II and his descendants. This last was for my benefit as, though I've long understood who the Jacobean's were, I'd not caught on why they were called that.

There was a dwelling in this location (lucky people!) at the time of
the Battle, but the present structure is only about 100 years old, a re-creation.

Charles I was the son of James VI & he did badly - too much of that 'Divine Right of Kings', etc. - and got his head cut off by Oliver Cromwell's lot, the Puritans. His son, Charles II managed to get back on the throne after a bit. I'm not clear about why; I've never been very interested in the Puritans, though they had their points. Charles II had plenty of offspring, but none were legitimate. Almost a relief in some ways as his wife was a devout Catholic and he himself converted on his deathbed.  

I've nothing personal against Catholics, OK? This is just the history of Britain. Their experience with Elizabeth I's older sister, 'Bloody' Mary, fear of The Spanish Inquisition and also the desire to be free from the authority of Rome will all have fed their motivation to remain Protestant. However, as can be seen from all the deathbed conversions there was some ambivalence on the part of the monarchs.

Anyhow, Charles II's brother, James VII - of Scotland - & II - of England - took over. Only his first-Protestant-until-her- deathbed wife, had died and his second wife was Catholic all around, hence his heirs would be Catholic. This - and probably more of that Divine Right stuff - lost him his job (though not his head; it was called the Glorious Revolution) and they lived out their days in France. 

The eldest daughter of James II (by his first wife) was much more acceptable: Protestant, with a Protestant husband. So they got William & Mary over from the Netherlands. which left James II's Catholic descendants hanging around in France. The would-have-been James III was known as 'The Old Pretender' and his son, Charles Edward Stuart, as 'The Young Pretender', or 'Bonnie Prince Charlie'.  Meanwhile, after William & Mary, came Mary's sister, Anne.  Then they had to fish about again and find another Protestant ruler, this time a Hanoverian Lutheran, George I whose great-grandfather was James IV & I. Then his son, George II, the last monarch who was born outside of Britain. Which brings us to 1746.

Having been, I can now tell you this about Culloden Moor:

  • The battle there was the last major battle fought on British soil.
  • It only lasted about an hour and somewhere around 1,000-2,000 men died in that hour, almost all Jacobites.
  • 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' was rather cowardly, remaining at the back of the field rather than taking his place at the front. He was also very greedy. Had he 'settled' for taking Edinburgh and reigning as King of Scotland, it is thought he'd have got away with that. Instead, he tried to take England as well, with a vastly outnumbered, exhausted army. He had a perilous few months escaping capture, but eventually was rescued by a French ship and died in Rome at the ripe old age of 67.
  • Following this brutal battle, Jacobites were hunted down, the wearing of tartans or kilts was banned, the power of the clan chiefs was removed; in short it became illegal to be Scottish in much the same was it was illegal to be Irish (in Bill's words). The Highland Clearances followed shortly after. 
I don't know how much of the present day wish of some of the Scots to be independent again comes from this history, but keeping the Gaelic culture alive probably has to include remembering events such as these. There is an English phrase, 'Proud as a Scot' and I suspect proud people have long memories. 

As to the museum at Culloden Moor? I wouldn't bother if I were you. Just read the history on Wikipedia and walk the field (preferably on a cloudy day). Or, if you don't mind having your bodice ripped, read the first few of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. 

I can also highly recommend Bess of Hardwick, First Lady of Chatsworth, by Mary S. Lovell, set in the time of Elizabeth I, which both Bill and I read and enjoyed while we were on this trip to Scotland. 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Western Scotland

I've heard a lot about the Western Highlands but have never visited. So far I can tell you the scenery is dramatic and that it is either sunny and warm or hammering down rain all day and all night. Bill came home shivering, having walked up Ben Nevis with his friends in the deluge. To each his own: I was happily stitching a patchwork bag on my sewing machine, very grateful the motor home was proving water tight!

I've had a brief encounter with the famous Scottish midgies, but can't say I got bit (though I may have jinxed myself by writing that.) I plan to stay indoors at dusk from now on.

Given my experience of a lovely nap in the sun, I would try more of Western Scotland (in spite of the fact it is now bucketing down again!)