The House

During the early Victorian years, attitudes towards servants were not sympathetic. They were the faceless ones. The quarters provided for them were basic, and devised so that the building could not be viewed directly by the occupants of the Big House. In the 1870s, staff were being recognised as people and were enjoying facilities for more comfortable living. The Service Wing in the Waterhouse design was part of an overall integrated ‘Look’. The architect was keen to see that the house stood in appropriate surroundings. Proof of this lies in the three remaining Gate Lodges which clearly match the façade of the mansion.

The Service Wing would have possessed the usual requirements of the time. It would have been linked to the main house on the ground floor. The kitchen was not too close to the dining room to avoid the intrusion of smells and steam. An eyewitness recalls a very big ceramic sink presumably in the scullery. Another has mentioned big ‘Agas’. Adjoining the kitchen would be a pantry, meat larder, fish larder, game larder and a dairy. This was the domain of the cook. A butler was a requisite in a Gentleman’s residence. He would have had responsibility for the Butler’s Pantry, cellars, shoe room and lamp room. The staff were summoned by bells of different sizes that hung in a row and were wired to the bell pulls.

The laundry was usually situated at the far end of the service wing because of the steam and smell. It was traditional for laundry maids to be non-resident. They had their own hierarchy and more freedom than house staff. Adjoining the washing room would be drying rooms. The linen, scrubbed on a wash board and agitated by the dolly in large tubs would be put through the mangle, hung on racks and pushed into the drying room which was heated by hot pipes. Ironing and folding rooms would complete the laundry suite. Ironing would have been done by means of the old flat iron.

These service rooms would be grouped together on one side of the house. More than likely this would have been on the north facing aspect continuing out to the east. Other rooms in this wing would comprise living quarters for the staff. Whilst the cook and butler might boast of a private sitting room, other resident staff would have the use of a common-room. There was strict segregation of male and female servants with regard to sleeping accommodation. Rooms would either be situated on different floors, or in opposite wings without direct access.

One flight of back stairs was placed on the join between the house and the service wing. This was narrow and winding. It could not have been easy for the men and girls to negotiate this link carrying endless jugs of hot water. There were likely to be other flights of stairs in the service wing for internal use.

Houses in the C19 were lit by candles, colza lamps or by gas. Some very large Country Houses produced their own coal gas; it is unlikely that this was the case here. In the C20 the gas mains did not reach Town Thorns, so it is safe to conclude that gas was not a means of lighting. From 1860, American kerosene, cheaper and less smelly than the previously available oils provided another alternative. Washington Jackson with his American connection may very well have decided to use this form of fuel as the main source of light.  Electricity was installed by Washington Jackson two years before his death. It was run off large batteries.

The excise duty on glass was removed in 1845 and the Window Tax levied on six plus windows was abolished in 1851. Plate glass was invented in 1848 and the price of glass dropped dramatically. Waterhouse was able to take advantage of these factors and gave the house variety by the range of bay windows The glass was provided by R B Edmunson & Co. Particularly interesting and unusual is the slightly rounded first floor window on the south façade.

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