Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Servants' stories

So far we’ve heard form Phyllis, an under-maid who worked at Petworth in the 1930s and Dorothy whose father was a scullery man and this week we’ve found an extract from Horace Arnold remembering his time as a Junior Footman.

‘I started work for Lord Leconfield in 1929 at his London home in Bryanston Square. He did have another house in London but like many people of his social set he rented a house for the ‘season’. The salary was £30 a year and after nine months in London, I came down to Petworth. I was junior footman, sometimes referred to as stewards’ room boy. My basic task was to attend to the senior staff, an elite among the servants, Mr Wickham the butler, Mrs Cownley the housekeeper, Mr Coddington, his lordship’s valet and Florence Roper the head housemaid. Whether in London or Petworth my job was to take care of their meals and their dining room. I was only sixteen or seventeen. I’d be up at 7.30am to start the fire; I wore clerical grey morning suite but for this early part of the day an old worn one, my ‘scruffs’ as I called it. The breakfast was always cooked and I collected from the kitchen, the food was excellent.’

‘The chef was a woman at this time but I also seem to recall a Belgian chef but maybe he was only brought in for special occasions. The senior staff had a set menu, which I would need to know in advance so I could lay up the table, I would serve in formal manner at table, over the left shoulder. Dinner for the steward’s room would be eaten before dinner in the main house. When there were guests in any number I would go over to the house to help. The meal would be served in the Square Dining Room or if it were a very large party it would be in the Carved Room. Full livery uniform was worn by the footmen, - a yellow and blue stripped waistcoat, white shirt front, jacket of navy blue with silver buttons, smooth ‘doe-skin’ trousers and black patent leather shoes with a buckle.’

Here’s a ‘servant’ ready to serve dinner at our The 3rd Earl’s Christmas event last year.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The deer rut

It's pretty much over now, and the sounds of antlers clashing and the calls of the males (bucks) can no longer be heard across the park as the bucks in our herd of fallow deer try to assert their dominance over each other. It’s an amazing sight, and here are some of the great pictures we’ve been sent…

 Tim Cook

 Dave Vadis via Twitter

                                           Film and photos from Tim Holyoake via Facebook

During the rut the most dominant buck will take up position of the centre of the rut surrounded by females (does), he’ll then work to keep his position and group of does as other bucks challenge him. Not all the bucks will challenge, some take up positions further out and simply wait to see if does move toward them, and other bucks will break out into smaller groups.

It can look brutal, but they’re aiming to show their strength rather than cause injury. You might also see them walking in parallel to size each other up before rutting and often one will decide to back down if the other looks a lot bigger!

If you’re going to watch the deer, make sure to give them plenty of space and please keep dogs on leads.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Digging up the past…

Hello everybody!  There’s exciting things afoot (and under foot) at Petworth this year.  My name's Tom and I’m the National Trust’s archaeologist for West Sussex and the South Downs.  This year I feel very lucky that alongside my other work I will be taking a closer look at Petworth Park, unearthing the secrets and stories that lie preserved in the landscape and beneath the ground – and I’d like you to help me do it! I’m hoping there will be lots of opportunities for anyone who is interested to get involved.  But first, a bit more about Petworth, and why we are doing this in the first place… 

Petworth Park is very different from the original park which was created at least 750 years ago. Today the park is made up of gentle rolling slopes, tranquil shady glades of trees and grand vistas.  It looks natural but in fact everything we see is the result of careful crafting and moulding of the landscape over hundreds of years, to fit the fashions of the times and styles of the owners.  At one time or another, the park has included canals and formal gardens, rampart terraces and monumental stables, Henry VIII’s banqueting hall and a Second World War military camp – not to mention the original manor house! 

 A bird's eye view of Petworth Park, can you image a stable block and formal gardens stretching as far as the lake?
There are so many questions that remain to be answered, so many discoveries just waiting to be made. Over the next year we will be examining historic maps and documents, looking beneath the ground with geophysics and excavation and searching for traces and clues in the landscape to uncover the physical evidence of Petworth’s hidden past.