This morning I headed off down the M40 through increasingly heavy rain, listening to forecasts of a month’s rain falling in 24 hrs (something to do with the Jet Stream, apparently) and fetched up at Hughenden Manor. This red brick Victorian pile and surrounding estate was originally the country retreat Benjamin Disraeli, but is now in the hands of our old friends the National Trust.
Despite the atrocious weather, there was a respectable turn out of visitors including, unusually, a group of Asian women and, more predictably, a few hardy individuals who insisted on eating their lunches outside instead of repairing to the café. I repaired to the café and had fish and the nearest thing to chips that you can get in a National Trust property.
Since the main purpose of my visit was to get some fresh air and exercise, I had a potter round the walled kitchen garden (v. good) and the main formal garden.
Although I didn’t go into the house, it struck me that, providing you had decent employers, the life of a domestic servant here in the 19thcentury probably wasn’t too bad at a time when many local people would be employed as agricultural labourers. You would spend most of your time in a clean, dry environment; you would have regular meals ( with most food be grown on the estate) and regular employment that wasn’t subject to the vagaries of the weather, the seasons or the economy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not getting sentimental about some sort of “Upstairs, Downstairs” golden age; just saying that, at the time, it was probably a fairly decent job.