Declare your love the Victorian way

PUBLISHED: 17:54 13 February 2009 | UPDATED: 21:41 31 May 2010

BEFORE the days of boxes of chocolates and bunches of roses, February 14 was traditionally the day we simply declared our romantic feelings. This year, why not follow in the footsteps of the Victorians and send your Valentine a hand-made card or write t

BEFORE the days of boxes of chocolates and bunches of roses, February 14 was traditionally the day we simply declared our romantic feelings.

This year, why not follow in the footsteps of the Victorians and send your Valentine a hand-made card or write them a note instead of spoiling them with expensive gifts.

Not only will it help you save money in this tough economic climate, it will probably earn you some brownie points for effort.

During half-term, visitors to Audley End will be able to witness the servants speculating on the latest romantic gossip simmering beneath the surface of the country house.

Apparently, Annie the Scullery Maid has been seen hastily hiding a card whenever she sees someone watching and rumours are rife that it was Mr Garman the dishy gardener who sent it! Will Annie be the next young lady with a ring on her finger?

English Heritage historian Andrew Hann scoured local archives to uncover the stories of Audley End in the 1880s.

He said: "We know from census details that most of the men working on the estate such as the gamekeepers, labourers and stockmen were from Essex.

"The censuses also reveal that the female servants were from all over the country. This cosmopolitan mix must have generated a certain frisson in the air of the Service Wing.

"However, while the servant girls may have dreamed of marrying a fellow servant and moving to the bright lights of London, in reality, most of the men married local girls from Littlebury or Saffron Walden."

Throughout the week, costumed interpreters will bring to life the sights, sounds and smells of the servants' quarters.

Despite the excitement of love in the air, 'below stairs' life in the house must go on as normal and so there is plenty for the servants to do.

Visitors will be able to see the linen being scrubbed, the pans scoured and the butter churned as well as the meals being prepared for Lord Braybrooke and his family.

Food historian Annie Gray said: "Romantic meals out are a feature of the restaurant boom in the very late 19th century and 20th century, so the menus that the cook and her staff will be preparing for the Braybrookes won't be particularly romantic.

"Instead, the cook will be using seasonal vegetables from the garden and taking full advantage of the game that roams the grounds."

The restored Service Wing opened in May 2008 and provides a vivid insight into the reality of being a Victorian servant, at one of English Heritage's most popular properties.

As visitors enter the service yard they go through an orientation centre before visiting the laundry, dairy, game larder and kitchen. At every turn they are greeted by life in the 1880s, from exact copies of the laundry coppers and butter churns, to replica game hanging on the walls.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Saffron Walden Reporter