The Housekeeper's Tale: The Women Who Really Ran the English Country House (Paperback)Tessa Boase (author)
- In stock
'I read the book with enormous appreciation. Tessa Boase brings all these long-ago housekeepers so movingly to life and her excitement in the research is palpable.' Fay Weldon: Novelist, playwright - and housekeeper's daughter
Revelatory, gripping and unexpectedly poignant, this is the story of the invisible women who ran the English country house.
Working as a housekeeper was one of the most prestigious jobs a nineteenth and early twentieth century woman could want - and also one of the toughest. A far cry from the Downton Abbey fiction, the real life Mrs Hughes was up against capricious mistresses, low pay, no job security and gruelling physical labour. Until now, her story has never been told.
Revealing the personal sacrifices, bitter disputes and driving ambition that shaped these women's careers, and delving into secret diaries, unpublished letters and the neglected service archives of our stately homes, Tessa Boase tells the extraordinary stories of five working women who ran some of Britain's most prominent households. From Dorothy Doar, Regency housekeeper for the obscenely wealthy 1st Duke and Duchess of Sutherland at Trentham Hall, Staffordshire, to Sarah Wells, a deaf and elderly Victorian in charge of Uppark, West Sussex. From Ellen Penketh, Edwardian cook-housekeeper at the sociable but impecunious Erddig Hall in the Welsh borders to Hannah Mackenzie who runs Wrest Park in Bedfordshire - Britain's first country-house war hospital, bankrolled by playwright J. M. Barrie. And finally Grace Higgens, cook-housekeeper to the Bloomsbury set at Charleston farmhouse in East Sussex for half a century - an era defined by the Second World War.
Publisher: Aurum Press
Number of pages: 336
Weight: 227 g
Dimensions: 198 x 129 x 25 mm
'A gripping popular history.' -- Bee Wilson * Sunday Telegraph *
'The truth is more scandalous than film or fiction - this is one of those social history studies that makes the reader howl with rage.' -- Roger Lewis * Daily Mail *
'It's fascinating stuff, moving too, written with great brio and such a light but confident touch, which makes it all the more enjoyable.' -- Virginia Nicholson
'It is no easy task to find the voice of the professional domestic servant before the 20th century, but the author has done an excellent job piecing together the stories of these five lives through her painstaking research into letters, memoirs and accounts.' * Country Life *
'Wiped clean of romantic sheen, this is a fascinating perspective into our upstairs/downstairs history.'* Sainsbury's Magazine *
'A brave book.' * Saga Magazine *
'Serves not only as an account of those who worked below stairs but also the lords and ladies who were their employers, thus providing an admirable social history.' * Scottish Home and Country *
'One of the great strengths of this book is how Boase gets under the skin of the real side of country house life.' * Eastern Daily Press *
'Boase makes history sing, packing her stories with details of family life and class distinctions and the minutiae of everyday living in a house with 10 or 30 or even 100 servants. A great read.' * Toronto Sun *
'Forget Downton Abbey; this exceptionally well-written book is the real deal.' * Spirit FM *
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