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The real life upstairs, downstairs at Ickworth House

PUBLISHED: 12:59 20 April 2011 | UPDATED: 19:13 20 February 2013

The real life upstairs, downstairs at Ickworth House

The real life upstairs, downstairs at Ickworth House

Sarah-Jane Cousins talks about the latest exciting project at Ickworth House

Sarah-Jane Cousins talks about the latest exciting project at Ickworth House




Ickworth House is set within 1,800 acres of beautiful parkland and woods in the village of Horringer, just outside Bury St Edmunds.
Originally commissioned in 1795 by the Earl-Bishop, Frederick Augustus Hervey, the 4th Earl of Bristol, the Rotunda was designed to provide living accommodation, and the East and West Wings of the house were intended to display the significant art treasures that he had collected during 30 years of grand European tours.
The family actually lived in the East Wing and used the accommodation and services areas of the Rotunda for family gatherings and parties. The West Wing remained unfinished for quite some time.
Outside, an army of staff from the local area, worked in the gardens and parkland.


Ickworth Lives
The National Trust, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other gifts, is restoring the basement of the house, and recreating how it used to be at the beginning of the last century.
The majority of the restoration will be completed during 2011, but the Ickworth experience will develop over time, providing visitors with numerous stories and new interesting facts each time they visit.
As part of the Ickworth Lives project, we will be opening up the Rotundas servants quarters for the first time in summer 2011. Visitors will be able to explore and actively experience what life would have been like for Ickworths staff a century ago and discover many of the memories that have been uncovered about the Hervey family, their staff and the local people of Horringer.



A Little Bit of History
The basement of the Rotunda cannot be understood in isolation from other parts of the house. It is directly linked to the rooms situated above it, which it was designed to serve. The servants would make use of the Rotunda basement and finishing kitchens to make the final preparations for elaborate banquets and dinner parties, and would transport food from their centre of operations in the basement of the East Wing, where much of the basic food preparation was done.
Though the way of life which the 4th Marquess and Marchioness established at Ickworth may have been informal by the standards of their predecessors, those who lived at the house in the first half of the 20th century, both family and servants, agree that the atmosphere of the house was one in which the old upstairs/downstairs rule held firm.
There are many stories, including a lively stage of occupation in the Rotunda during the second world war, when a group of evacuees from Hackney were allotted the basement as living accommodation. The Marchioness held tea parties for the evacuees in the East Wing.
Shooting parties, Royal visits and garden parties were held regularly throughout the early 20th Century, however after the second world war the Rotunda remained mainly closed and was only used for special occasions by the family including an engagement party in 1960 for Victor Hervey and Juliet Fitzwilliam.
In 1970 by the 4th Marquesss 4 great-granddaughters, who used the facilities for their coming out dance and finally in 1989, a large party was held for Lady Phyllis MacRaes 90th birthday.



Local Involvement
Through the Ickworth Lives project many local people have come forward with their own stories of Ickworth or of relatives who used to live and work on the estate.
Fred Astridge, a former gardener at Ickworth, remembers regularly visiting the Walled Garden as a child and affectionately recalls Kitty the cart horse... The gardeners worked by the pace of the horse. I idolised her, she was a great big Suffolk Punch and I used to visit her as a boy. She used to take the vegetables from the walled garden to the house. This would take over an hour. John Arbon was the horseman for Kitty; a laid back and slow paced man, so he and Kitty suited each other well.
Fred went on to work as a gardener at Ickworth estate, cementing a life long connection.
Mrs Doyle started work at Ickworth when she was 14 during the Second World War. She worked as a kitchen/scullery maid.... I had a blue ration book, I was under 16. I was entitled to bananas but I never saw them. The bananas went upstairs to the dining room.
To raise awareness of the project and many of the stories that have been uncovered, students on the BTEC Diploma level 2 Art and Design at West Suffolk College were invited to produce three murals based on the lives of servants at Ickworth House in 1910. The illustrations were designed to portray the communication between three key working areas of Ickworth House. The gardener used to communicate with the cook and the housekeeper to find out what flowers and vegetables were needed for the family dinner in the great house so that the cutlery and table decorations would match.
The project was led and designed by freelance illustrator Joel Millerchip.
Course director Sophie Knappet said: This has been a great opportunity for the students, working with an illustrator and also with the National Trust.
Joel said: The students who worked on this project were fantastic. They all deserve full praise for the effort they put into producing these three murals in such a short time frame. They gave up their own time to complete a great National Trust project, an experience they will never forget.
These murals are currently displayed on the hoardings surrounding the works access.
The Trust has also commissioned Harry Stebbings, a local wood craftsman to recreate some of the kitchen furniture that will go on display in the basement. Kitchen tables and other equipment and utensils will be created using oak from the woodlands at Ickworth to create exact replicas of what would have been in situ in the finishing kitchens in Edwardian times.



To find out more and for latest information about the Ickworth Lives project, opening times, prices and upcoming events, visit our website at www.nationaltrust.co.uk/ickworth

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