Their 19th century counterparts would no doubt be mortified to learn that today’s aristocrats have taken to trade – and are raking in the dosh. Many of England’s Stately Homes have been running farm shops for some decades and stock produce and meat sourced locally, but which are not produced by themselves. There are a few exceptions to this, most notably products produced by the Duchy of Cornwall. Recently, Prince Charles launched a five-piece organic treatment line called Highgrove, after his estate in Gloucestershire. It’s inspired by plants that grow in the garden of his country house and is already sold out at Organic Pharmacy stores and Prince Charles’s Highgrove shops.
At Pulbrook and Gould Flowers, London, Lady Pulbrook didn’t let the lack of a stately home to attach her business to stop her from forming a partnership with Rosamund Gould way back in 1956. After the death of her husband, she needed something to occupy her and went into partnership with her friend, trained florist Rosamund Gould. H R H Princess Alexandra and the Duchess of Kent both chose Pulbrook & Gould to arrange memorable flowers at their weddings. As well as members of the Royal Family, they number among their illustrious list of customers aristocrats, stars from throughout the world of entertaining, designers, artists, and the great hostesses of the day, some of Britain’s major institutions and businesses and a great many discerning private people whose day is enriched by an arrangement from Pulbrook & Gould. In 1976 Rosamund Gould retired, leaving Lady Pulbrook to grow the business with her sister-in-law, Sonja Waites.
Perhaps the most successful, and the most luscious, aristocratic shop is the Chatsworth Farm Shop at Chatsworth House, which won the prestigious Farm Retailer of the Year award for the second time in 2011. Their newest range are ready meals freshly prepared by Chatsworth chefs using estate produce and local ingredients from the farm shop. You’ll find the range in the chilled section of the shop and prices start from £1.75. Meals include beef lasagne, pork & leek sausage in onion gravy, cottage pie topped with Cheddar cheese, fish pie, pork & mushroom casserole in Sheppy cider, chicken breast in tomato, mushroom & tarragon sauce, and braised steak with Gardener’s Tap ale. There is also a vegetarian choice of mixed vegetable lasagne.
Chatsworth House itself has four further shops, including The Orangery Shop, which sells beautiful Chatsworth inspired gifts, including favourites chosen by the Duke, Duchess and Lady Burlington. Beautifully themed accessories are inspired by Chatsworth figures from the past and present and a wonderful range of gifts and homeware reflect the House, landscape and collection. I have done some serious damage in this particular shop, with my silver and bone tea spoons being well loved favorites. I don’t even mind polishing them. However, only recently I threw out the tin of Chatsworth furniture polish I’d bought there years ago believing that I would be inspired to polish my furniture with museum-like diligence. Never happened – I suppose I’m more Upstairs than Down.