Preserved Kitchens from the Past

A few months ago, the Daily Mail reported on the discovery of a Victorian kitchen in the basement of a large home in Wales. The room, closed off for decades, will be preserved as an excellent example of how the servants once lived and worked.

Cefn Park, Wales

The entire article is here.  Imagine discovering such relics right down in the basement!

Which got us thinking about other historic  kitchens  we’ve visited in Britain.  There are many — send us your favorites!

The Hampton Court Palace kitchens are among the most popular parts of the oft-visited palace.  On many days, costumed works demonstrate Tudor cookery and prepare treats for the sightseers.  We remember imbibing chocolate drinks, far different than what we enjoy at Starbucks, but still delicious (when you get used to it!).

Above, the larder where the butcher received game and began to prepare the meat for feeding the hundreds of royal guests, court functionaries and palace staff.  Imagine keeping 600 people fed — 24/7.

The kitchen complex includes bakeries, breweries, larders, boiling and roasting rooms, pantries, confectories, spicery, and many more. Not to mention sculleries I suppose. For more on Henry VIII’s kitchens, click here.

Another wonderful kitchen that prepared royal meals is in the Brighton Pavilion, home of the Prince Regent, later George IV.  For a panoramic Tour, click here.  For more on the Brighton Pavilion, try this.

When it was constructed in the early 1800’s, it was the epitome of innovation with its high ceilings.  Our friend Ian Kelly wrote a book about Careme, the most famous chef who worked here, among other places. For details, click here.

 Below, the kitchens at Burghley House, home of Queen Elizabeth I’s trusted advisor William Cecil.

The kitchens at Burghley House are filled with copper pans (Kristine and Victoria and their companions almost swooned at the thought of keeping all of them so shiny!) On the right above, are the collected skulls of turtles, who were no doubt privileged to sacrifice their lives to the soup pot.  To see more on Burghley House, click here.
As a matter of fact, displays of gleaming copper pots are typical of the kitchens in stately homes.  Petworth has a wonderful collection.  Details on Petworth here.
 Petworth, National Trust
Harewood House, above, in Yorkshire also boasts shelf after shelf of bright copper utensils. This kitchen, too, is often the site of special events which include tasty treats.  Harewood’s excellent website is here.
Uppark, NT
 There’s a special twist to the downstairs facilities displayed at the National Trust’s Uppark House. The mother of the brilliant author H. G.Well
s (1866-1946) worked here as housekeeper in the 1880’s and the young Wells grew up in the servants quarters.  More on Uppark is here.
 The tunnels at Uppark were constructed to shield the delicate sensibilities of the owners from viewing the servants bustling about between the kitchens and the stables. But imagine how much fun it would be to play hide-and-seek here. Or chase the toads that often invade. Nevertheless, we should not try to romanticize the lives beneath the stairs — it was never easy and often brutal.

However, if you insist upon romanticizing the life of a servant, you can always try your hand at various below stairs tasks at the very interactive Lanhydrock House (above) in Cornwall, where they urge visitors to “have a go at napkin folding, laying a place setting and hat brushing on our touch and discover tables around the house.”

For an authentic look at the life of the country house staff, the National Trust has this and other volumes available at their bookstore, here
So what are you having for dinner?  I’m thinking carry-out!

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