A Country House at Work: Three Centuries of Dunham Massey
The film Gosford Park has demonstrated the complexity of running a country house and its estate. Imagine how much more complex the same exercise was a century and a half earlier, when all tasks had to be performed by hand and communications were difficult. In this fascinating book, Pamela Sambrook focuses on Dunham Massey in Cheshire, and shows how the great house and its estate functioned in the late Georgian period.
At the centre is the family, the Earls of Stamford. But the various groups that made the household work fan out like ripples in a pool so that we can trace the responsibiities of the house steward, the housekeeper and the land steward, each with their own teams - the butler and footmen, the housemaids and laundresses, the gardener and the blacksmith. Beyond them are the craftsmen who provided services great and small, from carpentry to sewing, and the tradesmen who supplied food, drink, luxuries and necessities to a household that was far from self-sufficient.
By delving into the minutiae of the household records and accounts, the author has uncovered the stories of individuals that contributed to the life of Dunham Massey, from teh doctor who featured in Mrs Gaskell's novels to the hermit who over-indulged at a familly wedding and fell down the stairs.