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Running the house

For over a century, the priority at Waddesdon has been to care for the house and its collections - and to welcome guests.

Looking after the Manor

In 1891, 24 indoor staff were recorded at Waddesdon – a modest figure for a house this size, but explained by the fact that it was the home of two unmarried people who also lived in London and abroad.

They included a steward, housekeeper, cook, kitchen, still room and scullery maids, eight housemaids, footmen, a porter, an attendant for the electric light, an odd job man, a hall boy and a needlewoman.  Eight more staff were based at the Laundry and the Dairy and a further 16 at the Stables, including grooms and coachmen.  The numbers of indoor staff would double when there was a house party and Baron Ferdinand’s French chef and Italian pastry-chef came down from London.

Copper pans bearing the initials of Baron Ferdinand
Copper pans bearing the initials of Baron Ferdinand

Staff were kept discreetly hidden from guests as they went about their daily duties.  The two main spiral staircases were used by visitors, as they are today. The lift was used only for luggage. Six other staircases were for the servants and they were carpeted to ensure that their movements did not disturb the guests.

Baron Ferdinand did install a small passenger lift near the west entrance in anticipation of Queen Victoria’s visit in 1890. She declined to ride in it, however, not trusting in the newly-introduced electricity. This lift was one of the earliest in English country houses and can be seen in the Powerhouse.

Male and female servants’ accommodation was separate, with women on the second floor of the main house and the men on the second floor of the Bachelors’ Wing. Visitors’ lady’s maids slept in the small bedrooms on the north side of the bedroom corridor. The height of these rooms was half that of the visitors’ bedrooms, so they are stacked one above the other. The northern side of the corridor was considered less attractive as it did not have views over the magnificent Parterre and park.

The domestic service areas were on the ground floor of the Bachelors’ Wing and in the basement below. The original kitchen is now the front room of the Manor Restaurant. The large servants’ hall is the back room. Food was brought to the pantry (located behind the Breakfast Room on the ground floor) along the service corridor before being served.

The original kitchen range which can still be seen in what is now the Manor Restaurant
The original kitchen range which can still be seen in what is now the Manor Restaurant

Caring for the collection today

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Miss  Alice’s housekeeping rules form much of the basis of National Trust conservation guidelines. She did not allow even King Edward VII to touch the furniture.

Find out about the damaging effects of light and how we ‘put the house to bed’.

For Christmas delivery please order by Friday 16 December