History of the Manor Kitchen online exhibition
When building Waddesdon between 1877 and 1883, Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild wanted to ensure his new home provided every comfort and convenience, and Waddesdon quickly developed a reputation for serving the finest food, all prepared in the Manor kitchens.
Then and now
The main kitchen formed part of a wider complex of domestic areas, including a larder, confectionery room, stillroom and scullery. In the basement below was a bake house, butcher’s shop, coal cellar, knife room and cellars for beer and wine.
When the house was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1957 many service areas were adapted as workspaces, and the Manor kitchen was converted to a tea room.
Serving the manor
Stories from the kitchens...
Much of the food prepared in the kitchens was grown and produced on the surrounding estate. Vegetables were cultivated at the bottom of the hill and bought up to the Manor daily. A vast array of heated glasshouses (now demolished) provided out-of-season produce.
Milk was provided by a herd of short-horn cows at the nearby dairy while other groceries were obtained locally in the village.
The range of copper pans and utensils lining the shelves form part of the original batterie de cuisine used in the kitchens in Ferdinand and Alice’s time. The term ‘battery’ originally referred to the process of hammering wares from sheet metal.
Inheriting the Manor in 1922 following the Great War, James and Dorothy witnessed the changing landscape of domestic service...
When James and Dorothy inherited Waddesdon in 1922 they set about updating the old-fashioned kitchens. Improvements included modern refrigeration and this up-to-the-minute coal fired range. Both principal ranges have central fire boxes, either side of which are stone-lined ovens. Kitchen boys were responsible for fuelling the fires with coal stored in the basement below.
Next to the ovens are hot cupboards for keeping food warm before it passed through the serving hatch on the left. The top surface of the range contains adjustable hot plates, the tall vertical oven provided a steady temperature for baking and the hood above removed heat and odours.
Coffee for one
The term ‘espresso’ was coined in the early 20th century and evokes the speed of this new technology. Before the invention of the espresso maker, coffee was produced through filtration – a slow and often messy process.
This appliance consists of a boiler and electrical heating element. The steam generated was used to extract fresh coffee under pressure. The size of this unit suited individual servings. The stylish design and use of modern materials, including polished chrome, speak of modernity.
Of all the changes in daily living which have come about in my life-time I think the greatest may be in the cooking and preparation of food. When I compare what was done in the Waddesdon kitchen when I first knew it with the simplicity of heating up a pre-cooked meal from a freezer, it hardly seems possible that both methods are equally successful in warding off hunger – if not of satisfying taste.
The only thing which seems to have remained constant is the preoccupation about getting fat….Dorothy de Rothschild