Picturing the Past
This photograph shows Waddesdon’s kitchen staff in around 1891. The man on the right holding a cookbook is probably Ferdinand’s French chef, Auguste Chalanger, while next to him is Susan Smith, the household cook. The other man may be Ferdinand’s confectioner, Arthur Chategner. The 1891 census also records two stillroom maids, Edith Beer (age 26) and Lily Day (age 15), a kitchen maid, Susan Cole (age 23), one scullery maid, Emma Howitt (age 20) and a scullery man, Sam Syrett (age 21), some of whom may be the other people pictured.
Many of the fixtures and fittings remain recognisable including the wooden dresser lined with copper pans, serving hatch, tiled walls and extraction hood. The gas light fitments are also original. Although much of the house was converted to electricity in the 1890s, service areas continued to be lit by gas. Also surviving are the high level metal cupboards painted to resemble wood which ingeniously disguise water tanks.
A notable difference is the smoke jack and roasting range which was replaced by the present one made by the French firm Biffault in the 1920s. The tin-lined roasting screen in front of the fire reflected heat, keeping food warm and protecting staff. It also doubled as a hot cupboard – the doors are visible above the cook’s shoulder. Changes are also evident in the corner of the room; at some point a door was introduced and the cast iron equipment removed. Scars from the fittings are visible in the floor.