Ickworth’s maids return there as guests of honour

Ickworth House Lives opens its doors.
Ickworth House Lives opens its doors.
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WHEN Harriet Flack arrived at Ickworth House for the first time since 1935 she came in far better style than back then.

As a scullery maid at the Horringer stately home, when she was 15 and 16, she either cycled from her Lakenheath home or travelled by bus, and went to the servants’ entrance at basement level.

Opening of Ickworth House Lives.

Opening of Ickworth House Lives.

But on Wednesday, she arrived at the front door in a rare 1938 Wolsley 25hp drophead coupé, to be greeted by the ‘servants’. However, she still came from Lakenheath.

The National Trust had invited the ex-maid, known then as ‘Hetty’ Hunt, and three other former servants to the official opening of the Ickworth Lives project, which recreates life below stairs in 1935. All were among the former servants who helped the trust recall the basement’s old glory.

As a scullery maid Hetty did the ‘dirty’ side of kitchen work, so was it hard?

“Not really,” she said. “We were very busy. We had to do the dishes as they came to the kitchens, we cleaned the vegetables and used to get the ducks and pheasants ready for roasting.”

Opening of Ickworth House Lives.

Opening of Ickworth House Lives.

Now 90, she says shooting parties drastically increased the work, but has no idea how many guests came.

“We didn’t see them, we only saw her ladyship in the morning,” she said. “She came and read a chapter of the Bible, then we said the Lord’s Prayer and went to our duties.”

Lilly Thrower, 92, recalled young Hetty, even though she worked at the other end of the house, now a hotel. Lilly, from Bury, lived-in and had a way of snatching a few extra minutes in bed.

“We had to get up at six and had to look tidy,” she said. “So I would put my hat over the top of my curlers until I could go back to the bedroom to take them out.”

Lilly was a housemaid for eight months in 1937.

Mary Brunning, 86, from Eriswell, also started as a housemaid, at 15, but was promoted to parlour maid. She and two-years-older sister Ruth Mizen, nee Linney, began there just after the war started.

Ruth recalls returning to Suffolk from London, to start at Ickworth, in a train full of evacuee children.

Trust director general Dame Fiona Reynolds, said the aim of the project was to tell the stories of ‘people who made this place hum’. She added: “The real reason we’ve been able to tell those stories is the wonderful people who did those jobs. So many people have helped us.”