Saturday, September 28, 2013

Would You Want to Live Here?

Erddig Hall, Wrexham Wales

Seems like an easy answer, but (for my purposes today) it's a trick question.  The lawyer in me (and your inner lawyer) would want to know, in what capacity? and in what time period?

In Up, Back, and Away, I really wanted to explore the response that a young, privileged, contemporary American kid would have to English class structure in the early part of the 20th century, just when the Bolsheviks and trade unionists were giving it what-for, but while it was still firmly in place.

Coachman's livery in a closet in the Butler's Pantry

When I was researching the English social history of the early 20th century, I learned that Erddig Hall was a particularly rich repository of information about below-stairs life.  The letters and poems and other bits of history preserved here were helpful in getting some insight on the reality of big-house life.
The laundry at Erddig

There were only a handful of owners down the years.  They were wealthy, for most of the time at least - things got bad at the end - but none of them were real grand aristocrats.  Maybe that's why they all demonstrated an interest in the lives of the people who worked on the estate.  My "Lady Fisher" shares some of that democratic impulse, as a wealthy woman only two generations removed from the advent of family wealth through her pottery manufacturing grandfather.

The Quarter Sessions that I imagined after studying Erddig was somewhat different from the real thing, as I know now, having visited the place last week.  The main house at (the fictional) Quarter Sessions is grander and more vast than the one at Erddig - closer to Blenheim Palace, for instance, but the spirit was Erddig.  The gardens and parkland at Erddig, were, however, every bit as beautiful as I had imagined

View over park from west front of the house

And it was an absolutely great place to see the Upstairs/Downstairs worlds in real life that we have all seen on TV for such a long time now and to see in person the places I had imagined.  I only wish I'd had more time to wander around the park and soak it all in.  I guess I'll have to go back.

Housekeeper's Office - Where "Mrs. Grimwald" would've conducted business

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