Manor House
"The big thing I've noticed about this life is that it's fun. I'm happy here. It's a bit like when you first fall in love, and everything is vivid." Lady Olliff-Cooper
Sir John Olliff-Cooper
Photograph of Sir John fishing

Sir John takes a break

Photograph of a shooting party in Cumbria in 1903

A shooting party in Cumbria in 1903

Snob Status
"We like our food more sanitised nowadays, we like it plastic wrapped from the supermarket, with no noticeable resemblance to animals."
Lady Olliff-Cooper
Edwardian Life:
Leisure Time

The House Party
In Edwardian Britain, there was no more typical an event for the leisured classes to host than a house party. For two or three days, Sir John can treat his guests to the hunting, shooting and fishing on his estate. And in the evenings, they will be entertained with music, parlour games and elaborate banquets.

Such parties were often known as "Saturday to Monday" house parties rather than "weekend" parties. This is because using the word "weekend" might imply that those invited could have jobs to go to during the week...

In 1910, 350 hunts existed in Britain, almost twice as many as today. It was one of the few country sports in which women played an active role and had become so popular that foxes were even imported from Europe to meet demand. The anti-hunt movement was a fledgling organisation concerned largely with horse beating and vivisection. For the vast majority, fox-hunting was seen as a harmless and ancient tradition.

In order to have a sporting party, Sir John Olliff-Cooper is allowed to host the local hunt - the Berwickshire Hounds. The Berwickshire Hunt is one of the oldest in Scotland - formally established in 1787 and active ever since.

Sir James Miller, who rebuilt Manderston, was the Master of the Northumberland and Berwickshire Fox Hounds until his premature death in 1906, as the result of a chill that turned to pneumonia after a day's hunting.

Led by King Edward VII's example, the newly wealthy landowners liked nothing more than shooting game on their country estates. At the turn of the century, Edward VII hosted a shoot where he and nine others killed 1300 birds in a single day.

Landowners even competed over who could shoot more game. In fact estates were being bought and sold on the quality of the "sporting facilities" - the amount of pheasants or trout available, rather than the amount of money they could bring in through farmland or cattle.

In order to shoot, the birds were beaten out of their hiding places towards the guns by the estate gamekeeper, other estate workers and local men recruited for the day's sport. The tweed-suited shooting party would raise their guns and bring down as many grouse, pheasant or partridges as they could, which were then retrieved by gun dogs.

John Olliff-Cooper is a keen fisherman - in fact one of the reasons he jumped at the chance of taking part in Manor House project was because of his specific interest in Edwardian-style fishing.

Luckily for him, Manderston is located in fine fishing country. The Tweed, which runs close by, provides him with the opportunity to catch salmon, trout or grayling. These days there is a catch-and-release policy on the Tweed, so unlike Edwardian times, when the rivers were better stocked with salmon anyway, no one catching a fish can take it home for lunch as an Edwardian country gentleman might.

As well as the nearby Tweed and its tributaries, Manderston boasts a large lake in the grounds which is well stocked with brown trout.

Horse Racing
There was no greater outlet for wealthy excesses of the day than horse racing. Once a sport of the masses, it had now become the sport of kings. And if the king did it, men of quality sought to do it also. A thoroughbred race horse became the essential fashion item for the wealthy male.

Sir James Miller, who built Manderston, was a very successful racing horse owner. Of the horses he owned, Sainfoin won the 1890 Derby, and Rock Sand won the 1903 Triple Crown (the Two Thousand Guineas, Derby and St Leger). Over a period of 16 years, he won a total of 118,000 (around $13 million in today's money) through racing.

Gambling at the races was something enjoyed by all classes. At the races, gentlemen were known to place single bets of more than 10,000 (500 times the annual wage of a footman) but around 80% of working class men also bet on a regular basis.

Theatre and Dancing
Visits to the theatre were more common while staying in London, but provincial performances were also popular. The Olliff-Coopers are to attend the local theatre, and can host musical concerts during their country house parties. One of the biggest occasions at Manor House is a ball on the theme of the British Empire, hosted by the Olliff-Coopers at Manderston.

Cinema was in its infancy at the start of the 20th Century. Wealthy families like the Olliff-Coopers were among the first to commission private demonstrations, creating the earliest moving image records of British domestic life.

The lower orders saw it less as a form of documentary than entertainment. In a society raised on books and parlour games, it became an immediate sensation.

^ back to top



© 2003 Channel4. All rights reserved. | PBS Privacy Policy