About the Series:
The life of the Lady of the Manor was not one of endless leisure - owning the most
important house in the area brought its own responsibilities. First you had to worry
about your staff. Secondly you had to worry about doing your bit for the local community.
Both pressures come to bear on
This week the staffing crisis comes to a head.
Mr Edgar the butler
is dealing with virtual
rebellion downstairs. They are one person down once more and they are campaigning
for time off. This was a hot issue in the Edwardian period - the vast majority of
employers including the masters and mistresses of servants were not obliged to give
any time off or annual holidays. Servants could end up working over 100 hours a week.
Whether its work or missing home - the servants are certainly looking peaky and at least
one falls ill.
Frustrated by the lack of change, the unconventional chef,
takes matters into his own
hands. He leads Lady Olliff-Cooper and her sister to the kitchen. Neither of them have
ever been downstairs before. Just a quick look around is enough to convince the mistress
of the house that changes have to be made. Not one but two new maids are to be hired.
The extra staff arrives just in time to help out with M'lady's fundraising efforts.
To mirror the actions of philanthropic upper class women of the period she takes a
trip to the local hospital. It was firmly believed at the time that visiting those
less well off than yourself would be of benefit to both parties. The rich could
teach the poor how to behave and restless country house ladies, who were rarely asked
their opinions on public life, could get out into the community to improve their
family's standing in the local squirearchy.
The fete will be a rare chance for the wide community to see Manderston close up. All
money raised will go to the local hospital and a committee is formed to oversee all
kinds of stalls - everything from fortune-telling to guess the weight of the cake.
There will also be competitions for best preserves, flower arranging and lots of
But opening the estate to the public can bring less welcome visitors. Some cyclists
from the Clarion cycling club arrive bringing with them talk and song sheets aimed
at stirring up socialist feeling in this deferential rural area. The Clarion was
a popular national newspaper, which published articles written from a socialist
perspective. It also championed the right to leisure for the working classes -
a key issue in a society where industrialisation had replaced seasonal and
weather-dependent work with unremitting labour for the masses. From the newspaper
there grew a network of social clubs for working men and women. The cycling club
is the only one to have survived to the present day.
Sir John has little interest in the messages that the Clarion cyclists have come to
spread. But the servants, except the dutiful butler, appear to welcome them with
open arms. In Edwardian Britain the working class was beginning to flex their
industrial muscle and was finding strength in numbers.
For the inhabitants of the house it's been a rollercoaster week and both upstairs
and downstairs have had a taste of the battle that was to come between employer
and labour. This was a battle that was to transform the British political landscape.
> Next Episode