Manor House
"In Edwardian times, being married was so important. And if you weren't married, you were of a lower status to all married women." Lady Olliff-Cooper
Photograph of Miss Anson

Avril Anson (Miss Anson) finds an unmarried Edwardian woman's lot an unhappy one

Photograph of a roasted pigs head

Monsieur Dubiard the chef's truly Edwardian revenge

Photograph of downstairs staff enjoying a break

A downstairs affair...

Lady Olliff-Cooper has to wait for her lady's maid to help her get dressed
The housemaids struggle into their own corsets every morning
"I'm not a spoilt brat but I'm used to my mum doing all my cooking and my cleaning and going out at night-time and not having to get up in the morning. I miss my boyfriend really badly – it's horrible."
Lucy, scullery maid
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Episode Guide

Episode Four: 'Cold Comfort'

Our family and staff are half way through their time at Manderston and Sir John has decided that standards must be raised to their Edwardian maximum. He is stepping up the pressure by holding a weekend Friday to Monday shooting party.

These events were amongst the most extravagant of the era. Held in total privacy from the outside world, guests could compete at shooting, perform their party tricks and indulge in passionate and occasionally extra-marital affairs. For all this King Edward had set the standard. His shooting parties could bag over 2000 birds a day and where he was invited to stay his current mistress would be invited also and provided with a room conveniently near to his own.

An Unmarried Woman's Lot
The merriment of these events contrasts with the spirit of Miss Anson, the unmarried sister of Lady Olliff-Cooper who is feeling degraded by her place in the hierarchy. While her sister revels in the ease of a frivolous lifestyle, Miss Anson finds the life of a country house woman unbearably repressive. In the early 1900s radical 'new women' were beginning to question the restricted female spheres in which they were supposed to live and think.

But these women were many miles away from the average lady of the manor, who had been purposely educated to be an accomplished wife and mother. Having failed to fulfil these roles, Avril's status is reduced to being a childminder and companion to her sister. Her brother-in-law, Sir John is unashamedly determined to see her kept in this role.

She rebels by indulging in 'manly' pastimes such as cycling and going out walking on her own but eventually melancholy catches up with her and, like so many Edwardian women before her, this begins to affect her health.

A True Edwardian?
But perhaps the problem is less Miss Anson's than Sir John's. As well as offending his sister-in-law he has managed to offend the downstairs staff. In front of guests he openly criticises the food, seemingly unaware that this would quickly travel down via the footmen to the kitchen.

The chef decides on a direct response. As Sir John enjoys a spot of shooting, the chef prepares a grand dish for the family unlike any other they would get a chance to taste in modern life. Without warning a pig's head is carried to the dining table and the fatty cheeks served up to a horrified Sir John. The majority of the downstairs staff are delighted to have proved to their master that being Edwardian is not always about getting what you want.

But Mr Edgar the butler feels he has let his master down and Sir John clearly feels the same. The close master servant relationship that had developed soon breaks down, and for the first time since arriving at Manderston, they stop talking. It is not clear how the deadlock will be broken.

An Affair Below Stairs
The butler also seems to be losing control below stairs, when it becomes clear that Kenny the hallboy has intentions towards the latest scullery maid, Ellen. Relationships between servants in a country house were forbidden and either one or both would have had to leave the house if their relationship was discovered. When Kenny and Ellen realise that the attraction is mutual, they decide to keep their relationship hidden. But it's hard to keep a secret when you live with 12 nosy colleagues.

Before long everyone knows about their romance and start to get fed up covering for them. The chef is not a fan of 'lovebirds in the kitchen' and Mr Edgar consults with the rest of the staff about what punishment he should enforce to bring Kenny back into line..

Emotional tensions build when Miss Anson, on the doctor's recommendation, leaves the house to recover back in the 21st century.

As Sir John invites the Poet Laureate to entertain his house party with a reading of his poetry, Lady Olliff-Cooper speculates that if the family were to remain in the house for longer than their allotted three months, she would end up being closer to her maid Morrison than her own husband and children, Sir John would probably take a mistress, and the boys Jonty and Guy would almost certainly be scarred for life.

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