|Maggie Smith 8 x 10 Photo Downton Abbey Violet Crawley|
Visiting the UK, thanks to their National Trust, you can tour "over 300 historic buildings, from the grand and imposing to the small and quirky." You may find a similar experience in historical homes in the US.
One of the sites that the show Downton Abbey was filmed is a National Trust estate, Basildon Park. A Georgian mansion, it is billed as "an 18th-century house, a 1950s home."
This summer, one of the estates, Anglesey Abbey, northeast of Cambridge, is starting a Life Below Stairs feature. Several properties already offer it. Were you a fan of Upstairs, Downstairs with Jean Marsh in the 70s? The show is still available to watch.
** This type of experience is not limited to historical homes in the UK. The Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut has Beck & Call: The Interactive Servant Tour: See Mark Twain's spectacular home through the eyes and words of their servants. It's scheduled again for early September 2014. Watch for "more dates added due to popular demand!" What historical homes are in your area? (See links below.)
Much of this article speaks of Anglesey Abbey, its history and the experience there. Other historic homes in the UK have a Life Below Stairs exhibit. Check before visiting to see if the home you're off to visit has what you want to see. Some houses change their exhibits for the seasons.
"If you want to delve behind the scenes and get a taste of life below stairs, then pay us a visit. Many of our historic houses have sculleries, kitchens, dairies, butlers’ pantries, servants’ bedrooms and other downstairs rooms that visitors can enjoy, alongside the glamorous ‘upstairs’ rooms of the families who lived there." -- National Trust web site, UK
Life Below Stairs: In the Victorian & Country House
"Giving a fascinating insight into the hierarchy within the servant's
|Jean Marsh Upstairs Downstairs|
8x10" Photo #B2096
The Below Stairs experiences at the homes are not all alike. The new Anglesey Abbey presentation will be interactive. Their experience will be set in the 1960s when the former owner Lord Fairhaven died.
Visitors will be able to learn how to things such as mix cocktails, polish the silver and make flower arrangements. Wodehouse's and Stephen Fry's Jeeves would be oh-so proud.
In December 2013, a call went out in local papers such as Cambridge News.
|Dan Stevens Autographed|
Signed 8x10 Photo COA Downton Abbey Abbey Rare
|Maggie Smith 8x10|
Lord Fairhaven, a half-American aristocrat, spent thousands transforming Anglesey Abbey into a glorious home with beautiful gardens. A former military man, he had a passion for clocks and kept his staff on a very strict time table.
The home was bequeathed to the National Trust on the strict proviso that it would be preserved as is when he died. He died of a pulmonary embolism in 1966.
For those of us who aren't headed to England any time soon, there are some good books to give an idea of how life was back in the day. The Real Life Downton Abbey: How Life Was Really Lived in Stately Homes a Century Ago
"Be nice to the people you meet on the way up. You'll meet the same people on the way down!"
-- found this quote attributed to at least three people :)
"Lord Fairhaven was more fastidious than most. In these rooms, their boss’s shoelaces would be neatly ironed, sandwiches (wafer-thin to the point of transparency) would be painstakingly prepared, tins of his favorite snack – sardines – were rotated like fine wine, and carnations would be selected: he insisted on choosing a colored bloom to wear during the day, and a white one at night." -- information from the Cambridge News article.
Tour homes and estates in the UK owned by The National Trust
Mark Twain House, Hartford, Connecticut
Volunteers for Anglesey Abbey were needed: The Cambridge News
Life Below Stairs programs in National Trust homes UK