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The Housekeeper's Tale The Women Who Really Ran the English Country House

by Tessa Boase

The Housekeeper's Tale The Women Who Really Ran the English Country House Synopsis

'I read the book with enormous appreciation. Tessa Boase brings all these long-ago housekeepers so movingly to life and her excitement in the research is palpable.' Fay Weldon: Novelist, playwright - and housekeeper's daughter Revelatory, gripping and unexpectedly poignant, this is the story of the invisible women who ran the English country house. Working as a housekeeper was one of the most prestigious jobs a nineteenth and early twentieth century woman could want - and also one of the toughest. A far cry from the Downton Abbey fiction, the real life Mrs Hughes was up against capricious mistresses, low pay, no job security and gruelling physical labour. Until now, her story has never been told. Revealing the personal sacrifices, bitter disputes and driving ambition that shaped these women's careers, and delving into secret diaries, unpublished letters and the neglected service archives of our stately homes, Tessa Boase tells the extraordinary stories of five working women who ran some of Britain's most prominent households. From Dorothy Doar, Regency housekeeper for the obscenely wealthy 1st Duke and Duchess of Sutherland at Trentham Hall, Staffordshire, to Sarah Wells, a deaf and elderly Victorian in charge of Uppark, West Sussex. From Ellen Penketh, Edwardian cook-housekeeper at the sociable but impecunious Erddig Hall in the Welsh borders to Hannah Mackenzie who runs Wrest Park in Bedfordshire - Britain's first country-house war hospital, bankrolled by playwright J. M. Barrie. And finally Grace Higgens, cook-housekeeper to the Bloomsbury set at Charleston farmhouse in East Sussex for half a century - an era defined by the Second World War. Normal0falsefalsefalseEN-GBX-NONEX-NONE

The Good Book Guide Review

The position of housekeeper at the helm of one of England’s great houses was a coveted one for a working woman in the 19th century, but it has been largely uncharted. Taking five very different women’s experience as the basis for a study charting their changing role in society, it offers an intriguing and informative glimpse of the disparate lives these women lived. They range from that of Sarah Wells – mother of writer H G Wells – at Uppark, who endured a life of hard physical challenge, to that of Grace Higgens who lived far more congenially with members of the unconventional Bloomsbury set at Charleston in Sussex.

The Housekeeper's Tale The Women Who Really Ran the English Country House Press Reviews

`Forget Downton Abbey; this exceptionally well-written book is the real deal.' * Spirit FM * 'Boase makes history sing, packing her stories with details of family life and class distinctions and the minutiae of everyday living in a house with 10 or 30 or even 100 servants. A great read.' * Toronto Sun * `One of the great strengths of this book is how Boase gets under the skin of the real side of country house life.' * Eastern Daily Press * `Serves not only as an account of those who worked below stairs but also the lords and ladies who were their employers, thus providing an admirable social history.' * Scottish Home and Country * `A brave book.' * Saga Magazine * `Wiped clean of romantic sheen, this is a fascinating perspective into our upstairs/downstairs history.' * Sainsbury's Magazine * `It is no easy task to find the voice of the professional domestic servant before the 20th century, but the author has done an excellent job piecing together the stories of these five lives through her painstaking research into letters, memoirs and accounts.' * Country Life * 'It's fascinating stuff, moving too, written with great brio and such a light but confident touch, which makes it all the more enjoyable.' -- Virginia Nicholson 'The truth is more scandalous than film or fiction - this is one of those social history studies that makes the reader howl with rage.' -- Roger Lewis * Daily Mail * `A gripping popular history.' -- Bee Wilson * Sunday Telegraph * 'A fluent study...Boase builds a deep, rich account of their individual lives, returning from the archive with some telling tales.' -- Kathryn Hughes * Times Literary Supplement *

Book Information

ISBN: 9781781314104
Publication date: 12th March 2015
Author: Tessa Boase
Publisher: Aurum Press
Format: Paperback / softback
Pagination: 336 pages
Categories: Social & cultural history, Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900, 20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000,

About Tessa Boase

TESSA BOASE read English at Lincoln College, Oxford, then worked as a voiceover artist, a children's scriptwriter, and as a commissioning editor for The Daily and Sunday Telegraphand The Daily Mail. As a freelance feature writer she contributes to The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Times, The FT, The Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Observer and various magazines. She was co-founder of the Salon des Amis (a London salon of ideas, debate and entertainment), and more recently restored a ruin in Italy's Sabine Hills where she produces olive oil. She lives in north London with her husband and two young children.

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