Picture caption: from top down; the Brushing Room, the Housekeeper's Room and the Servants Hall.
Fans of hit television show ‘Downton Abbey’ should head to Lotherton Hall in Leeds from this week for a glimpse of some real-life history.
The servants rooms used by the staff in the Edwardian country house and estate near Aberford will be re-opened to the public from Friday (22 March) for the first time following a major five-month restoration project which has returned them to how they looked over 100 years ago.
All media are invited to attend a preview tour of the restored servants’ quarters at Lotherton Hall country house and estate in Leeds at 11am on Wednesday 20 March. Please call the press office on 0113 3950244 to arrange attendance.
The Leeds City Council-managed visitor attraction was the former home of the prominent Gascoigne family from 1825 until they gifted it to the city of Leeds in 1968. During their time in residence, the family employed approximately 20 staff at any one time to serve them and run the house.
The restoration has focused on three rooms used by the serving staff on the ground floor of the house: the Brushing Room, the Housekeeper’s Room and the Servants Hall, which were all built as part of an extension of the hall in 1903.
In 1970 the rooms were altered to create the Oriental Gallery, but in recent years more and more visitors have enquired about the servants’ quarters and what life had been like ‘below stairs’, so a decision was taken to return the rooms to their original look and feel.
Using the original architect’s plans and other source material, the restoration team began work with the Oriental Gallery being dismantled to reveal previously hidden features such as five perfectly-preserved windows which had been bricked up for over 40 years and also the original floor which is more than 100 years old.
Paint scrapings were taken to determine the colour schemes used in the décor, while the team also looked at existing inventories from 1905 and 1937 to discover the objects that were in the rooms when they were the working servants’ quarters. Together with written and oral histories given by staff who worked there, the team were then able to accurately recreate each room in terms of decoration and how they were laid out.
One regular visitor to Lotherton Hall who is especially looking forward to seeing the completed rooms is 91-year-old Tom Cockerill, who worked at the house at the age of 15 in 1936 and assisted the team with his first-hand memories of life at Lotherton.
Among the duties carried out by Tom, who now lives in Malton in north Yorkshire, in his time at the house were keeping the fires supplied with wood, scrubbing the floor in the butler’s pantry, collecting the mail from nearby Aberford and cleaning the family silver.
Tom Cockerill, who now lives in Malton in north Yorkshire, said:
“Lotherton Hall was my home and I made friends and had good times here. I think it’s marvellous that through these restored rooms people can get a glimpse of what life was like for us. It was another world.”
To coincide with the re-opening of the servants’ rooms, the house will also feature a major new exhibition divided into two parts: ‘Dressed for Battle’ and ‘Family Duty and Honour’.
Examining how war impacted on the house and the people who lived there, the exhibition looks at the influence of conflicts from the American War of Independence to the Second World War, and also how they affected the fashions of the time.
Leeds City Council executive member for leisure Councillor Adam Ogilvie said:
“We cannot wait to open the doors and show visitors to Lotherton Hall the restored servants’ quarters.
“The incredible success and popularity of programmes like ‘Downton Abbey’ shows there is still a fascination with the lives of the people who lived and worked in historic country houses, so I would advise people of all ages to come along to Lotherton Hall and find out more about the real thing.”
As part of the restoration of the servants’ quarters, plans are also in place to offer interactive elements such as audio recordings and recollections to tell the stories of the people who worked there down the years.
For more information on Lotherton Hall, visit the website at www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries/Pages/Lotherton-Hall.aspx
For media enquiries please contact:
Leeds City Council press office,
Tel 0113 247 5472