As a new exhibition opens at Kiplin Hall a table is laid with 9 place settings, representing some of the servant roles in this historic house. Join us each week as we explore the lives of these diligent workers.
In life the servants and staff of Kiplin Hall moved through the house silently undertaking their duties. We see traces of them in the historical record through things like wage bills and diary entries. Then and today, they are shadows, without whom Kiplin Hall could not have existed and thrived.
This week we explore the life of Elizabeth Wheatley, a Housekeeper at Kiplin Hall from 1845 to 1851. Mrs Wheatley was born in Appleton Roebuck, Yorkshire in 1807. By 1841 she was a domestic servant in a London house, aged 34. On 8th October 1845 Elizabeth came to Kiplin, replacing the previous housekeeper, Mrs Pizer. We know this because it is noted in the 4th Earl of Tyrconnel’s journal. Looking back into the historical record we rarely hear directly from people in domestic service, but we can trace them through diaries, account ledgers and census documents. Mrs Wheatley was paid £25 as a half yearly salary for her work as housekeeper. The same rate as a butler.
Mrs Wheatley left service at Kiplin Hall in 1851 to marry John Tutin, a local draper. Mr Tutin supplied linen, woollen goods and livery to Kiplin Hall so it is likely they met at Kiplin. They lived on Main Street (now High Street) next to the Fleece Inn, Northallerton. When her husband died Elizabeth commissioned a memorial in his memory at All Saints Church, Northallerton which can still be seen at the West End.
As housekeeper Elizabeth would have had a long list of responsibilities. She managed the female domestic staff including hiring and dismissal (with the exception of cook, nurse and lady’s maid). She would look after the storeroom, including ordering supplies and managing where they go, as well as the household linen including ordering and keeping it in good repair. She’d have been in charge of the china-closet and would oversee the stillroom and stillroom maid. This involved the preparation of desserts including ice cream, making and storing preserves such as jams, chutneys and marmalades and also making tea and coffee. Today these activities still take place at Kiplin in the modern kitchen which serves the Tea Room.
Under the approval of the mistress of the house, a housekeeper would also oversee bedroom arrangements and the allocation of bedrooms to visitors. She needed a head for sums, keeping the housekeeping accounts and assisting the mistress of the house with her charities to the poor and carry out any other of the mistress’ wishes.
Next week join us to find out more about John Skinner, Under Butler. The exhibition Silent Footsteps is included with standard admission. Day and Annual tickets are available. Kiplin is open 6 days a week, closed on Thursdays. Please note that this exhibition is on the third floor and there is no lift, access by stairs only.