Person of the month: Thomas Marriott

The Saloon at National Trust Calke Abbey in Derbyshire

Every month, we’re stepping back in time to meet characters from Calke’s past. Join us on this journey as we discover the people who lived and worked on the estate, and then meet their modern-day equivalents who help to keep Calke alive today.

We’d like you to meet…

The carpenter

Thomas Marriott

Thomas Marriott was one of twelve children born to Joseph and Ann. From our records, it seems that he came from a long line of carpenters and joiners, all born in Ticknall. We know that his grandfather, James, was a joiner, and it’s likely that he learnt his trade from his father and grandfather.

In 1867, Thomas married Emma Thompson in Ticknall. We know very little about his family life, although we know he had sons, one of whom was called Draper – his mother’s maiden name. Draper was Thomas’ middle name, and his brother’s first name, too. Families often did this to carry on the mother’s maiden name.

Thomas had another son called George, a young usher at Calke, who married a scullery maid called Ellen Bull in 1903. Ellen was 18 at the time, while George was 27. George worked at Calke like his father, and eventually became a valet to Sir Vauncey Harpur Crewe. Sadly, George passed away only three years after their marriage.

Calke’s carpentry

As you explore Calke Abbey, you’ll see evidence of Thomas Marriott in several places. He made the pair of nineteenth century oak pedestal tables in 1856, which you can see in the Saloon. The tables are made from several different types of oak. The centre panel of the tabletop has four inlaid fleur-de-lys in bog oak, and a border of acorns and leaves in brown oak. Interspersed along this border are four bog oak shields with the initials ‘J.H.C.’ (for John Harpur Crewe).

In the library, you’ll find a large circular table made by Thomas. The top has a chevron design in the centre, with another larger ring of the same design around the outside.

Thomas made two more centre tables for Calke: a dark hardwood, oval table, and another oval table in a similar style, but with an inlaid stained oak cross on the tabletop. See if you can spot them as you explore the vast collection at Calke.

A modern-day carpenter

Ray Stevens, buildings craftsperson

Today, there are lots of jobs that need doing around Calke, as well as vital conservation work to preserve and protect the estate and its collections. This includes any general repairs and maintenance around the property – you might spot Ray repairing windows, gates or even stairs, to ensure that everything is watertight, safe, and in good working order.

Ray has worked at Calke Abbey for more than 25 years, which means he's very familiar with the property! A skilled craftsman, he completed a four-year apprenticeship and was one of the first people to train with the William Morris Craft Fellowship when he was nineteen years old. The Fellowship is run by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and is awarded to three or four highly skilled craftsmen or women every year.

After his training, Ray spent six months travelling around the country to study historic buildings, and picked Calke Abbey as one his placements. Years later, he's still here! 

As well as his carpentry connections to Thomas Marriott, Ray also recalls finding a piece of timber where Thomas had carved his own name in the Stovehouse. He was replacing the front timber wall plate when he discovered the 'graffiti', which he gave to Thomas' son as a memento.