A servant's life at Ickworth

Two Living History re-enactors dressed as housemaids in the Servants Hall

Life as a servant was subject to the whims of the resident family and their guests; it was hard graft with incredibly long hours. There was a strict hierarchy amongst the servants and life could be incredibly tough. 'Ickworth Lives' tells the stories of the servants who lived and worked here in the 1930s.

The corridors at Ickworth hold the secrets of servants who have looked after the resident Hervey family since 1829. Based on oral archives gathered by our researchers since the 1980's, today the Servants' Quarters tells the stories of those who lived and worked here in the 1930s, looking after the 4th Marquess and Marchioness of Bristol.


By 1910 the 4th Marchioness of Bristol, Lady Theodora Hervey, a lady of considerable inherited fortune, became concerned by the hardships of her servants and over the years did much to improve living conditions. She renovated the Rotunda servants quarters with the latest technology such as electric light and hot water boilers. As well as installing new bathrooms. Though the servants during this time undoubtedly had a hard life looking after the family all hours of day and night, our research reveals a good relationship between the servants and Lady Theodora.  She was also probably the first lady of the house to visit the servants in the basement, going down to the kitchen to consult with the cook and taking morning prayers for the female servant. 

Hands on exploration

As you wander downstairs through the corridors and rooms, you’ll discover life in the 1930s. It’s a real hands on experience - you can open the drawers and have a rummage, discover the tools and materials that would have been used by the servants and even tap out a letter on an original 1930's typewriter – the best question we've had is "where's the screen?". It was not all hard work of course. In the Servants’ Hall, you’ll find a shove ha’penny board scored into the dining table, you can play cards, bagatelle or tiddlywinks, bash out a tune out on the piano or sit and relax with a 30’s newspaper or magazine.

A family playing a game of chess in the Servants hall
Servants hall activities Ickworth
A family playing a game of chess in the Servants hall

Thank you

Until 2005, the Servants' basement under the Rotunda housed our second-hand book shop and tea room. This meant we were unable to present a fundamental aspect of the story of Ickworth through the stories of the long-forgotten staff who worked here. Our desire was to tell the complete story of this grand house and include the life of the Ickworth servants. In 2008, we were fortunate to secure funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Wolfson Foundation, Biffa Award, Suffolk County Council Corporate Regeneration Fund, The Worshipful Company of Grocers, The Scarfe Foundation and many other generous private donors from all walks of life which enabled us to undertake our Ickworth Lives project and open this space for you to visit. In March 2012, we completed the project and now you can enjoy this space as it was intended.