Stepping back in time

Prepping Ickworth Living history

During our Living History days, our volunteer intrepreters bring the basement to life by re-enacting a day in the life of the servants from the mid 1930s. Join us on the day and follow their footsteps whilst eavesdropping on all the gossip, secrets and goings on for the day. Beth, House Steward, works with our volunteers to plan, write and deliver our Living History days.

Where do the storylines for Living History come from?

We are very lucky at Ickworth to have an amazing archive of oral recordings and transcripts from some of the people who worked at Ickworth in the 1930’s. There are some fascinating stories about what life was like, living and working, at Ickworth. Although the work was hard there is little doubt that the servants often had a lot of fun! The majority of our Living History storylines are taken from our treasure trove of oral archives. I also base the storylines around what would be happening at Ickworth during that season; for example in October and November, a lot of our stories centre on the shooting season and what the shooting party guests are getting up to. As well as utilising our oral archives for storylines, I also encourage the Living History team to include references to large national events or news stories which took place in 1935. I think this helps visitors to really feel like they’ve actually stepped back in time to the 30’s!

What is your favourite Living History storyline?

My favourite Living History storylines are the ones we do leading up to Christmas. We have so many lovely stories from our oral archives about what the 1930’s servants got up to around Christmas.  For example, we know that one year the servants saved up and organised a collection so that they could buy one of the maids a bicycle. The Living History volunteers re-create these storylines, as well as making traditional decorations, decorating the Servant’s Hall and wrapping presents for each other. There are also often lovely Christmassy smells coming from the Kitchen as the Living History Cooks prepare seasonal treats. The atmosphere in the Servants' Quarter's and amongst the Living History characters is always joyful at Christmas, even when the Odd Job man Jim is trying to pinch tasty morsels from the Kitchen!   

Our characters from Living History bring Ickworth history to life
Living history preparations Ickworth
Our characters from Living History bring Ickworth history to life

What kind of training do you do?

We run two separate training sessions for the team across the year. We are very lucky to have worked for several years with Clare and Corinne from the National Theatre’s Theatreworks programme. In their sessions they help the Living History team to develop their performance skill; including how to tell a story through body language and how to develop their character profiles. We also run a research based session where we all get together and look into what life was like for servants in the 1930’s. During these sessions we listen to Ickworth’s oral archives, watch clips from relevant films such as Gosford Park and carry out general research into the 1930’s. This session gives the team the background information which helps them to make their performance in the Basement as authentic as possible.      

The last Living History for 2018 is our 'Christmas is Coming’ event on Sunday 25th November. We hope to see you then!