Get a taste of life below stairs

Many of our historic houses have sculleries, kitchens, dairies, butlers’ pantries, servants’ bedrooms and other ‘downstairs’ rooms that you can explore. We've preserved or restored these spaces so that you can get a real sense of life below stairs. Here are a few of the best places to find them.

A volunteer and children in the Laundry at Berrington Hall, Herefordshire

Berrington Hall, Herefordshire 

This was the Rodney family home for nearly a century before it was gambled away and acquired by the Cawley family. The restored servants’ rooms include the butler’s pantry, footman’s room and laundry room, and the beautifully decorated dairy, which has been perfectly preserved. On a tour of the rooms, you can try out tools and discover how servants moved around the house unseen by the family and guests.

Visitors at Blickling Hall, Norfolk, in the kitchen looking out of the windows

Blickling Hall, Norfolk 

A splendid country house that boasts four centuries of history, this estate was once the home of the Boleyn family. Upstairs, there are plenty of elegant rooms to explore. Downstairs, in the kitchens and basement rooms, you'll hear tales of the servants' lives.

Visitors on a guided tour of Castle Coole

Castle Coole, County Fermanagh 

Seat of the Earls of Belmore, Castle Coole includes the State Bedroom prepared for George IV. The vast basement and servants' quarters at Castle Coole have been restored so that you can get an authentic experience of life below stairs. You can visit a whole host of rooms including the Footmans’ Room, Wine Cellar and Servants’ Hall.

The kitchen at Castle Drogo, Devon, with the circular beechwood table designed by the architect of the house, Edwin Lutyens

Castle Drogo, Devon 

See the last castle to be built in England and experience this surprisingly warm and comfortable family home full of the luxuries of early 20th-century life. The servants’ quarters include larders, sculleries, butler’s room and pantries, all finished with a rare attention to detail.

The kitchen at Cragside, Northumberland

Cragside, Northumberland 

Discover the world of Lord Armstrong – Victorian inventor, innovator and landscape genius. A temple to high Victorian technology, Cragside was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectric power and the Prince of Wales himself visited to see ‘the palace of a modern magician’. The house included labour-saving gadgets for the servants such as a hydraulic lift, and early versions of a gas stove and dishwasher.

The Butler's Pantry at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

Dunham Massey, Cheshire 

Learn more about Dunham Massey's scandalous owners, including the 7th Earl of Stamford and the 2nd Earl of Warrington. Behind the scenes, a host of servants helped maintain this magnificent Georgian estate. Discover their stories as you tour the laundry, servery, butler’s pantry and complete range of kitchens and sculleries.

Children cooking in the kitchens at Erdigg, Clwyd

Erddig, Wrexham 

Described as ‘the jewel in the crown of Welsh country houses’, Erddig is a fascinating yet unassuming early 18th-century house, which reflects a gentry family’s 250 years of upstairs, downstairs life. The Yorke family had a close relationship with their servants and commissioned portraits of them which you can still see today. You can also tour the kitchen, still room and bakehouse.

Volunteer costumed interpreter in the kitchen in the basement at Ickworth, Suffolk

Ickworth, Suffolk 

Ickworth is a sweeping, impressive house with extensive servants' quarters that have been brought to life through the Ickworth Lives project. Using original audio recordings and documents, we've recreated the authentic stories of servants in Ickworth during the 1930's. You can join a guided tour or take part in hands on activities to learn about their lives. You'll see the finishing kitchen, servants' hall, cellars, servant bedrooms, house-keeper's room, speaking tubes, bells and other rooms needed to run the affairs of the grand rooms above.

Food being prepared on the kitchen table at Lanhydrock, Cornwall

Lanhydrock, Cornwall 

The home for generations of the Robartes family, Lanhydrock has the feel of a wealthy but unpretentious Victorian family home​. Lanhydrock was rebuilt after a fire in the 1880s, and the house is very well preserved from that time. You can experience the life of the servants in the plethora of downstairs kitchens, larders and sculleries as well as the nanny’s bedroom and luggage rooms.

A little girl trying on period costume at Llanerchaeron, Ceredigion

Llanerchaeron, Ceredigion 

Experience a rare example of an 18th-century Welsh gentry estate with its upstairs rooms full of elegant furniture and accessories. You can also wander through the complete service courtyard, largely unaltered from its original form, with dairy, salting house, brewhouse, laundry and many other rooms.

Volunteer costumed interpreter at Penrhyn Castle

Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd 

Home of the Dawkins-Pennant family, this estate boasts opulent interiors, glorious gardens and stunning views. A warren of fascinating servants’ rooms includes special areas for brushing hats, cleaning shoes and lighting lamps as well as butler’s pantry, sculleries, kitchens, larders and household offices.

Close-up of a work station in the kitchen at Petworth House, West Sussex

Petworth, West Sussex 

This vast late-17th-century mansion has been in the hands of the Wyndham family for the past 250 years. Current descendants live in the south wing, allowing much of the remainder to be open to the public. The hauntingly atmospheric servants’ quarters reveal the huge kitchen with its extensive copper batterie de cuisine, along with larders, still rooms, pastry room and the chef’s sitting-room.

The Lamp Room in the basement at Uppark, West Sussex

Uppark, West Sussex 

Discover the world of Sir Harry, Lady Emma Hamilton and the dairymaid who married her master at this great house, now restored to its former glory. Remarkably, the basement largely escaped Uppark’s devastating fire in 1989 and the servants quarters include beer and wine cellars, butler’s pantry. At one time, the housekeeper of Uppark was the mother of writer H.G. Wells.