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Life below stairs

The kitchen at Cragside, Northumberland.
The kitchen at Cragside | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Have you ever imagined what life would have been like for a servant in a great country house? Many of the places we care for are full of sculleries, butlers’ pantries, servants’ bedrooms and other downstairs rooms to explore. Here’s a selection of the best places to find them.

Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire
At Anglesey Abbey, it’s reputed that guests even had their shoelaces ironed before breakfast. The Domestic Wing of the house has been restored back to what it would have been like in the 1960s, when it was last used as a private home by Lord Fairhaven. Here you'll be able to wander around the Butler's Pantry, Kitchen, Scullery, Brushing Room and Servants' Hall.Life below stairs at Anglesey Abbey
Berrington Hall, Herefordshire
How do you keep an army of busy servant’s unseen from the noble family upstairs? Henry Holland found the answer to this with his clever interior design. The hidden servants' staircase, an underground corridor and various hidden doorways help keep the hive of activity needed to maintain the mansion house out of sight of those who did not wish to concern themselves with such mundane matters.Explore Georgian grandeur
Blickling Estate, Norfolk
At the age of 16, Flo Wadlow left her family to begin what would become a distinguished life in service. By the time she was in her early twenties, she was in charge of the kitchen at Blickling and even cooked for royalty. Discover more about Flo, Mr Dunning the butler and others, below stairs.Explore the house at Blickling
Castle Coole, County Fermanagh, NI
Seat of the Earls of Belmore, Castle Coole includes the State Bedroom prepared for George IV. The vast basement and servants' quarters have been restored, so that you can get an authentic experience of life below stairs. Visit a whole host of rooms including the Footman’s’ Room, Wine Cellar and Servants’ Hall.Visit Castle Coole
Castle Drogo, Devon
Drogo was the last castle to be built in England but dating from the 1900s, it was always intended to be a comfortable family home, rather than a fortification. The servants’ quarters include larders, sculleries, and pantries, all finished with a rare attention to detail.Explore a family home
Cragside, Northumberland
Discover the world of Victorian inventor Lord Armstrong. Cragside was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectric power and Armstrong also created labour-saving gadgets for his servants, including early versions of a gas stove and dishwasher.Discover Cragside's labour-saving gadgets
Children in the kitchens at Erddig, Clwyd with a costumed interpreter
Children in the kitchens at Erddig | © National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra
Erddig, Wrexham
With over 250 years of ‘upstairs, downstairs’ history, discover how 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.Explore 250 years of history
Hardwick, Derbyshire
Discover how the housekeeper, Jane Marriage went from being orphaned at 12, to a successful and relatively wealthy housekeeper. You can also discover why the head gardener, Edmund Wilson, was remembered on one occasion as ‘more ducal than the duke’.Discover more about the life of a servant
Ickworth, Suffolk
Lady Theodora Hervey became so concerned by the hardships of her servants, she installed electric lighting and hot water boilers to improve their living conditions. Using original audio recordings, we reveal the stories of servants from the 1930s, as you explore the Servants' Hall, Housekeeper's Room, cellars, servant bedrooms and finishing kitchen, below stairs.Looking after the staff
Visitors and costumed interpreter in the kitchen at Ickworth, Suffolk
Visitors and costumed interpreter in the kitchen at Ickworth, Suffolk | © National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra
Lanhydrock, Cornwall
Home to generations of the Robartes family, who gave it the feel of a wealthy but unpretentious family home. Most of the current house dates from the 1880s, complete with downstairs kitchens, larders and sculleries as well as the nanny’s bedroom.Visit Lanhydrock
Llanerchaeron, Ceredigion
This rare example of an 18th-century Welsh gentry estate, is still home to a complete service courtyard, largely unaltered from its original form. Explore the dairy, salting house, brewhouse and laundry, or meet the animals at the working farm.Explore a Georgian villa
Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd
As well as opulent interiors, Penrhyn also has a fascinating warren of servants’ rooms to explore. Discover special areas for brushing hats, cleaning shoes and lighting lamps as well as the butler’s pantry, sculleries, kitchens and household offices.Explore the servants' rooms
Shugborough, Staffordshire
Behind the scenes at Shugborough, an army of attentive staff ensured the needs of the Anson family were catered for. Enter the Servants' Hall and see where most of the servants gathered to eat once they’d finished their chores and seen to their master and his family.Discover an army of staff
Small girl running between conical topiary hedges in the Cherry Garden at Ham House

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