Working at Wordsworth House is my dream job
As soon as I start putting on my costume, I can feel myself travelling back in time to the 1770s, when William Wordsworth was a little boy.
I wear a heavy linen petticoat and skirt, and a set of tightly-laced boned stays. They keep me cosy on really cold days, but most of the time I’m sweating as I work in front of a blazing coal fire in the kitchen, recreating recipes Amy, the Wordsworths’ maid-of-all-work, might have cooked for them and their guests.
When I’m carrying ingredients up from the cellar larder, I have to keep one hand free to hold my skirt up so I don’t trip. And although wearing stays may be good for my posture, they don’t make it easy when I’m bending down to fill the coal bucket.
I’ve always been fascinated by social history, but I’ve never done anything like this before – most of my previous jobs were in retail. It’s my dream job – I love bringing the past to life for visitors.
Working in the kitchen and elsewhere in the house, I spend a lot of time answering questions about the Wordsworths and their servants.
I also give talks on subjects ranging from William’s childhood and poetic inspiration to the horrible truth about Georgian life – people always want to know things like how often they washed and what they did when they got toothache or fell ill.
I work just a few hours a day and get half-an-hour off for lunch, so I have a far easier life than Amy did. She started at the crack of dawn, laying fires and emptying chamber pots, and didn’t stop until late at night.
When I’m scrubbing the kitchen table at the end of my shift, I try to imagine how she must have felt. I do it just as she would have with soft soap, made from animal fat, and a scrubbing brush.
When I finish, I change back into my comfortable modern clothes, drive home and relax for the evening in my lovely centrally heated house.
Amy would have faced several more hours of work before she collapsed into her makeshift bed on the floor – and all that for just £4 a year. It makes me realise how lucky we all are to live in the 21st century and not the 18th!