Kay Stratford

Kay's mother worked as roast meat cook in the early 1900s

Interviewed by Veronica Walker-Smith

Kay Stratford, 100, flanked by her sons Paul (left) and Ian (right), on a visit to Knole in the summer of 2014


K.S.: You have to remember too, they had private doors for the servants to go through, so they didn’t go through the main door, like housemaids who were cleaning, would come through a private door which might be part of the panelling, and they’d come out of there and do their job, and go back.

I love that, when that happens, because that’s where the phrase: “coming out of the woodwork” comes from.

K.S.: Absolutely, that’s a good phrase. Because I said they were never seen. And they had to do their work without making too much noise.

But you never went in…I mean, housemaids didn’t go in if the person was still sleeping there in the bed. What did you have to do…did you have to wait, and tap on the door?

K.S.: Oh, no, no. You just hung on until they came and then you did it.

There was a lot of waiting about then?

K.S.: And yet, they never wanted you ever to not be doing something, for your money. And as I said, the ladies’ maids did the making of clothes and the alterations. And it was rather funny because my mother talked about these dresses, and she said, “Oh the ladies’ maid was up all night taking the braid off, and all the various things, and putting new on.” And I said, “What are you talking about?” And then I realised that the actual dress itself was in a sense, permanent, and it had different feathers and trimmings on. So that was the ladies’ maid’s job.

This page was added by Veronica Walker-Smith on 16/07/2015.

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