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from TeaAntiques.com
Edition One Hundred and Nineteen

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Featured Antique - Worcester Pear Shaped Milk Jug and Cover, moulded fluted body, shallow domed cover with flower finial. Decorated in underglaze cobalt blue and rich gilding, c1775

A rare and beautiful First Period Worcester pear shaped milk jug and cover with flower finial, c1775. Decorated with underglaze cobalt blue bands to the rim of the jug and cover, richly embellished with fine gilded decoration, this is a charming and delightful milk jug and cover with a vertically moulded body. This is certainly a fine early Worcester jug that is in excellent condition for the connoisseur collector.

More details of this item and other tea related antiques can be found by visiting my web site at www.TeaAntiques.com.

Stansted House and Park, West Sussex

In this edition of the Tea Clipper, I visit to Stansted House and Park and explore the servants' spaces: "Below Stairs". Making our way downstairs to the maze of servant and domestic rooms, we find them pretty much as they would have been the moment the 10th Earl died. We pass through the Butler's Pantry, with entrance to the strong room in which the family silver would have been securely kept. This room would have been the centre of the Butler's activities as head of the domestic servants.

As the highest member of the domestic household, he also had his own bedroom and sitting room; basic, but comfortably furnished.

The rest of the male servants were not so fortunate to have a suite of rooms to themselves, they were in a large room divided by wooden partitioning and even then may have had to share a small area with another member of staff. Simple iron framed beds with little room for personal possessions is all that they had. Female members of staff frequented the attic rooms, thus keeping the sexes apart.

Many of the rooms below stairs were dedicated to specific tasks, the Boot Room, where boots were looked after, cleaned and repaired. The cellar, where all the fine wines for the house were stored in the cool in brick bins, with straw between the horizontal bottles.

In the corridor, a sluice room, where chamber pots would be emptied and slopped out by maids. Here the cast iron cistern bears the manufacturer's name 'Hellyer', I wonder if this was an ancestor of mine?

A panel of electric servant 'room indicators' would have kept the servants informed as to who required service and where in the house. If and when there was time for the servants to relax, they could do so in the Servants' Hall. Here they would take their meals and spend time relaxing, if they could, listening to the radiogram or record player, this one, an out of date model relegated from upstairs to the servants for their pleasure. This early example had a stack change to allow a stack of records to be loaded for playing at one time - quite innovative.

Although the female staff slept up in the attic rooms, they still worked below stairs. As another important member of the household, the House Keeper had her own room below stairs. This House Keeper's room is decorated in a pleasant light blue and comfortably furnished for her to carry out her duties, which included looking after all the starched white linen, towels, etc. Here she may carry out repairs to dresses, etc.

The rather dated kitchen does contain some 'mod-cons', including a 'modern' 20th century range, 'fridges, washing machine and mangles! It is fully equipped with copper saucepans, moulds of all sizes and descriptions to produce the fine and elegant dinners and afternoon teas for the above stairs way of life.

I had the pleasure as a child of meeting the 10th Earl of Bessborough and I even did a water colour painting of the house when I was 15 years old and entered it into an art exhibition at the house, for which he kindly gave me a signed copy of his book 'A place in the Forest' being the story of Stansted in West Sussex, by the Earl of Bessborough. A book I still treasure to this day.

The grounds around the house contain many specimen trees, trees were another love of the Earl and Countess, many of these can be enjoyed walking from the house to what was the walled vegetable garden and hot houses. From my early visits to the house I can remember these gardens being in full production supplying the house with much of its needs. The glass houses had grape vines, peaches, nectarines and loganberries. One of my father's cousins worked as a gardener in this very walled garden.

Other businesses have been brought into the estate in order to make it a going concern, including a yew maze, narrow gauge steam railway, garden centre and farm shop - so lots to see and do. I hope that should you get chance to visit 'my special' house, that you will very much enjoy what it now has to offer.

In the next Tea Clipper, I shall show you round the grand ground floor.

Amberley Castle Hotel

Not far from Stansted House is the Amberley Castle Hotel - a building and location steeped in history.

The land where Amberley Castle stands was gifted to Bishop Wilfrid in 683 AD by Caedwalla, King of Wessex. In the Doomsday Book it was recorded Amberley had 17 villagers and 25 smallholders at this time. The land then became the property of the Bishops of Chichester.

The current buildings have their origins in a timber-framed hunting lodge built by Bishop Luffa of Chichester in 1103. Many improvements were made over the centuries: a stone hall was built in 1140, the East Wing was built in 1200, the larger Great Hall was added in the early 14th Century when the Castle became the "Bishop of Chichester's Summer Palace".

The next bishop of Chichester knocked down the Great Hall and built an even bigger one! Crenellations, battlements and a portcullis completed the castle look and feel.

Henry VIII visited to seek advice about his potential divorce from Catherine d'Aragon, Elizabeth I leased the castle between 1377 and 1382. And the history continues with many changes of ownership and to the buildings. A full history (from which the above are excerpts) may be found here.

I wasn't here just for the history but to enjoy a festive afternoon tea with my nephew (who took many of the pictures).

Driving up the long drive you cannot fail to be impressed by the castle entrance with its crenellated skyline and a glimpse of the portcullis. The rather small car park is to the right of the drive; there is a short walk to the reception.

The tea had been booked for more than two months - so long is the waiting list; but it was worth the wait. The staff were very attentive as we were shown to our table and orders for tea were taken - I chose Earl Grey and Andrew chose Bai Jiguan Oolong from a long list of available teas. Before the tea arrived we were able to admire the Christmas decorations.

It wasn't long before the food was brought in - elegantly displayed on a 3-tier plate stand - plus a basket of Christmas fruit and plain scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam. Lots of delicate sandwiches, a wonderful selection of cakes and pastries on the middle tier, while on the top were a fruit mousse with crushed meringue and chantilly cream, some tiny gingerbread men and Belgium chocolate truffles.

Every food item was described by the waiter so we were really ready to enjoy them once he had finished. The scones were still hot from the oven and we were warned to take care not to burn ourselves.

Tea was taken at a leisurely pace in quiet peaceful surroundings; the amount of food did beat our appetites but we were given a cake box to take away what we could not manage so that we could enjoy them at home later. The quality of the food and service were excellent; teapots were refilled, pictures taken, appetites sated - a truly delightful occasion.

The entire experience took an hour and a half and we could have stayed longer as we felt under no pressure to leave. There are only eight tables in the tea room and only eight bookings are taken each afternoon - hence the waiting list - so, we could relax and not feel hurried that the next customer was about to appear to take over our table.

It was a dark by the time we left - well, it was the end of November and the winter nights were drawing in. The castle looked magical in the twilight as the light from the windows spilled out into the night sky.

Website: http://www.amberleycastle.co.uk/

Map: click here

Contact: +44 (0) 1798 831 992

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