A Day in the Life of Mrs Hannah Stratton
by Sarah Mallory, author of The Illegitimate Montague (Castonbury Park series)
Hannah Stratton is Castonbury Park’s excellent housekeeper. She has been at the great house for thirty years and considers herself almost part of the family. She is the keeper of the keys for everything, from the ice-house and the spice box to the tea-caddy and she is called to account for every last candle-end that is used at Castonbury Park. Since the death of the old duchess, Hannah’s role has become even more important and the Duke relies upon her run everything smoothly. She has her own sitting room which doubles as her workroom and next to it are the still room, store room and the china closets. Hannah is also in charge of the linen closets and the housemaids’ cupboards.
Hannah is a conscientious housekeeper. She is always up early and goes first to the still room where she prepares her jams, preserves, medicines and cosmetics, as well as liqueurs such as ratafia. Then it is back to the breakfast room to oversee the setting of the breakfast table with the finest table linen and china. Later she gives out the stores for the day before going back to the now-empty breakfast room to put away the preserves and supervise the clearing away.
Every morning she checks the bedrooms, making sure each room is supplied with soap, candles, writing paper and ink. At one o’clock you will find her at the servants dining table, carving one of the joints of meat while Lumsden carves the other. After the meal she may invite the senior servants to take cheese and pudding with her in her own sitting room.
Since afternoon tea has not yet come into vogue, Hannah then has a little time for her other duties – conferring with Smithins, the duke’s valet, to ascertain His Grace’s wishes for the day, compiling the list of provisions required for the house and managing the lower servants, settling disputes, encouraging poor workers and training up the servants to the perfection required in a grand household. Hannah must also look to all the household cleaning – perhaps she advocates brushing grated raw potatoes into a dirty carpet before brushing it clean and leaving it to dry, or maybe she prefers to turn carpets upside down to get the dust out, rather than beating them.
One of Hannah’s last tasks of the day is to set out the china and the tea and coffee which will be taken up to the drawing room after dinner. Everything must run like clockwork, for the art of the good housekeeper is to be inconspicuous – only when things go wrong, or are not done, will it be noticed.
It is always fun to imagine ourselves living in the past, but usually we think of what it would be like to be a lord or a lady, when the sad truth is that most of us would end up “below stairs”. Which role do you think would suit you best?
About the Book:
Adam Stratton is a new breed of Regency Man. A hero of Trafalgar, he is now an entrepreneur, rich beyond imagination. Yet all the money in the world can’t erase the scandal and shame of his birth.
Since childhood, Amber has been the only one to know Adam’s true value. And her memories of the housekeeper’s son at Castonbury were the only respite from her unhappy marriage.
Now a widow, Amber finds her new-found freedom daunting, although the sight of Adam gives her hope. But, despite their simmering attraction, putting their faith in each other may be more dangerous than they had bargained for…
Purchase The Illegitimate Montague on Harlequin.com.