Last month, on a beautiful day, I went to visit the Garden of Historic Roses at Drum Castle with my lovely neighbour Betty. We had such a great time. Here is the gate into the gardens. Can you see that the ironwork makes a thistle pattern? And you may also spy a stuffed rabbit clinging to the top of the gate. I’d assumed that some poor child had lost its beloved stuffed animal – but I was wrong! It’s intended as a warning to visitors to please keep the gate closed, lest the rabbits (real ones) come in.
After such a rainy, rainy summer (the wettest summer in Britain for 100 years), the roses were a bit bedraggled. I see that Michael and I came here almost exactly two years ago, after a sunnier summer (post is here). But the garden was still extremely lovely:
Here’s another bench inviting us to sit down and enjoy the view:
The garden is divided into four sections, the 20th century back to the 17th. The older roses had finished, but the 20th century part of the garden was still full of colour, and not only from the roses:
After our visit we walked up through the beautiful trees…
… to the castle, where we had a cup of tea in what used to be the kitchens.
There, thinking of the many servants that once kept the ovens stoked and the whole castle operating, Betty regaled me with stories of an Aberdonian lady she used to know. This lady was hired in her teens by an aristocratic family as a servant, in the 1920s. It came about because one of the family’s servants had left them when they were on their way through Aberdeen to stay in Royal Deeside. She ended up staying with the family for something like 20 years, following them from London to their various Scottish estates throughout the year, and rising through the ranks to become a lady’s maid. Betty told me some of her tales – including that the Royal Family tried to pinch her, but the housekeeper wouldn’t allow her to go, and told her she would be paid far less and have less time off. Who knows if this is true, but it makes a good story! She then married during the Second World War, a time of great change in society, when many people were no longer happy to be employed as servants because they had better options.
I enjoyed reading House-Bound by Winifred Peck, a novel set in Edinburgh during the Second World War, which tells the story of a genteel lady who must learn to get along without servants. Persephone Books also publishes How to Run Your Home Without Help by Kay Smallshaw, which I haven’t read. I do actually have wonderful help in the form of my husband Michael, and the Dafter when she is well. What I need now is a slim volume entitled How to Keep Your Garden Tidy Without Actually Doing Anything!
I hope you’ve all had a very relaxing weekend.