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The Warp

Domestic Empires

For centuries houses like Eye, Berrington, Croft, had been a loose coalition of various domestic empires, each of them with its own territory presided over by cook, butler, scullery maid, pantry maid, or whoever.

There was the silver room with its stout lock and huge safe door presided over by the butler; the larder, a room colder than the rest where the food was kept; the pantry where the china twinkled from glass fronted cupboards; the scullery where the cooking utensils were washed up; and the kitchen itself.

The days of servants to take charge of these empires were now past. The jobs in the munitions factories in the war had put an end to most domestic service.

Now, in cooking and washing up for ourselves, we wandered through these former empires.

Right up to my parents’ last days in the house, something as simple as cooking an egg or boiling up water for a cup of tea involved visits to a number of different rooms, along stone-flagged or tiled corridors. The cups, teapot and tray would come from the pantry, lit from above, the scullery was the source of water, and finally there would be a visit to the kitchen to boil water on the huge Esse stove.


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