£5m restoration of No1 Royal Crescent to reveal reality of servant’s life
TV dramas such as Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs have given us all an image of life as a servant in days gone by.
But the harsher reality of existence below stairs in Georgian times is to be explored in a new section of a Bath museum.
The No1 Royal Crescent attraction has just closed for work to give visitors an insight into servants’ lives by reconnecting the original staff quarters with the main house.
The £5 million restoration project at the Bath Preservation Trust museum is expected to take several months to complete and the organisation held a party on Sunday ahead of the closure.
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Visitors were able to take part in a number of activities showing life in the 18th century at the house, which was built between 1767 and 1774 and designed by John Wood the Younger as the first property in the world-famous crescent.
They were able to watch a cook rustle up a Georgian feast while children had the chance to play make-believe games, dressing up as servants or gentry.
Administrator Georgie Swindells said the event had proved both popular and informative.
“We had quite a few people coming in and we had our Georgian cook Annie busy in the kitchen making cakes in the morning and ice cream in the afternoon,” she said.
“I think people are very excited about the restoration. We will have an extra five rooms and people will be able to see more of the servants’ side of life. I think people will be surprised at how hard they worked.”
Visitors could also take away recipe sheets and vote for their favourite item to appear in an exhibition called Home Truths.
Although the museum’s main rooms are closed while the restoration work takes place, there will be a shop for people looking for Christmas gifts.
The property has been giving visitors a glimpse of Georgian life for more than 40 years, and 50 volunteer guides, who had seen many of the two million visitors over that time, were thanked for their efforts ahead of the six-month closure.
They were joined by nine pupils from St Andrew’s Primary School, who worked as guides earlier this year.
Trust chief executive Caroline Kay said: “No1 Royal Crescent can only open to the public thanks to our volunteer guides. They are vital in making visitors feel welcome and bringing the house to life.”
Over the next six weeks, more than 1,000 artefacts from four floors of the museum will be carefully packed and put into storage, while the trust will also be recruiting 60 additional guides to join the 100 existing volunteers.
Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Anna White on 01225 338 727 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.