For over a century, the priority at Waddesdon has been to care for the House and its collections - and welcome guests.
In 1891, 24 indoor staff were recorded at Waddesdon. - a modest figure for a house this size, but explained by the fact that it was the home of two unmarried people. They included a steward, housekeeper, cook, kitchen, still room and scullery maids, eight housemaids, footmen, a porter, an attendant for the electric light, an odd job man, a hall boy and a needlewoman. Eight more staff were based at the Laundry and the Dairy and a further 16 at the Stables. The numbers would double when there was a house party with 30 guests.
Staff were kept discreetly hidden from guests as they went about their daily duties. There were two main staircases for visitors, but six service staircases around the building, carpeted to ensure quiet movement. The lift was used only for luggage.
Male and female servants' accommodation was separate, with women on the second floor of the main house and the men on the second floor of the Bachelors' Wing. The domestic service areas were grouped around the Kitchen and Servants' Hall - now the Manor Restaurant. Food was brought to the Pantry along the service corridor before being served.
Care of the Collection today
The excellent condition of the Collection owes much to ‘Miss Alice’s Rules’ - the housekeeping standards introduced by Alice de Rothschild. She installed blinds and covers to limit light exposure and forbade unnecessary handling of objects. Even King Edward VII was told not to touch the furniture during one of his visits.
Today, a team of dedicated stewards and conservation cleaners care for the Collection. The balance of daily cleaning for presentation to visitors is balanced with ongoing environmental monitoring and maintenance, such as checking light levels and changing light bulbs. Humidity levels are constantly monitored and controlled using a computerised management system. And the team is responsible for winding the many clocks.
Putting the House to bed
From the end of October, the main part of the house is ‘put to bed’. Small objects are packed away, the furniture is cleaned and covered, and the historic carpets are rolled. Each room is cleaned from ceiling to floor, including the chandeliers, using a conservation vacuum cleaner and a range of brushes. Small objects and porcelain are cleaned in rotation.
During the winter we also work on major conservation projects and the installation of annual exhibitions. As spring approaches the rooms are reinstated, ready for another season, and the housekeeping cycle begins all over again.