Soul to Sole project, that will find its place in the basement at Croome Court, will be multimedia installation that shows, in a vivid way, who were the people who lived at Croome Court. I’m exciting to research the life of ‘downstairs’ girls and Fanny Ward was one of them.
To start with the project I have researched not just my chosen character, but the life of domestic servants in late Victorian and early Edwardian time. Who were they? What was their daily list of chores in the household? What they will do on their days off? Did they love their job? What was their background before they became servants for the wealthy family? How they lived in a great mansion? How did their little rooms look like?
The last question is my base point for this project. I’m planning to re-create Fanny’s small room at Croome. To do this I had to find out what items such a room might content. The look of the rooms varied from house to house (depending on family’s wealth, the size of the household or, simply, a good will of the master) and here is the list of most common items:
– simple wooden or iron framed bed
– a small window with simple curtains
– locked box with personal belongings (the master or mistress where not suppose to have a key)
– chamber pot
– candlestick or gas lamp
– bedding (pillowcase and sheets, usually grey blanket, comforter, calico coverlet)
– small table and chair
– working uniform
– pitchers and washbowl
– cup and teapot
– the picture on the wall
The second part of my project are words – written, spoken or just thoughts. Letters, diaries, Master’s orders, rules, or daily duty list, anything that might occupy the servant’s mind. A diary notes about the last Sunday’s morning in the church, a piece of worrying news from home, instructions for china cleaning or house rules.
Never let your voice to be heard by the ladies and gentlemen of the house. Always stand still when spoken to by a lady and look at the person speaking to you. Never offer any opinion to your employers, nor even to say good night. Never call from one room to another. Always answer when you have received an order. Never talk to another servant in presence of your mistress. Be punctual at meal times. No gambling, or oaths, or abusive language are allowed. No servant is to receive any visitor into the house. The servants’ hall is to be cleared and closed at 10.30 at night. Any breakage or damage to the house will be deducted from wages.
Wake up. Sweep the rooms.Open windows. Clean fireplaces. Take hot water upstairs. Breakfast. Clean bedrooms. Empty slops and refill the coal buckets. Lunch. Put clean towels out. Answer call from mistress. Clean glass and china in the drawing room. Sewing time.Take up more hot water. Lit lamps. Tidy bedrooms. Made up bedroom fires for the night. Go to bed.
At Croome, I met a shoemaker and designer Maud van den Broecke from London, who is working with the artists on the project. We agreed on the final design of the pair of shoes that she will be making for me. That will be a pair of black leather Mary Janes, hand embroidered with daily chores of the housemaid. I feel there is something symbolic to name all daily duties on the pair of shoes because at the end of the day, the shoes that were worn would walk miles and miles up and down the house. I’m so excited about this part of the project and I can’t wait to see them done.
The left shoe pattern has done