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Our house in Gower Street


Domestic arrangements
John Julius Norwich Writer
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Servants in those days were a) necessary because there were no labour-saving devices at all, and b) they were a dime-a-dozen, I mean they were... £20, £30 a year is what a housemaid cost in those days. My parents married on £1100 a year and they had a staff of four, increased to five when I was born. They had a cook, my father had a valet, my mother had a maid and there was a housemaid or perhaps two housemaids. And that was normal. I say, there was no labour-saving devices, no nice easy vacuum cleaners and that sort of thing. It was a major battle in the kitchen, of course, it was far more complicated on a huge, great Aga stove. It wasn't even an Aga, but it was an enormous, great stove that looked like an Aga but it wasn't nearly as good as an Aga.

When I was a small boy living in Gower Street, I don't think we had a refrigerator at all. We had a larder where things were covered with wire netting to keep the flies off, but that was the only cool place we had. We had a very primitive refrigerator at Bognor which worked on gas. It was brown and worked on gas. But we did have ice in our drinks at Bognor, I remember that; I don't know if we ever did much in London in Gower Street.

John Julius Norwich (1929-2018) was an English popular historian, travel writer and television personality. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, at Eton, at the University of Strasbourg and on the lower deck of the Royal Navy before taking a degree in French and Russian at New College, Oxford. He then spent twelve years in H.M. Foreign Service, with posts at the Embassies in Belgrade and Beirut and at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. In 1964 he resigned to become a writer. He is the author of histories of Norman Sicily, the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire and, most recently, 'The Popes: A History'. He also wrote on architecture, music and the history plays of Shakespeare, and presented some thirty historical documentaries on BBC Television.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: servants, kitchen, Aga, refrigerator

Duration: 1 minute, 44 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018