Upstairs, Downstairs at Cliffe Castle

Ian, one of our volunteers at Cliffe Castle, has written us another short blog with the latest ‘gossip’ he’s discovered as he continues to transcribe items in the Butterfield Archive.  He writes:

Dating from 1907 there are a fascinating sequence of letters where Henry Isaac Butterfield dictates letters to a servant, Charles Parker to his son Frederick William Louis Butterfield but Parker also personally writes to him giving him the low down about what is going on behind the scenes.

Charles Parker
Charles Parker

Although written to Frederick , HI’s heir they have a feeling of backstairs gossip. Although having more than a touch of Uriah Heap about him, always signing off “yours respectfully” or “every respectful wish for you all” , it doesn’t prevent him from using a number of colourful nicknames, James Wright HI’s man of business is usually referred to as “Old Methody, the old sot” and Henry Isaac  himself is the “old master” or the “old firm”. In his letters people “jaw” or “talk rot”.

He is an engaging correspondent and the following gives a flavour of the backstairs intrigue engaged in.

This afternoon that rotten T.L.B  has been and stayed until 8 o’clock .I was sick of his talk and said I will go and get my tea and did so but bethought all at once and got up to hear if ought important was said  , could not hear any talking for a bit when lo, I heard a footstep upstairs and saw your Dad coming down.

“Oh” says I “is that it?” So when he came down he shuts the room door, I hopped upstairs and looked to see if he had been for his pocket book , no it was there, then I bethought me of that bracelet I told Mrs Butterfield he had given to Mrs B.S but which I found after I had wrote , he had not, well as I say I looked to see if it had gone ; no it was there, then I looked into his pocket book , the one he carries if he goes off anywhere and he had it yesterday and I know he had £25 in £5 notes, no that was alright, then I looked into the other where I had put £100 in £20 notes and lo and behold the old firm had taken 4 out and now tomorrow I must see if he has any about his pockets , if not you can depend upon it he has given that lousy devil £20 and it’s an infernal shame , of course I won’t let him off without telling him I know it but will have to wait a few days until he forgets how I was able to get to know”.

Mrs B.S refers to Kitty Ballard Smith, Henry Isaac’s niece and Frederick’s cousin.  We retained the original punctuation!

I think this gives a wonderful flavour of life literally below stairs and it’s like something from one of the Italian operas Henry Isaac Butterfield so loved – you can almost hear the Rossini playing in the background as the intrigues unravel .

Henry Isaac Butterfield, painted by Lonsdale.
Henry Isaac Butterfield in later years, painted by Lonsdale.

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