Book Review

‘Minding the Manor: The Memoir of a 1930s English Kitchen Maid’ by Mollie Moran

mtm mmSTORY: Born in 1916 in Norfolk, Mollie Moran is one of the few people still alive today who can recall working “downstairs” in the golden years of the early 1930’s before the outbreak of WWII. She provides a rare and fascinating insight into a world that has long since vanished. Mollie left school at age fourteen and became a scullery maid for a wealthy gentleman with a mansion house in London’s Knighsbridge and a Tudor manor in Norfolk.

Even though Mollie’s days were long and grueling and included endless tasks, such as polishing doorknobs, scrubbing steps, and helping with all of the food prep in the kitchen, she enjoyed her freedom and had a rich life. Like any bright-eyed teenager, Mollie also spent her days daydreaming about boys, dresses, and dances. She became fast friends with the kitchen maid Flo, dated a sweet farmhand, and became secretly involved with a brooding, temperamental footman. Molly eventually rose to kitchen maid for Lord Islington and then cook for the Earl of Leicester’s niece at the magnificent Wallington Hall.

REVIEW: This is the biography of a young English woman who became a scullery maid in the 1930’s. Mollie began work at the tender age of 14 and learned very quickly that her day was to be very long with lots of hard work. Up at 6:30AM, she had a list of chores to do before 8:00AM when she could get some breakfast. She had to scrub the front steps, blacklead the grate, polish the hearth, light the range fire, put the kettles on, scrub the kitchen floors and passageways, scrub the long kitchen table including the legs, set the kitchen table for staff breakfast and help the kitchen maid start cooking their breakfast. Mollie soon learned that she did not want to incur the wrath of Mrs. Jones, the cook. During the day, she is busy preparing vegetables and washing up all of the dishes, including scrubbing and polishing the cook’s favorite copper pots. When her day ended at 9:30PM, she was truly exhausted.

She was soon joined by the new kitchen maid, Flo, who became her very best friend for life. Their friendship helped both of them get through the rough times of their jobs. They also enjoyed their time off together just barely staying out of trouble with Mrs. Jones. Flo taught Mollie a lot about cooking and both girls gleaned great cooking knowledge from Mrs Jones.

Mollie is the narrator of the book sharing her experiences, foolish mistakes she made in life plus the fun times that she managed to wring out of every free hour she had.

Now at the age of 94, Mollie is still going strong. Her stories of life below stairs is probably the best account I’ve ever read. It’s in-depth without being boring and I absorbed the knowledge like a sponge. She also tells us of the hardships that many people faced during those times and the historical events that she witnessed.

This is a book that every person who is fascinated with Downton Abbey will love. If you love this time period and are curious about life below stairs, do read “Minding the Manor.” You won’t want to put it down.

Connie for b2b


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