Wimpole Royal Upstairs Downstairs


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Wimpole

Tim Wonnacott and Rosemary Shrager are at Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire, following in the footsteps of Queen Victoria, who visited here with Prince Albert in 1843.


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Just how do you prepare for the arrival of a queen,

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and not just any old queen, Victoria?

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Like a couple of Victoria groupies,

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we are pursuing her around the country to the magnificent mansion she visited.

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We'll be delving into her personal diaries

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to reveal what happened behind closed doors.

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Today we're visiting Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire.

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Victoria came here with Albert in 1843.

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She was 24 years of age and had been on the throne for six years.

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As someone who has spent a lifetime exploring country houses,

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I'll be upstairs discovering some mod cons

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that might have excited Victoria.

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I love it, don't you? Look, gas off or sunlight.

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And as a chef who loves great food,

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I'll be recreating an amazing Victorian pudding.

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Lift it up very, very gently.

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Fantastic!

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-What will my own prince make of it?

-Looks positively naughty.

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Here at Wimpole Hall, we're only ten miles from Cambridge

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with its hallowed walls, academic life and famous university,

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which is where Victoria and Albert had been visiting in October 1843

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before coming on to Wimpole.

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Albert had just received an honorary degree from Trinity College, Cambridge.

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This greatly pleased Victoria as a sign that Albert was starting to be accepted by her subjects.

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But in her diary she records that she wasn't pleased by the crowds,

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who fought to get a glimpse of the celebrity couple.

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DISTANT CHEERING

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Poor exhausted Victoria said that the crowds in Cambridge were awful.

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They were looking forward to a relaxing time at Wimpole.

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Peace and quiet, though, were very hard to come by.

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Because here at Wimpole Hall,

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they were in for a rollicking time of dancing, eating and even a visit to the farm.

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I'm going to find out how the poor servants coped with the royal onslaught.

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I'm going to find out how the royal guests fared upstairs.

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This rather lovely red brick pile dates back to the mid-17th Century,

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a couple hundred years before Victoria and Albert's visit.

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The hosts to the royal party were the fourth Earl and Countess of Hardwicke.

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He was a vice-admiral in the navy and had been nicknamed Old Blow Hard.

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We don't know how he and Victoria got to know each other, but we do know that she held him in high regard.

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Victoria was obviously fond of her host here at Wimpole.

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Indeed the year before the visit she wrote,

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"Lord Hardwicke, the Queen, that's me, likes very much.

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"He seems so straightforward."

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He was clearly a man that she felt that she could trust.

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And he did like everything absolutely shipshape.

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For example, over there is the charming,

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meandering, snaky old drive approaching the house

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which shows off its elongated frontage to best advantage.

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The trouble was Victoria and Albert were coming here from Cambridge, over there.

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And so that they didn't have to spend that extra mile on the turnpike

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he had another driveway charge straight through his park

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so they could get here easier,

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which has now been grassed over.

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And after the visit, he named it Victoria Drive.

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Well, having splashed the cash I guess you can't really blame him

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for advertising the fact that the Queen had come to call.

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The host, Old Blow Hard's shipshape approach

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even extended downstairs where the Queen wouldn't see.

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At the heart of every great house is the housekeeper's sitting room where she would guard over her stores.

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This is one of the best preserved stores I have ever seen!

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Look at the spices, the teas!

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All this was incredibly valuable.

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She must have kept it under lock and key.

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Being in this room, you get a real feeling of just how important the housekeeper was.

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Sitting in this chair,

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she could see who was coming and going.

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But the key thing is the toffs don't know they're being watched.

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Despite the Hall's rigid upstairs, downstairs etiquette,

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this wonderful book shows just how closely the Earl

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and his senior servant, the house steward Francis Hart, worked together.

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In it, they recorded every detail of life at Wimpole,

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including Victoria's visit.

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By the time the Queen finally arrived here, at about 5pm,

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the house steward records, "It was so dark on her entering the park

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"that lamps placed at intervals and at the steps were lit."

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So our man the Earl wanted to make quite sure

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the house was looking at its best. Fine, but I wonder whether Victoria

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actually noticed because her journal makes no mention of it.

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She merely writes, using the old-fashioned use of the term,

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"I felt knocked up and somewhat tired." Hmm.

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To make sure those upstairs enjoyed their visit, downstairs had to be well organised.

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And at Wimpole, this is the corridor of power.

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This is the women's end of the servants quarters.

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The housekeeper was in charge, the kitchen is back there, the maids are through here.

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In here is the servants' dining room where the men and women came together to eat.

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And this is the butler's domain

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where butlering today is our food historian Ivan Day.

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-KNOCK ON DOOR

-Come in!

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Hello, Ivan. Am I allowed in here? This is the men's quarters.

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Just this once.

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So what was this room used for?

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Well, this is the butler's pantry

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which was really the control centre for all the male servants in the household,

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because the butler was their boss and he gave them their orders at the beginning of each day.

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So this would be a hive of activity, especially with the occasion like a royal visit because he looked after

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the major investments of the owner of the house which was all the valuable wine in the wine cellar,

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but also all of the plates and the porcelain, that was his responsibility.

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The servants rooms down here are very much men at one end, women at the other.

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-The bedrooms where the maids sleep...

-Yes.

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..which are very tiny and very basic,

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are as far away as possible

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from the bedrooms where all of the grooms and the footmen...

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That end, that end. Fantastic!

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And to get to them, you would have to get past the housekeeper

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or the steward or the butler, and they would reprimand you if you went anywhere near them.

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-So they couldn't get up to any naughty business, then?

-Well, there was that, yes.

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One of the big problems often you've got in a big house like this was pilfering.

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And the wine here, for instance, is not only guarded by the butler,

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-but to get to it you'd have to go through the steward's room.

-Mmm.

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The steward is the major servant who runs the whole estate and the butler

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and the housekeeper, although they are senior servants, they have to answer to him. He was a real boss.

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But the housekeeper was in charge of the female line of servants and the butler looked after all of the men

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and so you had these two lines of orders.

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Yes. So they were equal in status -

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she's the top of the women and he's the top of the men.

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-But not equal in pay.

-No.

-But both with equal responsibilities.

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Absolutely.

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One of the butler's many tasks was to supervise the cleaning

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of the silver, and in posh country houses

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they made their own silver cleaner from some surprising ingredients.

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They used to burn deer antlers.

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-Really?!

-And the hooves, and calcidum, and you get something which was called hartshorn,

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which was in fact ammonium carbonate,

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which is a very caustic and alkaline substance,

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but it cleans all of the oxide and tarnish off the silver.

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Let me see if I can see my face in it.

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-I can, actually!

-HE LAUGHS

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You've been polishing very well.

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As well as shiny silver, the Earl wanted the whole house

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to impress Victoria, but there was a bit of a problem.

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At its heart, Wimpole was around 200 years old when Victoria visited

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so the reception rooms were modest in size as was the fashion when they were built.

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So the Earl has a special room ready for Victoria and Albert's dinner

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on the first night - the yellow drawing room.

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And you can understand why he chose this room.

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There is a sense of grandeur about it,

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indeed drama.

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And that's because 50 years before Victoria's visit

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the fourth Earl's predecessor...

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'this chap, the third Earl, made the room dramatically bigger.

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'But because it's in the middle of the house,'

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he couldn't go out so he went up.

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He knocked out the floor above and squeezed this elegant dome into the old structure.

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And just to be absolutely sure the room passed muster, our man,

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the fourth Earl, redecorated just before Victoria arrived.

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It must have looked absolutely radiant.

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Now, this room has one other special feature in that very dome, one of the house's two ventilating gas lights.

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This was the cutting edge technology of the era,

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fed from a gas works on the estate and especially designed

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to draw the vapours from a room out through the chimney above.

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The ventilating gas light was regulated using this charming brass dial. I love it, don't you?

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Look, gas off, full on, or sunlight.

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What a wonderful term to describe what would be no doubt

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just a warm glow from way up there in the cupola.

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Historians have wondered whether they were installed especially

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for Victoria's visit, but I think it is unlikely.

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In the 1840s, gas lighting was still very new and was considered rather common by the upper classes.

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One thing is certain, dinner for Victoria on her first night

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was meant to be anything but common.

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But despite all the meticulous preparations for the royal dinner,

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things did not go exactly to plan.

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The table was laid up for 24 people,

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all the great and the good of the county were here

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so it was a pretty snug fit, but things were due to get a whole lot snugger.

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In the house records, the Earl's steward writes that on the pretence of helping to serve dinner

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the servants of the other house guests elbowed their way into the dining room.

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He says, "It were not good at this point."

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The fact was the servants of the guests got in,

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being curious to see the queen and threw Lord Hardwicke's servants

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into a complete confusion

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so the poor old Earl's meticulous plans went down the toilet.

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Now, where's that Rosemary?

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Hi. Actually, Tim, we servants are about to cook your supper.

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I'm lining a bowl with soft butter in preparation for a dessert

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that was incredibly popular at the time of Victoria's visit here, steamed cabinet pudding.

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We're going to cut up some little pieces of these glace cherries and

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you are going to stick them around the mould in a nice regular pattern.

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That is very thick of butter.

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Perfect. It's going to act as a glue.

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-Yes.

-But also as a releasing agent so that we do get the pudding out.

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-These are dried cherries, and something the housekeeper will be keeping in her room.

-Exactly, yes.

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Just like the butler kept his wine in the wine cellar, she kept all of her dry goods in the dry larder.

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-Yes.

-And, of course, we would now call these glace cherries.

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So I'm just going to pop it in.

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'The cherries are placed in a regular pattern all round the mould.

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'This posh Victorian cooking is so intricate.

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'Imagine how nerve wracking it would have been knowing Victoria was the person you were making it for.'

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I'm going to put it in the ice over here.

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The ice will make the butter solidify.

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and those cherries will be absolutely stuck on the surface.

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Otherwise they will slip down, won't they?

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Next, some chopped homemade candied lemon peel.

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That is wonderful.

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Straight off the tree into the syrup so it is really, really fresh.

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Am I doing these the right size?

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-That's absolutely perfect.

-OK, good.

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The butter has solidified, holding the cherries firmly in place.

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Now we fill the mould with layers of crumbled sponge cakes, macaroons, ratafias, little almond biscuits.

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-We're going to carefully fill it.

-Is that about right, those sizes?

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That's perfect. So if we put a little layer in and stop because you need to put in a bit of peel now.

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-Oh, right.

-So we're going to build a layer of sponge,

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a layer of sponge and ratafia.

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We've probably got more than enough there. I'll put a bit of peel in.

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Next we make a custard with half a pint of full cream milk,

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half a pint of fresh cream,

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one and a half ounces of sugar

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and finally, three whole eggs and one egg yolk.

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Then you can beat it, but just gently, we don't need to whip it up into a froth or anything like that.

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Well, that's just a lovely custard.

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It's one of the most favourite flavours of the Victorian period.

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I'm sure that Queen Victoria would have loved it.

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Now we pour the custard carefully into the mould.

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All of that lovely custard

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will just soak in to those wonderful ratafias...

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..and the sponge and the macaroons.

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We need to let that settle because all of that custard will just get

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-sucked in by the holes in the sponge.

-How did it go?

-That's right!

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Did you know that sponge was called that because originally

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sponge biscuits were for dipping into wine and soaking up the wine?

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-I never knew that.

-I will just put the rest of that in. It has soaked for a while now

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so I think it will probably be settled. If I take the mould out...

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Let me get hold of it first. Right, you get that ice out of the way.

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-Yes.

-And put that down there.

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-Could you put the lid on while I hold it steady?

-Of course.

-You will have to turn it round.

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-There we go, it's fitted beautifully.

-Right.

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We'll let that rest for about 20 minutes and then straight into the steamer.

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There's another first-hand account of Victoria's visit to Wimpole

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from her young maid of honour, Eleanor Stanley.

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On the morning of Victoria's second day here as the clock struck nine,

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Victoria sailed through the entrance hall to the chapel.

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She was going to her morning prayers.

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Except those servants were about to cause another hiccup.

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HE HICCUPS

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Down there...

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the chapel was full of servants.

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Why?

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Well, Eleanor, Victoria's maid of honour, reckons that the household hadn't cleared the servants because,

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"Having no notice that she was coming in at all

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"and no idea that she would walk straight into the chapel

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"without saying a word to anybody."

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So Victoria found herself confronted with a chapel full of servants.

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How distressing.

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I know the feeling.

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-Oi, what are you doing down there?

-Well, Tim, it's not my fault.

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This chapel was also used by the domestic staff

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to assemble in the morning to receive their orders for the day.

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The bell is nearby so if they ring...

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..they can scurry off really quickly, which is exactly where I'm going.

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Can't be soon enough for me.

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Anyway, the faux pas was not grave,

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the Queen simply shrugged it off and laughed.

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And her cheeky maid records,

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"It was all her own fault for not giving notice of her intentions."

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But if she ever did get a moment in this room,

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she would have been swept away by its beauty.

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The lavish baroque decoration dates from the 1720s

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and it's full of visual trickery.

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All of the architecture above the panelling is actually magnificent

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trompe l'oeil painted effects,

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giving the 3D impression of depth, light and shadow.

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Having created these images, the artist wanted to make

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quite sure everyone who had done such a good paint job.

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No indistinct miserable little squiggle of a signature in one corner of the room for this artist, oh, no.

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For Sir James Thornhill, it's bold as brass above the door.

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Well, they do say it pays to advertise.

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In large country houses like Wimpole those of us downstairs had to remain invisible to the toffs

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so some doors had a special surface to make sure no servants wandered into the wrong room by accident.

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Now, this is really interesting.

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Imagine you had got up at five o'clock in the morning,

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really early, really tired and it's dark around the place

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and you come to this door and you're feeling it

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and you feel these raised dots.

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This is a warning.

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There is someone on the other side who doesn't want to see you.

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Victoria's host, the fourth Earl of Hardwicke, wasn't only a sailor,

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but also a great farming enthusiast.

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This is Home Farm, a model farm built by the Earl's father.

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We know the royal couple came here during their stay because in her diary Victoria records,

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"We walked to the farm which is beautiful and there was a heifer being fathered, a great beauty.

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"Also young calves, pigs and fowls."

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Albert was interested in examining various ploughs. Typical bloke, eh?

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The current farm manager, Richard Morris, explains why this model farm was set up.

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He was a chap who was interested in agriculture and agricultural

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improvement. He looked around the country and he wanted to bring the ideas home to show his farm managers

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and his tenants so he got Sir John Soane to design the farm and the built it here and they brought back

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the quality of stock and they brought in the mechanisation,

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and then they brought in neighbours, tenants, managers, to learn about best practice.

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We know from Victoria's diary that she came down to the farm.

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-Is this the sort of beast that she would have seen down here at that time?

-Definitely.

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This is an English Longhorn, developed late 1700s by farmers

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who realised that due to genetics in animals, it had the potential

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to produce a lot more food so they started cross breeding and this chap is a result of that breeding.

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And these slowly spread through the whole country

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during the next 30-40 years. So he will have been about at the time.

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But in agriculture things were all changing in the 1840s and 1850s in Britain, weren't they?

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It was an unbelievably exciting time to be involved with agriculture.

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Everything was changing, the genetics of the animals, the development of breeds,

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species of crops that were grown in the field, the sort of agronomy that was used

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to increase those yields of those crops, and also mechanisation played a massive part in the growth

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of the sort of output of farms and profit.

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This is before we get steam traction engines and all the rest of it,

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-because they are here in the 1850s, aren't they?

-That's right.

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We know from documented evidence that a static steam engine was put in our woodyard here by 1851.

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Undoubtedly before that the mobile steam engines will have started

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to come in and do jobs like thrashing of the corn.

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Victoria does record seeing

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the fathering of a show heifer for Smithfield. What does that mean?

0:20:540:21:00

Well, to spare her blushes, it actually meant that the heifer was being put in calf by a bull.

0:21:000:21:05

-Being mounted by...

-Being mounted by a big chap like this, yes.

0:21:050:21:08

Crikey! That would be quite a sight, wouldn't it?

0:21:080:21:12

-Quite impressive, and it happens quite quickly.

-Does it?

0:21:120:21:14

-Yes. For the heifer's benefit.

-Well, that's a relief for Victoria.

0:21:140:21:18

Perhaps Victoria and Albert took some inspiration

0:21:200:21:24

from their visit here because within two short years, they had set up

0:21:240:21:30

their very own model farm at Osbourne House on the Isle of Wight.

0:21:300:21:35

How sweet!

0:21:350:21:36

Back in the butler's pantry, our cabinet pudding has now been steamed.

0:21:380:21:42

I've taken it out of the saucepan and I've let it rest for about 20 minutes

0:21:420:21:46

so if you could just gently pull that off, it should come off easily.

0:21:460:21:49

-I think I have to do it down here on the floor.

-I'll hold it steady for you.

0:21:490:21:52

-Well done.

-Got it.

0:21:530:21:55

Right. Now, hopefully, that looks pretty good, doesn't it?

0:21:550:21:58

-Yes, that looks pretty good.

-What we've got to do is kind of...

0:21:580:22:01

-Shall I?

-Just like that trick. No, you invert that over it...

-OK.

0:22:010:22:06

And then if you just go like that, I'll slide it into the middle.

0:22:060:22:10

-Ah, now.

-OK. Now, this is very... Just let it rest for a little while.

0:22:100:22:15

-Gravity will do its trick.

-Yes.

-We hope.

0:22:150:22:18

There's a lord up there waiting, and a queen, for their pudding.

0:22:180:22:22

If I can't get this out, we've got scrambled egg. So I'm going to pray

0:22:220:22:27

to the pudding god and just hope that we manage to do it!

0:22:270:22:31

Just give it a very gentle little shake.

0:22:310:22:34

-Can you feel it glooping out?

-Yes.

0:22:340:22:36

Is it coming?

0:22:360:22:38

Just give it a little shake, that's it. Hey, it's coming.

0:22:380:22:41

Yes, lift it up very, very gently.

0:22:420:22:45

Fantastic!

0:22:460:22:48

-Well done!

-HE LAUGHS

0:22:480:22:49

-Fantastic!

-That's fantastic.

-It's wonderful.

0:22:490:22:52

-It worked really well.

-I love it.

0:22:520:22:54

I love it!

0:22:540:22:56

To go with the cabinet pudding, a rich sauce made with rum,

0:22:560:23:00

brandy, white wine, orange and lemon,

0:23:000:23:03

a real adult extra.

0:23:030:23:05

It will lift this very delicate pudding into the realms of an alcoholic dream.

0:23:050:23:10

-It will be wonderful for you.

-One Victorian pudding ready to serve.

0:23:100:23:14

This was supposed to be a relaxing break for Victoria and Albert,

0:23:150:23:20

but on the second night this room hosted an event

0:23:200:23:25

which the Earl simply asked a few close mates to for a knees up.

0:23:250:23:30

300 close mates, actually.

0:23:300:23:33

It may well be one of the finest libraries of any house in the country

0:23:350:23:39

but I bet as guests partied away they weren't looking at the books.

0:23:390:23:43

The Times of the day records that,

0:23:430:23:47

"By 9.30pm the line of carriages arriving at the house

0:23:470:23:51

"could not have extended less than two miles.

0:23:510:23:55

"There was a two-mile queue back, it was raining heavily, just like today,

0:23:550:24:00

"with a boisterous wind, just like today,"

0:24:000:24:04

and by the time they got inside past the line of guardsmen

0:24:040:24:08

who had been drafted in as bouncers on the door,

0:24:080:24:12

they would have been in need of a jolly good drink.

0:24:120:24:16

Now you are talking my language.

0:24:160:24:19

Victoria and Albert arrived downstairs in this room at 10pm.

0:24:190:24:25

Victoria looked resplendent in a yellow brocade dress

0:24:250:24:29

with a wreath of roses in her hair. The guests no doubt were very excited

0:24:290:24:35

and in awe at the close proximity with which they found themselves

0:24:350:24:39

to their monarch, but for one poor young chap,

0:24:390:24:43

Victoria was about to get too close for comfort.

0:24:430:24:47

'The party moved into the Long Room to dance.'

0:24:480:24:51

There is a story about one unfortunate chap

0:24:520:24:57

called Caledon who was thrown into a complete panic

0:24:570:25:01

when he was told he was scheduled to dance with Her Majesty.

0:25:010:25:07

Caledon begged his cousin,

0:25:070:25:10

the magnificently named Balcarres Dalrymple Wardlaw Ramsay,

0:25:100:25:17

for a crash course in the dance steps.

0:25:170:25:20

So the two lads nicked a bottle of champagne,

0:25:200:25:24

snuck off into an adjoining room, and Ramsay records,

0:25:240:25:28

"The perspiration running down Caledon's face, I am tossing the champagne down his throat."

0:25:280:25:35

He at last heard his doom called out,

0:25:350:25:38

"Lord Caledon, Lord Caledon, the Queen's dance!"

0:25:380:25:43

It seems that Lord Hardwicke had noticed the poor boy's blind terror

0:25:430:25:49

and had tipped the wink to Queen Victoria who was already on the dance floor, because according to Ramsay

0:25:490:25:56

"She laughed heartily when Caledon came up

0:25:560:25:59

"looking like a malefactor being led for his execution."

0:25:590:26:04

Poor chap.

0:26:040:26:06

And after the Earl had invited 300 people

0:26:080:26:11

to his house for such a grand event, Victoria merely writes in her diary

0:26:110:26:16

that it was, "A very pretty LITTLE ball."

0:26:160:26:19

I think I'd be a bit peeved if that's all Victoria had said if I had gone to all that trouble.

0:26:190:26:24

Not as peeved as I'll be if you don't like my Victorian cabinet pudding.

0:26:240:26:29

What is this half a cannon ball you have brought me?

0:26:300:26:33

Now, this is called a cabinet pudding.

0:26:330:26:35

It's done with ratafia biscuits, sponge, soaked up with a custard and put some lovely lemon peel,

0:26:350:26:41

and with some cherries on the outside as you see.

0:26:410:26:44

But this is not quite finished yet.

0:26:440:26:48

We're going to pour some incredibly alcoholic sauce over the top...

0:26:480:26:53

-Oh, good.

-..which has in it some wine, some brandy...

-Oh, good.

0:26:530:26:57

-..some rum...

-Oh, yes.

0:26:570:26:58

..orange and lemon

0:26:580:27:00

and I'm just going to pour it over so it really soaks it all up.

0:27:000:27:05

It looks positively naughty, I have to say.

0:27:050:27:07

Well, in the Victorian times, they were naughty.

0:27:070:27:10

They put alcohol in SO many things. I'm going to serve you some of this.

0:27:100:27:15

-Now, I have to pour the alcohol over.

-I like the sound of this.

0:27:150:27:19

-I know you do.

-More juice, please.

-No, don't be greedy!

-Oh, all right.

0:27:190:27:24

-I'm going to take a little bit for myself.

-Listen you...

0:27:240:27:28

A little bit for yourself! I'm not sure cook hasn't already

0:27:280:27:32

-been on the sauce, if you don't mind my saying so.

-Come on, Tim, try it.

0:27:320:27:36

Stand by for this.

0:27:360:27:37

Is smoke going to come out of my ears?

0:27:370:27:40

Oh, my God!

0:27:440:27:46

I tell you what's so good, is that out of this alcohol you get fantastic fruits, don't you?

0:27:500:27:55

I rather like eating my alcohol though,

0:27:550:27:58

-it makes such a change to pouring it down the throat in another way. Brilliant.

-Wonderful.

0:27:580:28:03

Next time on Royal Upstairs Downstairs, we'll be at Belvoir Castle

0:28:050:28:09

where Victoria continues her campaign to improve Albert's image

0:28:090:28:12

with a PR stunt at the castle's hunt.

0:28:120:28:16

Do you think they all came to watch Albert fall off?

0:28:170:28:20

I think that's always at the back of hunting people's minds.

0:28:200:28:23

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:28:470:28:50

E-mail [email protected]

0:28:500:28:53

Antiques expert Tim Wonnacott and chef Rosemary Shrager travel in the footsteps of Queen Victoria to the castles and stately homes she visited throughout her life. Using her own diaries and other first-hand accounts of her visits, they discover the extraordinary preparations that were undertaken, and exactly what happened during the visits.

Victoria visited Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire with Prince Albert in 1843. She was just 24 years old but had already been queen for six years. Albert had just received an honorary degree from Trinity College Cambridge, which greatly pleased Victoria as a sign that he was starting to be accepted by her subjects. But she wasn't pleased by the crowds who fought to get a glimpse of the celebrity couple.

Drawing on an amazing book that was kept by the host, the Earl of Hardwicke, and his steward, Tim tells the stories of how the driveway was moved to make it easier for Victoria's carriage, how some pesky visiting servants got in the way at dinner, and how another lot of servants surprised Queen Victoria in the chapel. He's also shown around the Hall's Home Farm - a model farm that Victoria and Albert visited. Today it's still a working farm reintroducing Victorian breeds.

Rosemary discovers the secret of how servants made sure they didn't accidentally stray into the wrong areas of the house through a special surface applied to the doors downstairs, and how the hierarchy worked in the wonderful downstairs rooms at Wimpole that remain just as they were during Victoria's visit. With food historian and chef Ivan Day, Rosemary painstakingly recreates a typical Victorian dessert: steamed cherry cabinet pudding with a very alcoholic sauce. They also make a silver cleaning polish using deer antlers as an ingredient.