Erddig House National Treasures

Erddig House

Dan Snow and Sian Williams are at Erddig House in North Wales, where they see what life was really like for Victorian servants. Sheila Hancock looks at female spies.

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A couple of weeks ago we asked you to is enin your national treasure.


And Nicky Tweeted, "I love Erddig Hall so much, it feels like you


have gone back in time." couldn't agree more. From Erddig


Hall, welcome to National Treasures Good evening, and welcome to Erddig


Hall. For two centuries well up until the late 1970s this was the


home of the Miss Work of Art. the surface, they were a typically


wealthy family, but behind this grand facade was a interesting


story. They were people like us who shared a love of history, but they


horded everything because this horse is a unique glimpse into 19th


century life and is perfectly preserved. We're joined by fans of


Erddig. What do you think is special about it? Erddig is so


unique. It's an atmosphere that brings people back here again and


again. What do you think is special? To me, it's just a family


homestead. You just feel like you can pull up a chair and have a cup


of tea. That would be nice. Tonight we're going to take you inside this


grand house. We'll show you how the servants worked and how the family


lived and, unusually, the relationship between the two.


explain another unusual relationship - how a feral child


found wandering the woods became King George I's pet perfect, and we


head to Perthshire to meet one of the few men alive who know what


it's like to sink a German warship. If you have World War II questions


of your own or other questions, do e-mail us at


[email protected], or you can Tweet us. We'll see if we can


help you out later. Throughout the series we have


learnt a lot about the historical passions of some of our best-known


faces, everything from Greg Wallace's war-time rationing


recipes to Larry Lamb's love of the music halls. Tonight we're going


undercover with Sheila Hancock as she infiltrates the fascinating


world of female spies. From Mata Hari to Anna Chapman,


women spice have been seen as glamorous. Growing up in World War


II, I really was quite scared of talking. I thought there were spies


behind every tree, and it's not surprising considering the posters


that were all over the place. This is a typical one, "Careless talk


costs lives." It's given me a life- long interest in the world of


spying, and in particular, the role of the female spy. When I think of


spies in the olden days, I think of people like Mata Harics, kind of


vampy and sexy and all of that. When did that happen? I think


throughout the centuries, it's conditioned by women's role in


society. Women spies would be cortisans, would be the lovers of


Kings, of generals and could get information from the pillow, as it


were. But World War II changed everything. With the recruitment of


female agents into an intelligence unit called The Special Operations


Executive or SOE. The purpose of SOE agents was to facility -


facility ate the dropping of supplies. They acted as wireless


operators or couriers. Let's have a look at what they used. A courier


would be taking secret messages from one place to another. This is


a handbag that has a secret compartment.


I suppose it was easy for women to not be suspected at a time like


that. Is that right? Well, it conforms to the role of women in


society in France in the early 1940s, which is, you know,


housewife, office worker, that sort of thing, and this assumption was


that the resistance fighter was bound to be a man. This, I believe,


belonged to a specific woman. Her name was Yvonne Kurmou, from 1943.


My goodness. There is a stain there. What is that? That is her blood


when she was shot in the leg, and you can see the bloodstains here.


Oh, my goodness, and did she get away all right? Yes, she did.


Sesurvived. She's one of the most successful wireless operators, but


strangely, is one of the most forgotten.


Because of the bravery of women like her, attitudes towards female


operators changed. As tensions between East and West developed


into the Cold War, a whole raft of elaborate Bondesque gadgets emerged,


some of which were definitely more Jane a than James, like the kiss-


of-death lipstick with a concealed- shot pistol, a lady's leather belt,


hidden dagger, optional, and a fashionable silver ring with a


hollow compartment, perfect for carrying poison - just in case.


Pictured here with the former Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howell


is one of the women recruited during the Cold War, Baroness Mita


Ramsey. If I ask you for a job description of what you did, what


would it be? An intelligence officer in secret intelligence


service, also known as MI6. Would you call yourself a spy? I suppose


it could be, yes. During the Cold War, one of her jobs was to recruit


agents across the world to pass foreign military secrets back to


the UK. Were there advantages in being a woman? Well, you can


sometimes get away with murder with policemen, and you can play up a


little bit your helpless femininity, so I think that can be a real


advantage. One of the qualities I would have thought you needed was


not exactly an enjoyment of danger, but not avoiding danger. I mean, if


you were frightened of danger, then you couldn't do it, could you?


suppose that's true. I have never thought about it like enjoying the


danger, but if you couldn't live with the rush of adrenaline when


something's not going right, then you wouldn't go on doing it. You


would either have a nervous breakdown, or you would certainly


stop. Female spies have come a long way. The glamorous image of the


movies remains a fiction. Well, where did the Mata Hari bit come


in? Where was the glamour and the sexiness? I don't know if I would


use that word about being an intelligence officer. There is a


lot of waiting around. There is a lot of taking a long time to get


anywhere to make absolutely sure you're not followed. That can be in


all climates. There are a lot of times when you're standing in way,


way below zero waiting to do something, and you think, there


must be easier ways to... Like filming! Exactly.


LAUGHTER Oh, the Baroness there, an


extraordinary woman. Sheila has joined us in this amazing dining


room. Isn't it lovely? It's incredible. We'll learn more about


it in just a moment. Meeting the Baroness must have been special,


wasn't it? It was. It was remarkable. It summed up - when I


asked her why she chose such a difficult, dangerous career, she


said, quite simply, "I wanted to serve my country," and that's what


she's done ever since. She's at the heart of Lords now. She's


campaigned. She's done everything. Do you think her role and the other


female spys from World War II are largely overlooked? I think there


is a danger like all history because history is mainly written


by men. Certainly there were women that did remarkable things. We know


about the famous ones that films were made of, but we don't know


about others. I know you're starting to write a book. It's a


novel, isn't it? I am of the wartime generation, and I wanted to


put some of my experiences in the book. In the process I have been


researching resistance workers, and I have been absolutely amazed of


the untold stories of these women. They're just completely ignored and


overlooked. It's just a case of keeping those stories and memories


alive. Yes, it's very important people know about them. Good luck.


How far are you in it? I am about a quarter of the way through.


back to it. Yeah, better. Toot sweet! Just ass women were the


unsung heroes of World War II, in stately homes it's normally the


staff that are forgotten over time. That's not the case here in Erddig


Hall, is it? No, I am here in the guts of the building. Look at these


incredible bells. People would have rung them upstairs if they wanted


something. We'll come here into the servants' hall. This is where they


would have eaten. There are paintings on the wall. These look


like they're the paintings of the owners, but they're not. Merlin


Watson is heavily involved in the restoration of the building. Tell


me about these? They're portraits of staff. This lady was a spider


brusher, in other words, a housemaid. The painting was painted


in 1973. She's shown with her broom and her mop. This is a game keeper


to the estate, Jack Henshaw. The indescription tells us he was a


little bit bond of beer here is somebody called Jack Nicklaus. He


plucked chickens. He was a simpleton and kept by the family as


an act of charity. This is unusual. Usually portraits are reserved for


members of the family. Yes, but it's one of the things about Erddig


- in the early 18th century, the family were close to their servants.


They corresponded with them. They took a great interest in them when


they got married. They began to record them. This collection goes


right the way through to the 20th century. It does. Photography began


in the 1860s. It's continued until the First World War. There are just


a sprinkling of photographs just after. Incredible. You can find


more about all of these servants and stories on our website. Ruth


Goodman explores the secrets of the house including more of these


paintings and the recently discovered postcard collection of


the house's last ever nanny. Here is the web address. The collection


is unique, but Lucy Worsley has unearthed one or two other pictures


of servants elsewhere, particularly a on the King George I's palace.


She used it to try to solve one of our strangest Royal mysteries.


at Kensington Palace in London, this staircase is lined with the


portraits of servants who worked for King George I. In among the


courtiers and ladies in waiting is one of the most mysterious figures


in the history of the Royal court. He was known simply as "Peter, the


wild boy". In 1725, he was found by local peasants deep in the woods


near the German town of Hanover. He was a feral child with a wild


appearance who lived off the food of the forest and who couldn't


articulate a single word. People were surprised by the wild boy's


excessively hairy appearance, the way he scampered on all fours


instead of walking upright. They noticed he had an old wound on his


left hand. Some of the fingers were fused together with webbing, like a


duck's foot. King George I, who had been born near that city, heard


about the wild boy, and invited him to join the Royal household.


Perhaps he relished the challenge of transforming Peter from the


savage he seemed into the perfect gentleman. And the courtiers were


intrigued by him because he didn't understand the rules of human


behaviour. They were charmed by his encounters with civilisation. At


night, he wouldn't get into a bed. He'd go and curl up in the corner


of the room on floor. Standing next to Peter in the picture is his


tutor, Dr John Arbuthnot in the hat. He tried to teach him the alphabet.


He got him to mouth the letters, and despite all of his tutor's


efforts, Peter never learned how to speak. For the ploser ifs, he


summed up one of the great questions of the enlightenment -


what does it mean to be a human being? If you have no speech, do


you have a soul? Was Peter just an animal? At the time, people assumed


that Peter acted the way he did because he was a wild child. They


didn't suspect that something else could have been afflicting him. But


a new analysis of Peter's portraits by Professor Philip Beale Beals has


revealed the possible causes of his behaviour. What we see in this


particular picture is he has this prominent flop of hair and these


nostrils. The artist has captured the lip, which have this cupid's


bow appearance. You have put all of these clues into your database and


come out with an answer? I think this is a condition described as


Pit Hopkins Syndrome. There are many features, the most severe of


this is the neurological component, a difficulty to develop speech and


other conditions. Not realising Peter's behaviour could be due to a


medical condition, the courtiers got bored of him and was sent to


the country. He was looked after in Hertfordshire. In the country,


Peter could be much more himself, a far cry from his life within the


Royal Palaces. And near to his home, here at


Berkhamstead School Library, they have the only remaining artefact


left from his life, Peter's collar. Look at this. You can see where it


was locked on around his neck. It looks like a horrible, vicious


thing to wear. What do you think of a human being wearing a collar like


a dog? I don't think people should wear collars. But at the same time,


it was made with a kind thought, I think, because it's got his name


and address on the front. "Whoever will bring him to Mr Fen shall be


paid for their trouble." It shows, then, he wasn't really an object or


a possession because if he was a slave, people wouldn't get paid for


the trouble. I agree with you. I think the collar does show they


cared about him. Peter lived on into his 70s, and in turn, he grew


very attached to the farmers who looked after him, so much so that


when the last farmer died, Peter really took it to heart. He pined


away, and he died here at the farm Often, flowers mysteriously appear


at his grave. I asked somebody at the church who leaves them, and she


said, we don't know who leaves flowers for Peter but there must be


people around here who think he should be a remembered. Peter, once


ridiculed by the upper classes as a wild and soul this animal, had


grown into a gentle and sensitive person, leading an innocent and


simple life, proving himself to be Isn't it lovely to think there are


people leaving flowers on Peter's grave today? You have to wonder who


those people might be. We are back in the dining room here,


where successive generations of the Yorkes would have entertained. They


would have had five-course meals including four desserts. It sounds


very grand and man in his here with me. They were not an ostentatious


family -- Merlin Waterson is here with me. No, if you look at the


portraits, the first Duke has chosen to be painted in a rather


sombre black coat, but it is a sympathetic, intelligent face. I


think that is how he would have wanted to have been sort of. What


happened at the Yorke family? lived here comfortably in the 19th


century but the income from the estate was dwindling and it was


running downhill. During the First World War, in a sense, it gave them


an opportunity to stop keeping up appearances. Most of the staff left.


That is when you came in, in the 70s. We can see what the house


looked like, it was in a poor state of repair. You stayed here for


quite a while? There had been mining their -- mining beneath the


house, so it had fallen three feet. Water had fallen into the centre


part of the building and when I stayed here, I sat in one of the


lovely bedrooms upstairs, but the water came through the ceiling and


when it was cold, because the windows were broken, sometimes snow


would drift in and you founded on the floor in the morning. It was in


a precarious state. And a labour of love for you and the Natural Trust


-- the National Trust to build it back up into what we see today.


This room would have had fine dinner parties, but most of the


time the family would have eaten alone, and for the last generation


of Yorkes it meant mum, dad anti- boys, but even they had 15 indoor


servants, which made it got pretty busy downstairs.


It would have been packed down here. Waste not, one not. That was the


motto. That is why there are all of these incredible artefacts. We do


have been down here working, or up there, relaxing? I would have liked


the people down here more but I am not a good cook and I do not like


emptying chamber pots and things! This would have been a very hot


place to work because that fire was an open fire until the early


twentieth-century, when they put the range in. And that window, a


beautiful window, very unusual. Servants in the kitchen where often


in the basement, but here they are in the ground floor with the light


streaming in. Lovely. I have somebody with some of these


utensils, my grandmother had some of these. What is that? Sugar


nippers. How did show the come? a large cone, and this would be the


top of it. Was the sugar lumps for a ball or cooking? Cooking,


anything that was needed. And if you mash that, you get icing sugar.


It would have been hard work down here. Look at this! This is an


apple peeler and corer. It does everything. A scullery maid would


have been up at 6am and not in bed until 10pm. Do you know how much


she got paid? About �8 in year. are doing all of the research for


us! These guys have been slaving away down here, but the family had


plenty of time up there for leisure. They did, the Yorke family spent


lots of time out here in this beautiful garden. Looking lovely.


They would play croquet, cricket, there was even a bowling alley down


the other end. It is a Grade 1 listed garden so the layout has not


been changed and about 300 years. Throughout the series down and


Michael have been criss-crossing the land on their history rogue


chip, and for the final leg of their journey they have been timid


and -- been to meet an ordinary man with an extraordinary story.


I don't fit on this bed. You make a lot of noise in your sleep, a lot


of scratching and snoring. A lot of tromping. When we put this engine


on, the whole thing will go! Today we are going off to meet a special


person, a surprise for years. Off to Scotland. Great. Doing what?


Welcome to Scotland! I can't even see through the rain. Britain is a


nation shaped by warfare but the reality is there has been more war


in our nation's history than peace. A British soldier has been killed


in combat every year since the Second World War apart from once.


Is there ever a good reason for war? Do you ever think, they should


be happening? A lot of people say the second world war was a good one.


Britain was on the right side of Let's see what this house is, on


the right. There we go. You are driving on the lawn! Is this


somebody's lawn?! Have you heard of the Bismarck? I have heard of it,


but I don't know what it is. Something to do with the Second


World War? Yes, it is a big ship. One of the most powerful warships


ever build, and it threatened Britain's supply line to North


America, potentially a war winning piece of equipment for the Germans


will -- for the Germans. This man is responsible for sinking it.


have to make sure we are at the right house because he is not good


with maps, but I think we will meet someone with a first-hand account


of a major piece of history, and I am nervous about that because he


does this all of the time, but I just cut people's hair! John, how


are you? This is Michael Foster up hello, nice to meet you. Welcome


aboard. Meeting John Moffett is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for


Michael. He dropped a torpedo that hit the Bismarck, the world's most


powerful German battleship. It hit it in the rudder, it span in


circles and the Royal Navy closed in and pounded it until it sank.


You were flying the Swordfish on that famous mission against the


Bismarck? Yes. Tell us what happened? New set off from the Ark


Royal? We kept going up above the clouds, and all of a sudden all


hell let loose. Shells bursting all around us and causing a sheet of


water to come up to maybe 200, 300 ft, coming up everywhere. I could


see this big ship firing its guns. It was a hell of a size. It was


really something. I could just about see the people on the deck of


the ship. Of the Bismarck? Yes, I was that close. Bullets started


flying them. My observers suddenly said, not yet! And all of a sudden


he shouted, let her go! And away she went. You didn't know what you


had done and you went over the next day? Yes, to finish her off. All of


a sudden, it turned on its side. Did you see that? Oh, yes, and not


only that, I was about 50 ft off the water, and there were hundreds


of chaps in the sea. It was unbelievable. It was not a side


that you forget. -- not a sight that you forget. Did you feel you


were doing the right thing being in the Navy, fighting on the right


side? Hitler had to be stopped, and if we can do our bit, then fair


enough. I cannot thank you enough for sharing that with me. That is


absolutely superb, thank you. That was remarkable. His actions


were responsible for changing the course of the war. That is the


amazing thing about meeting people like that, normal people with an


impact on history which will be felt for years to come. Amazing.


Where next? Salad. Can I get a white pudding before we go? What is


that? It is like a battered sausage...


An extraordinary testimony. We have met people throughout this series


who have been at a heart of history, quite a privilege. I have met him a


couple of times, he is a national treasure.


Thank you for your tweets and e- mail so that the programme.


Question -- Sheila, you have a question?


We know the people upstairs were above us in the kitchen, but was


there hierarchy in the kitchen? Housekeeper ruled the roost and had


a stronger position than the cook, so could order the cut around, but


there was a time when the cook earned so much more because of all


of the entertaining. The Butler was in charge on the


male side and had for it man below, said definitely a hierarchy. As a


scullery maid, I would have had to obey everybody!


We have a tweet about World War One. Richard wants to know, could the


Allies have won the war without Enigma? Women was so important in


breaking the code. More women than men working on the Enigma code, I


believe. The second world war would have lasted a lot longer if the


Enigma code had not been broken. A lot of lives were saved breaking


that was stopped they broke lots of codes.


Sheila, it has been lovely having you, thank you. And thank you to


the staff it, I don't know how many apples you have chopped since you


have been the! Thank you for joining us tonight. -- since you


have been here. That is it for tonight, and the


series. But you can go to the website where you can find great


activities and animations from the tee at BBC Hands On History.


And you will find details of the annual Heritage Days where


In the final episode of the series, Dan Snow and Sian Williams broadcast live from Erddig House in North Wales, where they get a glimpse of what life was really like for Victorian servants.

Special guest Sheila Hancock looks at the changing face of the female spy, whilst Michael Douglas meets the extraordinary World War II veteran whose torpedoes sank the Bismarck.

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