Hi I’m Jenny and I started as a volunteer Basement Costume Guide in July 2016.

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Jenny in her 1940s land girl outfit stood by the Servants’ Hall tree. (c) National Trust

Christmas is just around the corner and this year we are celebrating as though we’re in the 1940s; this was chosen to celebrate 70 years since the National Trust began running Attingham Park. We have used homemade decorations around the property to illustrate the motto of the 1940s, “make do and mend”.

Following the death of the 8th Lord Berwick in 1947, the 8th Lady Berwick continued to be a pillar of the community through her work within the local branch of the Women’s Institute (WI) in Atcham. At this point, Lady Berwick was employing relatively few members of staff in the mansion; Mrs Durwood (Cook/ Housekeeper) and a maid, with occasional extra help. Greater numbers of volunteers are working in the Kitchen as it was decided we would be members of the WI that have come in to help Lady Berwick prepare for the afternoon tea party set up in the Dining Room.

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A volunteer preparing a 1940s recipe. (c) National Trust 

Instead of the food the volunteers make being used for the afternoon tea party in the Dining Room the food is offered to visitors as ‘tasters.’ These are made using recipes from the WI during the 1940s; the recipes were created during a time of rationing when they ‘bulked out’ their ingredients. The most notable method was using mashed potatoes in pastry so less flour is needed; when visitors tried jam tarts made with potato pastry they said how hard it was to tell the difference from normal pastry. 

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A 1940s display in the kitchen. (c) Holly Kirby

In 1943 the Shropshire WI became infamous for producing more jam than any other county. During this frugal era sugar was distributed via permits and they had to come up with creative flavours based on the limited food available. In honour of this achievement we have been making jam using their original recipes, ranging from relatively normal flavours like blackcurrant and gooseberry to the more unusual ‘High Dumpsie Dearie’ (derived from the phrase “I dumps it all in ‘ere dearie,” this flavour is made up of whatever they could find, we used apples and plums). One of the most surprising flavours was ‘Carrot Jam’ used in jam tarts as ‘tasters.’ The visitors were impressed with the flavour of the jam, remarking they would never have known it was carrot as it tasted of apricots.

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Some of the jams made using 1940s recipes. (c) National Trust

Other ‘tasters’ made include mince pies, scones, rock buns, chocolate pinwheels and carrot cookies, all made using wartime recipes and all thoroughly enjoyed by the visitors! 

The last day to see us in the Mansion is Saturday 23rd December then in 2018 the Mansion will reopen on the 17th February.

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Attingham’s kitchen set out for a 1940s Christmas. (c) Holly Kirby