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The Life and Times of a ‘tweeny’ maid.

Amy Drayton

Photograph of a Tweeny maid- William A. Clark Collection <br/>'The Scullery Maid'

Longworth Manor was the large house in the village, next to the church with its own private entrance. Here lived old Mr Crum and his daughter Edith. The Manor was a very old house - the drawing room on the first floor was a long room which ran from front to back of the house with two fireplaces in it. It was furnished with a lot of heavy dark oak furniture. Except for the study all rooms just had large rugs on the stone-flagged or polished board floors. There was also a large building like a barn with a stage at one end which was used for concerts and other village entertainments. Here the boy scouts had their once a week meetings- and on Christmas Eve when the men and boys went round the village carol singing they used to end up here at Miss Crum's for supper. On May Day there was also a procession through the village led by a man playing a violin - the girls and boys following, the little ones at the front and the older ones at the back, again they all ended up at the Manor for a bun and a cup of tea.

Miss Crum was a customer at our shop and usually delivered the grocery list for the Manor personally while she was out for her morning walk. The other shop in the village which was a general store and Post office, as well as selling groceries made a fuss about my father having all the custom from the big house - so Miss Crum trying to be fair to both, arranged to use each shop for a month at a time.

Leaving School

I left school on June 21st [1918] when I was thirteen years old. Father employed me as the errand 'boy' for the Longworth shop for which Rant and Tombs paid seven shillings and six pence per week. I was given the sixpence to buy clothes and anything else that I wanted, but of course I had my keep.

When I was sixteen years old [in 1921] Miss Crum asked my father if I could go and work for her as a 'tweeny' maid so that each of her usual maids could go on holiday in turn. Mother was upset and did not want me to go - but Father insisted as he did not want to displease such an important customer. I was required to live in at the Manor, being allowed alternate Sunday afternoons off and an hour on Sunday mornings to go to church service. I was to wear a print dress with cap and apron. My duties as a 'tweeny' maid were divided between the house and the kitchen. I used to get up at 6.30 am and before breakfast had to clean various rooms including the large stone-flagged hall and old Mr Crum's library which was fully carpeted. I had to crawl round the floors on hands and knees with a dustpan and brush, and then dust so that the rooms were ready for the gentry after breakfast. After my own breakfast it was time to do the bedrooms - making beds, cleaning rooms and the baths and wash-basins which had brass taps and fittings needing polishing each day.

Longworth Manor

Longworth Manor taken by Arthur Hollifield 1960. Creative Commons Licence.

I never had a bath in a proper bath until I was married and lived in a newly built bungalow (No 11 Landowne Estate, Dry Sandford) , in 1936 when I was 31. After doing my share of the upstairs work, I had to go down to the scullery, a pokey little place next to the kitchen, to prepare the vegetables for lunch. One day, as I was standing at the sink, there was a terrible thunderstorm when suddenly the kitchen maid rushed in and snatched my glasses off. She said it was dangerous to keep them on as I was sure to be struck by lightening! Her name was Gladys Jarrett and she had the most beautiful singing voice - she always played the Virgin Mary in the Christmas Nativity play. Later she married and lived in a house belonging to Sidney Richings' uncle. After lunch it was my job to wash for the servants; the Scottish cook, Mrs MacFarlane gave me a lesson in washing up, saying, 'Mind you wash well where the lips go on the cups'. For the afternoon the maids changed into black dresses with clean caps and apron.

Nits and the W.I.

I remember being in disgrace while at Miss Crum's - I was accused of having 'crawly things' in my hair. I had to have it cut shorter, combed with a fine toothed comb and then washed with carbolic soap. I stayed under a cloud until someone realised that the other girl with whom I shared a bedroom had been home to Wantage for a fortnights holiday and had brought the bugs back with her.

My mother belonged to the Women's Institute which was held once a month at the Manor, and to please Miss Crum my father insisted that I join too - so I became the youngest member at 17 years old. Mother also belonged to Mother's Union which was organised by Lady Hyde and held once a month in the small thatched building where the Sunday school was. I suppose it was the only other place in the village to hold meetings.

Country Dancing

Miss Crum also organised country dancing for the village girls. Once a week a teacher came out from Oxford to show us how to do it properly - in the summer on the lawn in front of the house or if the weather was bad it was held in the barn. Of course all the girls belonged to the Guides - and when we were considered good enough at both country dancing and sword dancing [with wooden swords] we used to enter competitions. Our guide dancing team went to Windsor Castle to perform in front of the then Princess Royal [Princess Mary who later married Viscount Lacelles] who gave out the prizes. We won the shield for the North Berks section, but I shall remember that day for another reason. Amy Drayton managed to get herself locked in a lavatory and could not get out - they had to send for a workman to get the door open and release her - what an embarrassment!

Glee Club and Teeth!

Later when I was 19 years old, Miss Crum started a 'Glee Club' She had a sister Mary, married to Dr Ludovic Stuart who used to come and stay at the family home quite often in the holidays. Dr Stuart played the piano in the drawing room and conducted and corrected us. We went to the Witney Music Festival and came second singing Masefield's - 'I must go down to the seas again'.

It was about that same time when I was 19 years old that Mother told me that Lady Hyde and Miss Crum had been having a quiet discussion together about the state of Amy Drayton's teeth. They had decided that they looked so bad that something must be done. I suppose my parents could not afford to do anything and I can never remember having a toothbrush at all when I was young. It was only years later when I had left Longworth that a dentist used to come to the village once a month and had a surgery in room he rented. [I believe this was at Lincoln House] It was arranged that Lady Hyde's chauffeur would call and take me once a week into Oxford to a dentist in Beaumont Street [the Harley Street of Oxford] who took out all my teeth in four sessions. I had to wait for six months before I could have a set of artificial teeth fitted - in spite of having lost all my teeth, my father insisted that I continue with Miss Crum's choir.

After old Mr Crum died the house was sold to a Colonel Walton who refurbished it completely. He employed a London firm to do the job and the workmen had to find lodgings in the village. I was away in service at the time and so my mother had two men staying at the Longworth shop for several months. Mrs Forbes of Fyfield Manor was a cousin of Miss Crum. They are both buried at Fyfield.

NB. The position of a "Tweeny" (or between maid) was the polite name for scullery maid. Normally, she was always 'between' kitchen jobs, and at everyone's beck and call. The scullery maid would have been at the bottom of the household hierarchy. From her description, this did not seem to be quite the position that Amy was in, as she seems to have been quite well looked after.

See further here:The Edwardian Country House

and here: Victorian Servants