On Thursday 6th October we stepped back in time and arrived at school dressed in Victorian-style clothing rather than our usual uniforms. We were all very excited to be heading to Wisbech Castle for the day and boarded the minibuses quickly.
On arrival we discovered that it is not a castle at all but actually a Regency villa, named Wisbech Castle by the Victorians as it is on the site of a long gone castle. Richard from CEES met us and took us in through the front door before explaining the day ahead. We were to go into the back garden and knock politely on the back door where we would be met by the butler, Mr Grafton.
Mr Grafton lined us up in the downstairs hallway and explained that he was delighted to see that we were applying for the posts of scullery maid (in the case of the girls) and boot boy. He then set us to task. We had four tasks to complete, two of them marked by the senior servants (aka our teachers) out of 20. The applicants with the highest score out of 40 would be offered the jobs!
We loved making a pie crust using real pastry and decorated them with great care. Setting the table for a ‘light four course lunch’ was a bit more challenging as there were so many items of cutlery and crockery to put int the right places and facing the right way – not only that but there were different sizes! The most challenging part of the table setting was the napkin folding. Some of us managed to end up with something that looked like the crown that Mr Grafton had demonstrated but others ended up with a heap of white linen napkin!
We also got to use a posser, dolly and washboard to wash some rags. The highlight of this was the dangerous task of using the mangle. No fingers were squashed because we had listened carefully and were very careful!
After we had eaten our packed lunches, we got the opportunity to play in the garden with some Victorian toys. The stilts proved to be very popular, as did the hoops and sticks which took some concentration and perseverance. We also had a go at skipping with a long rope. Millie held the record of the highest number of skips; she jumped for so long that we lost count!
Our final task was to try to work out what different objects in the parlour were used for. There was a very old looking pump-action vacuum cleaner as well as an object that lots of us recognised from an Oxford Reading Tree book called ‘The Whatsit’ – it was a real-life ‘whatsit’ which was actually a wool winder!
We had a fabulous day and Mr Grafton chose Anna to be the scullery maid and Harrison was to be the boot boy. Both were slightly concerned at the thought of returning on Monday morning at 5.30am to start work. The wages of £13 per year for the scullery maid and £9 per year for the boot boy didn’t sound very generous for such hard work and the hours of 5.30am to 10.30pm daily sounded tiring. Luckily Mr Grafton changed back to being Richard and he told us that we were back in 2016 so there was no need to come back on Monday!
We had a fabulous day and didn’t even fall asleep on the way home because we were still so excited! We were sad to learn that Wisbech Castle is being sold by the county council and that it’s future for education purposes is uncertain. We were the last booked school group and did LJS proud by behaving beautifully throughout.