Walter was born in 1916, in a house in St Mary Square Dalham where he grew up. In 1932, when he was 16 he started work as a Hall Boy at Moulton Paddocks House, he later took up duties as a Junior Valet, to the owner, Dudley Barnato Joel M.P. He worked under the direction of the Butler, Harry Best. Walter's starting wage was 5 shillings a week, his working day varied, when the Joels were in residence or there were guests staying, he worked from 06:00 to midnight.
When the Joels were away he worked from 06:00 to 10:30, with a half a day a week off. When he did visit home in Dalham, he did so by bicycle. In 1932, the house and estate were no longer run on the lavish scale, as in the time of Sir Ernest Cassel, who employed about 100 men on the estate and a large number of staff in the house. The whole enterprise at that time being run as a purely sporting estate, with its close location to Newmarket being an added attraction to the numbers of distinguished guests who stayed there.
Although Dudley Barnato Joel was reputed to be a millionaire, the running of the estate was a more modest affair. Parts of the house were closed, this included the new wing, with its big dining hall, eight bedrooms and main kitchen, which had a stone floor, large coal fired range and collection of copper utensils. The small chapel was converted into an estate museum, where items of the family and estate were displayed. There was a passageway that ran from the main kitchen, down into the cellar and up to the new wing dining hall. This was used to supply the main hall when it was in use, on grand occasions, although the distance was considerable.
The dining room in the new wing still contained its magnificent round table. Dudley's study stood on the left of the dining room, which was on the other side of the large green beige door, which separated the servants from the masters quarters. the servants hall was converted into smaller kitchen, used for all the cooking, next to the Butlers pantry, which contained a safe for the silver and further along was a room for utensils with a food warmer. If one were to enter the house through the main entrance, one would see a fine collection of Toby Jugs before entering one of the two lounges, the other leading into the conservatory. There were 18 guest bedrooms in the house, 10 in the old part of the house and 8 in the new wing.
There were 12 servant's rooms, which included 2 in the cellar. Walter slept on the third floor, which had four bedrooms, The other members of the staff slept on the second floor, which had five bedrooms and was above the old kitchen. The staff of the house were, Harry Best, who was butler, Mrs Best, who was housekeeper, a girl to help Mrs Best with the cooking, three housemaids, Mary Johnson, Agnes ............. and Dora White, with Walter Pettitt as odd job man (valet later). The chauffeur, Rupert Paxman lived in Newmarket.
Walters daily routine when the Joels were in residence, was as follows rise at 06:00 - Help with the breakfasts for both master and servants. Clear and wash silver, polish silver. Coal to be taken to all the fires, both upstairs and downstairs. Tend to the dogs, prepare the tables for lunch, clear away after lunch. Clean all footwear, take through tea in the late afternoon, answer all bells. Prepare the tables for dinner and decorate table, decant the port and unscrew champagne. Clear away after dinner, which usually lasted until 22:30 , then fall into bed. For these duties Walter would wear a grey morning suit and evening dress from 19:00 until bedtime.
When the Joels were away Walter's routine was less hectic, some of his duties as well as the usual household duties included fetching milk from the dairy, dog exercising, silver and window cleaning. Sometimes after tea Walter would go on errands to Newmarket for Mr Best, with whom he always got on well. There had been a laundry at the house some years before, but now all laundry was sent to Newmarket. The food that was not grown on the Estate, came from shops in Newmarket, Many of the shops catered for large country houses. Special items came from Fortnum and Masons in London.
The gardens were attended to by four gardeners. the under gardeners lived in the terraced houses, called "the Bothey", near the walled garden. The head gardener was a Mr Chandler who lived in his own house. He was an expert in growing ' Marsley Carnations' such was his expertise, that one variety was named after him. The walled garden, had two large heated greenhouses which ran along the east facing wall, supplied the house with fruit, flowers and vegetables. The estate itself consisted of a mixed farm, training stables and stud. Trinity Hall Farm also belonged to the estate, but this was farmed separately, the estate manager was a Mr MacGregor, who lived in ' Glebe house', which is near the flint cottages, on the Newmarket Road. He was an expert in Aberdeen Angus cattle, of which there was a herd on the estate, looked after by Ted Radford. The farm foreman was an Albert Everett, whose wife ran the dairy. forestry foreman was William Johnson, who lived in the flint cottages on Newmarket Road, in all about 40 men worked on the farm and at forestry.
Three gamekeepers were employed to accommodate the sporting side of the estate, the head keeper was Charlie Grass. Of the two under keepers, one was named Jack Radford The estate with its own power house, which consisted of two large diesel generators, notable for their huge flywheels. They were looked after by a Mr Ward, who looked after all the electrics on the estate. Such was his dedication that he used to sleep beside the machines, although his home, a bungalow, was nearby.
The racing stables at "Wellbottom" were run by Walter Earl. some time later the stables closed, Mr Earl took Dudley's horses with him when he moved to new premises in Newmarket On the estate at that time there was also a Stud in operation. Dudley was an amiable man to work for, he had been at university in Cambridge, where at sport, he excelled in swimming. Many of his trophies were displayed in the house. In the grounds surrounding the house was a swimming pool, which had fallen into disuse, Dudley spent many hours cleaning it out himself, although it was never a great success. Being a member of Parliament, Dudley spent a great deal of time in London, where he stayed in a rented apartment, Walter would often accompany him. It was always Dudley's fashion to wear a red carnation, Walter remembers scouring London to find one, for some important event.
In 1936, Dudley married Esme Riche, at Caxton Hall Registry Office, Walter joining them for drinks at the reception. Their honeymoon was spent in South Africa, Walter accompanied them. The journey took 17 days, aboard the Union Castle. They stayed in a hotel in Johannesburg. Dudley's brother Geoffrey, lived in South Africa, he looked after both Dudley's and the family interests there. As the newly-weds spent most of their time away, Walter was able to do some visiting of his own, including Kruger National Park. their stay in South Africa lasted four and a half months, from November to March.
Once back home, Esme gave their home the woman's touch, with new furnishings and decorations. The house was not extravagantly furnished, it did however have a fine collection of clocks. As much of their time was spent in London they purchased a house there, when at home, Dudley and Esme, would start the day with tea in bed, although Dudley always went riding at 07:30. Later, breakfast was served giving time to sit and read the newspapers. Normally meals were served at 08:30, 13:00, and 19:00. If guests were present, possibly for a sporting event, one main hot dish with a buffet would be available around mid-day. The Joels loved dogs, they had at one time, a great dane, two cocker spaniels, two cairn terriers and two Scotties, although Walter used to look after them in the week, he lost their affection when the master returned home. There was a small stable, with living accommodation, close to the house, which must have been the coach house in earlier days. Here the groom, Bill Trudget lived, looking after several horses. He would bring them round to the front entrance of the house when Dudley went riding, he would often be joined by his sister Eileen Joel.
Esme was not keen on riding, but would travel the estate in a pony and trap. There were frequent guests, they included the Duke of Bedford, Howard de Walden and Mr Ferguson, a pioneer in electronics, most of them enjoying the shooting that was provided. On one shoot over 2000 birds were shot.
Another guest a Mr Barnato, a relation of Dudley's had a passion for Bentleys. When visiting he would bring two, on driven by his chauffeur. On returning to London he would give his Chauffeur half an hour start, racing him back to London, an event which he always won. Dudley had a well stocked cellar which included champagne and vintage port. Once a year a wine expert would visit to restock the cellar, after much conferring with Dudley, some of the old stock would be removed. Walter witnessed many legal documents that were part of some business transaction with Dudley's clients, they often concluded the agreement with a small bottle of champagne.
To feed the staff, Mr Best had an allowance, for each member, it was supposed to be equal shares, but it didn't always work out that way. Walter thought the food was good, but the chauffeur, who didn't visit very often, did not. Part of Walter's job was to clean the guns, after they had been used, they included a case of "Purdy's". Once a month or before any major event, Charlie Grass, the head gamekeeper, would come and check all the firearms. Occasionally some of the staff would go to a dance in the old village hall in Moulton and on one occasion a dance was held in the museum at Moulton Paddocks House.
Walter met his wife Dora White while working there, she being one of the housemaids. Walter ceased to work at Moulton Paddocks in 1938, by that time his wages had risen to ten shillings a week. After he left many changes were to take place in a short time. Within a year Esme had died of T.B. and in 1941 Dudley was killed in the war, the grand house was demolished in 1950, bringing to an end a unique part of English life. The Estate was left to Dudley's sister, Eileen Rogerson, who together with her husband built a smaller residence on the estate.
Recorded by the village recorder John Gunson, on November the 18th 1993, at Walter's home in Ashdon, Essex.
©2000 John Gunson, Village Recorder
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