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Minding the Manor: The Memoir of a 1930s English Kitchen Maid

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Born in 1916 in Norfolk, Mollie Moran recalled working "downstairs" in the golden years of the early 1930's before the outbreak of WWII. She provides a rare and fascinating insight into a world that has long since vanished. Mollie left school at age fourteen and became a scullery maid for a wealthy gentleman with a mansion house in London’s Knighsbridge and a Tudor manor i Born in 1916 in Norfolk, Mollie Moran recalled working "downstairs" in the golden years of the early 1930's before the outbreak of WWII. She provides a rare and fascinating insight into a world that has long since vanished. Mollie left school at age fourteen and became a scullery maid for a wealthy gentleman with a mansion house in London’s Knighsbridge and a Tudor manor in Norfolk.             Even though Mollie's days were long and grueling and included endless tasks, such as polishing doorknobs, scrubbing steps, and helping with all of the food prep in the kitchen, she enjoyed her freedom and had a rich life. Like any bright-eyed teenager, Mollie also spent her days daydreaming about boys, dresses, and dances. She became fast friends with the kitchen maid Flo, dated a sweet farmhand, and became secretly involved with a brooding, temperamental footman. Molly eventually rose to kitchen maid for Lord Islington and then cook for the Earl of Leicester's niece at the magnificent Wallington Hall.


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Born in 1916 in Norfolk, Mollie Moran recalled working "downstairs" in the golden years of the early 1930's before the outbreak of WWII. She provides a rare and fascinating insight into a world that has long since vanished. Mollie left school at age fourteen and became a scullery maid for a wealthy gentleman with a mansion house in London’s Knighsbridge and a Tudor manor i Born in 1916 in Norfolk, Mollie Moran recalled working "downstairs" in the golden years of the early 1930's before the outbreak of WWII. She provides a rare and fascinating insight into a world that has long since vanished. Mollie left school at age fourteen and became a scullery maid for a wealthy gentleman with a mansion house in London’s Knighsbridge and a Tudor manor in Norfolk.             Even though Mollie's days were long and grueling and included endless tasks, such as polishing doorknobs, scrubbing steps, and helping with all of the food prep in the kitchen, she enjoyed her freedom and had a rich life. Like any bright-eyed teenager, Mollie also spent her days daydreaming about boys, dresses, and dances. She became fast friends with the kitchen maid Flo, dated a sweet farmhand, and became secretly involved with a brooding, temperamental footman. Molly eventually rose to kitchen maid for Lord Islington and then cook for the Earl of Leicester's niece at the magnificent Wallington Hall.

30 review for Minding the Manor: The Memoir of a 1930s English Kitchen Maid

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra may have a boyfriend - or two, lol

    I'm out of step with the majority of the reviewers here who gave this book 4 or 5 stars. At times I felt a 1 was too much. It is entertaining in its way, nothing original after seeing Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs, it's just as cliche-ridden as those two shows. She worked for good people who paid her reasonably, gave her good time off and was not one of Dickens' worked-to-the-bone skivvies. The writing is as if the author had a dictionary of metaphors, common phrases and most-used simile I'm out of step with the majority of the reviewers here who gave this book 4 or 5 stars. At times I felt a 1 was too much. It is entertaining in its way, nothing original after seeing Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs, it's just as cliche-ridden as those two shows. She worked for good people who paid her reasonably, gave her good time off and was not one of Dickens' worked-to-the-bone skivvies. The writing is as if the author had a dictionary of metaphors, common phrases and most-used similes open in front of her and never lost an opportunity to use one. A few examples: Less of your sauce Molly, snap to it, the carrots won't peel themselves." "It was a hazy summer's afternoon when we arrived and after the hustle and bustle of smoggy London, the sweet country air was a tonic." "startlingly blue eyes", "twinkling blue eyes", "cornflower blue eyes, " and "piercing blue eyes". And (of course), "you're a sight for sore eyes." I could go on... The author was a clever lady, a quick learner and self-motivated to a high degree. She became a cook at a large aristocratic house at the age of 20, having started as a scullery maid at 14. This requires business smarts for calculating food amounts and ordering as well as staff management, especially since there were week long house parties, shoots, on a commercial basis. So there is no excuse for her adoration of Moseley and fascism although she tries to make out it was only because "Henry looked so good in his black shirt" whilst at the same time saying how wonderful a speaker Moseley was with his speeches uniting Britain. She is often resentful of her and her family's lowly place in life compared to her wealthy, glamorous and lazy employers. But she is happy to hear the rich and aristocratic Moseley put down the people he despised as vermin, lower than her. She supported Moseley and was not afraid to say so. She heard the most famous black man in Britain, Prince Monolulu (view spoiler)[aka Peter McKay (hide spoiler)] speak out against Moseley's attitude to the Jews, but it didn't put a chink in her support of him at all. The staff of the house she worked in spoke out against Moseley and his evil and the unsuitability of a blackshirt for a boyfriend but her response was she wasn't going to let other people run her life for her. Eventually there were the riots and she found another boyfriend and she either genuinely saw through fascism, although later events in the book make me doubt this, or felt she should go along with the forceful discussions in the house that Moseley was evil or perhaps it was that she went along with the crowd as support for Moseley dropped from 40,000 to 4,000 after the riots. As war with Germany became imminent, the British Ambassador to Germany, Neville Henderson, a man without honour (and she quotes) said that the Treaty of Versailles was very unfair to Hitler and if it was made more positive (i.e. Hitler was allowed to keep all the lands he had annexed) he would be more amenable. That if he was treated by the British as a mad dog, he would surely become one. Neville Henderson's best friend was Goering and as a guest he attended Nazi rallies, although forbidden to do so by the British Foreign Office. The author said that "poor Mr Henderson, who was suffering from cancer at that time, was the most maligned diplomat the UK had ever had". She omits to mention, which makes me believe that her support for Moseley was with full knowledge of his policies she supported, that like Moseley Henderson was a white supremacist. Henderson had said he was at pains to avoid a "fratricidal" war between white peoples at a time when Asian, black and brown peoples were starting to demand equality. Henderson's dispatch to the prime minister, Anthony Eden on 26 January 1938 warned that another Anglo-German war "would be ... absolutely disastrous - I cannot imagine and would be unwilling to survive the defeat of the British Empire. At the same time, I would view with dismay another defeat of Germany, which would merely serve the purposes of inferior races." She leaves her employment to get married and two weeks before the ceremony she is prevailed to come back and cook for the last week, till the day before the wedding, as there is a large shooting party (bringing in a lot of money) for her ex-employers. She returns to do this and finds that the guest of honour, not having to pay, was Neville Henderson and she can't find words flowery enough to praise him. (view spoiler)[pass the sick bucket (hide spoiler)] The author played the clever woman who boasted how she was one of the few to be promoted to cook of a large house at the age of 20, how she knew exactly the politics of the day, but also the dumb country girl whose head was turned by a handsome man who'd take her dancing whenever it suited her narrative. At the end, married to the man with the sparklingly, piercingly, startlingly, cornflowerly blue eyes, who is now an officer in the RAF, she ends up with servants of her own to boss around. An unusual position to be in. Since the servants were not British (no one has servants anymore except aristocrats and royals) and almost certainly not white, one does wonder how she really viewed them. Perhaps as natural servants? The book was not a bad read, definitely entertaining but the author's boasting of her achievements, relaying the politics of the day and then playing the ignorant country girl without a thought in her head according to how she wanted the audience to view her, naturally coloured the book for me. And not in a good way. 2 stars.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Born in 1916, Mollie Moran gives us a wonderful insight into her childhood in the Norfolk countryside. When she is fourteen she goes on to get a job as a scullery maid on a large Norfolk estate, (part of that involved travelling up to London for 'the season'.) Later, in her early twenties she got a job as a cook, on another big estate - Wallington Hall . The book winds down when she meets her husband, Timothy, who was a corporal in the RAF. We get a satisfying synopsis of the life that followed Born in 1916, Mollie Moran gives us a wonderful insight into her childhood in the Norfolk countryside. When she is fourteen she goes on to get a job as a scullery maid on a large Norfolk estate, (part of that involved travelling up to London for 'the season'.) Later, in her early twenties she got a job as a cook, on another big estate - Wallington Hall . The book winds down when she meets her husband, Timothy, who was a corporal in the RAF. We get a satisfying synopsis of the life that followed for them (and life was kind to her and her family), but the bulk of the book covers her early working days. She wrote the book when she was ninety-six. Moran has a big personality and a big voice - which really comes across. She's full of life and laughter, incredibly athletic, and will do anything for a dare. Her first job required extraordinary levels of hard graft and stoicism, and the second required a huge wallop of intelligence and organisational abilities as well. She was one of the youngest cooks in the country, and it was a fantastically demanding job. For instance she would always have to cook in triplicate.... A) For her employers and their guests (which might involve a lot of people if there was a shooting party), B) for the nursery - the governess and the children, and C) for all the staff who worked below stairs. The descriptions of the meals she cooked were amazing. Everything was made from scratch, with few of the gadgets that we take for granted today, and the end results were often impressive. I picked up this book as a casual bedtime read from the library, and was very pleasantly surprised. Often I would find myself going to bed a bit early, for extra reading time...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Fiona MacDonald

    What a wonderful memoir. And not just a memoir about working downstairs as a kitchen maid which the author Mollie Moran did, but also as a social document, recording and detailing political events happening at the same time. What I discovered when reading was that the author was close friends with Flo Wadlow who's memoir I have also read which gave the account even more poignancy. Just adorable and heartwarming. What a wonderful memoir. And not just a memoir about working downstairs as a kitchen maid which the author Mollie Moran did, but also as a social document, recording and detailing political events happening at the same time. What I discovered when reading was that the author was close friends with Flo Wadlow who's memoir I have also read which gave the account even more poignancy. Just adorable and heartwarming.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    This was a pure joy to read. Mollie's spirit of exuberance and energy! Not to mention her positive and practical sense and lack of any class envy or self-pity. And this also holds the core base quality of what a memoir should always hold. Absolute detail of practice and minutia of that time, coupled with emotional memory. All told in the language of a Norfolk girl. Loved the recipes! But where do I now get cracked suet? And yet, I will actually try that trifle and the sausage roll. 4.5 star round This was a pure joy to read. Mollie's spirit of exuberance and energy! Not to mention her positive and practical sense and lack of any class envy or self-pity. And this also holds the core base quality of what a memoir should always hold. Absolute detail of practice and minutia of that time, coupled with emotional memory. All told in the language of a Norfolk girl. Loved the recipes! But where do I now get cracked suet? And yet, I will actually try that trifle and the sausage roll. 4.5 star rounded to a 5 for the CLEAR, CLEAR language and exact intense detail of the downstairs life she lived. 97 and still going strong. I'd LOVE to see a continuing memoir of the 1950's at the other end of the staircase after WWII. Fantastic photographs and lovely architectural information was also enjoyed. Just think about the cooking alone! Three meals a day for 8 people being the easy schedule, and then weeks of 25 to 30 people for 3 meals every single day for the hunts and the visiting seasons. Only 2 people (father and son in her first job) having 14 to 16 people running their two households at any one time. 14 to 16 jobs of "inside" help which also included a good/safe lodging with high quality multiple meals as part of the position. But what will stay with me the longest is why they scrubbed all those stairs and railings and tables and floors EVERY SINGLE DAY. And how so many things were mashed and then piped out into rose shapes or something. NOTHING done any easy way. The changes this woman has seen in her lifetime. And what work ethic was!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    I just have to say. Wow! What a terrific read. Every since Downton Abbey, I have been interested in reading about people who actually experienced being a "below stairs" staff. I found it very impressive that the author Mollie Moran just wrote this book last year at 97 years old. Mrs. Moran started out as a scullery maid at 14 years old. She worked for a kindly elderly man and his son. A scullery maid is the lowest position and often the longest hours. the first place she worked for lasted five y I just have to say. Wow! What a terrific read. Every since Downton Abbey, I have been interested in reading about people who actually experienced being a "below stairs" staff. I found it very impressive that the author Mollie Moran just wrote this book last year at 97 years old. Mrs. Moran started out as a scullery maid at 14 years old. She worked for a kindly elderly man and his son. A scullery maid is the lowest position and often the longest hours. the first place she worked for lasted five years. she worked herself up to a kitchen maid. learned how to be a terrific cook.I liked the parts where she talked about her friend Flo, a co worker and roommate at her first place of employment. They remained best friends for 80 years until Flo's death at 100 years old. Mollie Moran offered a good look at what it was like to be working Below stairs during that period of life in the 1930s. a time era that no longer exists where staff lives with the family. Mollie Moran eventually worked up to the position of Cook for another family at age 20 a very young age to be a cook for a "big House". I loved reading about this time in history and Mollie Moran wrote a very helpful well written book about this period of time.at 97 She still likes to cook for friends and family. Quite an impressive woman.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lois is behind her reviews at least a month

    This was funny, interesting and light. I would highly reccommend this to fans of period shows from this era. Mollie very much put me in the mind of Daisy from Downton Abbey.

  7. 4 out of 5

    MaryannC. Book Freak

    How I love this book, this was simply wonderful! A true life account of a young girl going into service in the 1930's as a scullery maid and her life's adventures along the way. This is the stuff that Downtown Abbey was based on, a first hand account of what life was really like downstairs among the servants who served the big houses of England. I loved Mollie's outlook on life, she may have been a skivvy when she first went into service but she had bigger dreams and the hardship of working long How I love this book, this was simply wonderful! A true life account of a young girl going into service in the 1930's as a scullery maid and her life's adventures along the way. This is the stuff that Downtown Abbey was based on, a first hand account of what life was really like downstairs among the servants who served the big houses of England. I loved Mollie's outlook on life, she may have been a skivvy when she first went into service but she had bigger dreams and the hardship of working long grueling hours and taking orders did not stop her from reaching higher and went on to become a cook at the age of 20, a fantastical feat in itself. From escaping the groping hands of a fellow footman to the high brow butler in charge Mollie lovingly recounts a time in her life that not only gave her the experiences and life lessons she learned, but how it made her the person she came to be. This lovely read also has wonderful tidbits of old-fashioned recipes and tried and true household tips. A highly recommended must read for Downtown Abbey fans like me who can't get enough of reading about what life was really like serving in the big houses of England.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Julie Durnell

    I am so glad I picked this up to read-it was pure delight! Mollie's memoir was like a season of Downton Abbey screenplays but the real thing. I can't help but see Mrs. Patmore in her first supervisor cook, Mrs. Jones, and the kitchen maid Daisy in Mollie herself. She was a scrapper from the beginning and lived her whole finding joy in life. Starting out as a scullery maid at fourteen and becoming cook for a large English manor at the early age of twenty. Her hardwork, diligence, and ability to l I am so glad I picked this up to read-it was pure delight! Mollie's memoir was like a season of Downton Abbey screenplays but the real thing. I can't help but see Mrs. Patmore in her first supervisor cook, Mrs. Jones, and the kitchen maid Daisy in Mollie herself. She was a scrapper from the beginning and lived her whole finding joy in life. Starting out as a scullery maid at fourteen and becoming cook for a large English manor at the early age of twenty. Her hardwork, diligence, and ability to learn from mistakes were attributes that stayed with her all her life. As Mollie said, " Service may seem like a class struggle to some and slavery to others, but to me it represented adventure and freedom beyond my wildest dreams... I owe domestic service a debt of gratitude. I'll keep on believing that until the final gong sounds." The episode where a pheasant bursts through a kitchen window and leaves a wake of ruined food and broken crockery, pots and pans is laugh out loud funny!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)

    This book is also published under the title Aprons and Silver Spoons: The Heartwarming Memoirs of a 1930s Scullery Maid. Neither one really does it justice. I really enjoyed it. Many years ago I read Margaret Powell's scullery-maid-to-cook memoirs; she and Moran are chalk and cheese. Powell resented "them upstairs" having money and nice things; a city girl to the bone, she cared nothing for the countryside, saying "If you've seen one tree you've seen them all, haven't you?" She left a reasonably This book is also published under the title Aprons and Silver Spoons: The Heartwarming Memoirs of a 1930s Scullery Maid. Neither one really does it justice. I really enjoyed it. Many years ago I read Margaret Powell's scullery-maid-to-cook memoirs; she and Moran are chalk and cheese. Powell resented "them upstairs" having money and nice things; a city girl to the bone, she cared nothing for the countryside, saying "If you've seen one tree you've seen them all, haven't you?" She left a reasonably good position in the provinces for poorly-paid jobs as a plain cook in London, and then complained about them, as well. She lied about being a kitchen maid to the men she met because she felt it was beneath her. After her marriage, she complained that her husband wanted plain working-man's fare. Basically she was a moaner. Moran, on the other hand, accepted that she was born working class; more than anything, she was thrilled to be able to make a wage and send some of it home to her parents, and she loved her time in the country as much or more as the time spent in London during "the season" (always excepting having to gut those pheasants!). There's no resentment or anger here; she was a bubbly young girl who liked excitement, whether that meant shinning down a drain pipe of the stately home she worked in to go to a forbidden dance, or taking a dip in the Serpentine on a freezing-cold day. Written when she was 96, her memoir is full of her excitement at seeing the King and Queen, wandering London with her best pal Flo, or just learning and practicing her trade. She admits that she was attracted to "bad boys" but learned her lesson eventually, though it took a run-in with the Blackshirts to do it. Unlike Powell, she managed to get along with her employers and the cooks that stood in authority over her by smiling, listening and being pleasant instead of resentful--and doing what she was told instead of trying to skyve off. (I got the impression that at some point she may have read Below Stairs and been unimpressed.) Moran's remarks on Jamie Oliver and other TV chefs made me laugh. Moran's ungrammatical language is faithfully reproduced as she speaks of "them days", but on more than one occasion her ghost writer got away from her. On p. 158 we read that "It was all I could do not to punch the air." Certainly not in 1933; punching the air (with or without the accompanying "Yes!") did not become a common expression of joy until the late 1980s. At another point the process of making homemade mayonnaise by beating oil into eggs is called "hollandaise" instead, which is actually composed of egg yolk and lemon juice beaten together and slowly heated as butter is added. But still, a positive, upbeat read; as Moran herself says, she and Flo could have told the writers of Downton Abbey a thing or two!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    It's hard not to think back on this author with a slightly bemused smile, even though I didn't love this book. I find her style irritating, always cheery in a cheeky "ain't I a stinker" sort of way. But I will say that this book gave me new insight into the life of a skivvy-cum-cook between the wars. Not great writing but light and interesting. Impressed by her life and her feistiness at this age. Enjoyed the details she remembers. It's hard not to think back on this author with a slightly bemused smile, even though I didn't love this book. I find her style irritating, always cheery in a cheeky "ain't I a stinker" sort of way. But I will say that this book gave me new insight into the life of a skivvy-cum-cook between the wars. Not great writing but light and interesting. Impressed by her life and her feistiness at this age. Enjoyed the details she remembers.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ro

    An absolutely super read. Being a Norfolk girl myself, some of the dialogue in the book and the way that it is written is easily recognisable in that special Norfolk dialect. I loved the stories and how neatly it all flowed. I would of loved Mollie as a friend if I had lived back then. Her sense of adventure and spirit is just amazing. Highly recommended.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Shari Larsen

    After leaving school at the age of 14 in 1930, Mollie Browne takes a job in a London as a scullery maid; she works in domestic service for 10 years, working her way up to cook. In this chatty memoir, the author gives a rare and fascinating insight into a bygone era, the golden years of the early 1930's before the outbreak of World War II. Even though Mollie put in long 15 hour days and worked hard, she also enjoyed some freedom and lived a rich life. She fell in love with boys and went to dances, After leaving school at the age of 14 in 1930, Mollie Browne takes a job in a London as a scullery maid; she works in domestic service for 10 years, working her way up to cook. In this chatty memoir, the author gives a rare and fascinating insight into a bygone era, the golden years of the early 1930's before the outbreak of World War II. Even though Mollie put in long 15 hour days and worked hard, she also enjoyed some freedom and lived a rich life. She fell in love with boys and went to dances, and had some pretty interesting and often humorous adventures during her time off. I really enjoyed this book, and I was amazed that Mrs. Moran was 97 years old when she wrote it; her style of writing is bright and witty, and it's like she sitting right next you talking about her adventures. Even while describing the endless tasks that made up her day, you never got the feeling that she was complaining about her life. I really admired her work ethic; it shames me to think that when I was 14, I use to think it was unfair that I was made to clean my room on a Saturday (after sleeping in most of the morning) before I could have any fun. I think anyone that is a fan of Downton Abbey would enjoy this book too. I also enjoyed the recipes at the end of each of chapter, it was interesting to learn of the different dishes popular back then and how they were made; everything was made entirely by scratch in those days. There are also photographs of the author and also of some of the people she worked with and places where she worked. The author's note at the end of the book told a bit of what she did with her life after she got married and left the work of domestic service; it sounds to me that the rest of her life was equally interesting, and enough material for another book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ameliedanjou

    What a fun read! Brilliant write by a 97yr old about her youth, with lots of exuberance, detail, and recipes! This is the kind of feisty old lady you wish you knew - delightful. Also, she put in pictures, yeah! History from a new perspective, really rounds out one's understanding, and did I mention fun? I also suspect this book may be inadvertently selling copies of Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, or whatever that cookbook's title was. Guess I should just try the recipes she put in h What a fun read! Brilliant write by a 97yr old about her youth, with lots of exuberance, detail, and recipes! This is the kind of feisty old lady you wish you knew - delightful. Also, she put in pictures, yeah! History from a new perspective, really rounds out one's understanding, and did I mention fun? I also suspect this book may be inadvertently selling copies of Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, or whatever that cookbook's title was. Guess I should just try the recipes she put in here first.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nadine

    Heartwarming, funny, very enjoyable and a look into a long gone era! It made me think of my maternal grandma who was a maid in Paris of all places a decade earlier.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

    "Everyone that knew me knew that I couldn't resist a dare." Mollie seems to be constantly accident-prone, getting herself into scrapes climbing trees, stealing strawberries and evading the local village bobby. Suddenly Mollie turns fourteen and it's time to find a job. Learning early on that higher education for her impoverished family is out of reach, she rejects the offer as seamstress in a 'dark, closed' shop and finds work in London as a scullery maid. Right from the start Mrs. Jones, the co "Everyone that knew me knew that I couldn't resist a dare." Mollie seems to be constantly accident-prone, getting herself into scrapes climbing trees, stealing strawberries and evading the local village bobby. Suddenly Mollie turns fourteen and it's time to find a job. Learning early on that higher education for her impoverished family is out of reach, she rejects the offer as seamstress in a 'dark, closed' shop and finds work in London as a scullery maid. Right from the start Mrs. Jones, the cook, instructs Mollie about the fifteen -hour work days, the tasks awaiting, and the behavior expected of her. "At the end of my first week I was filthy, not to mention so dizzy and exhausted, my head seemed to fall through the pillow. It was Friday night. If I'd been at home I would have helped Mother shop in the market, scoffed sweets, and been licking my salty lips from the fresh kippers we'd have eaten for tea. My brother would be splashing about in the tin bath in front of the fire now. I pictured Mother's face, sitting down for the first time all week in front of the crackling fire in our cosy cottage. I missed it so much I could almost hear their laughter, taste the smoky, warm kitchen." Mollie's spirit remains unbroken although her brief bout of homesickness diminishes when a new housemaid comes along to share a room and companionship. Flo quickly enters Mollie's world and a long friendship begins that will last eighty years. Mollie Moran is feisty, fun-loving, and cheerful. Her memoir is full of interesting anecdotes of what it meant to live and work as a servant for the upper class in pre-World War 2 England. She writes quite openly about the class system and the changes the war ushers in to English society. Although sometimes her humor is a little bawdy and she tells it like it is, occasionally exposing the seamy side of her experiences, this is a fast, interesting read and her courage in perseverance and hard work is admirable. "Everything had to be done in a particular order too. You couldn't just get to it when you fancied. Each hour of each day was strictly accounted for and the routines of kitchens in the old days wouldn't be out of place in Her Majesty's army. I certainly worked like a soldier, that's for sure. And if I was the soldier, Mrs. Jones (the cook) was the culinary equivalent of a drill sergeant." Not just sheer drudgery though, Mollie finds plenty of opportunities to go dancing (although not always sanctioned by the cook and butler). Mollie's adventurous spirit is undimmed by convention and she and Flo resort to climbing down the fire escape in order to attend a dance on a cold foggy night. "We weren't really rebellious, just high-spirited and desperate to get out and see and experience life. Working fifteen hours a day in the kitchens under the stern and exacting eye of an all-controlling butler and cook made life a bit claustrophobic at times. All we wanted was a little harmless fun. I doubted very much they'd see it that way, mind. We had deliberately defied Mrs. Jones's orders and in 1931 that was a crime punishable by instant dismissal." There are long rides through the English countryside on her bicycle, and shopping expeditions in London with Flo, and as time progresses Mollie finds romance and her dreams for a husband and family are fulfilled. "Minding the Manor" includes photos from Mollie's album and also contains a recipe at the end of each chapter along with a household hint, shared along with several cooking 'secrets'. I was so intrigued by Mollie's story that I decided to read her friend Flo Wadlow's "Over a Hot Stove" just as soon as I can obtain it!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Avis Black

    I got part-way into this book, and something about it seemed seriously 'off.' I suspect it was very heavily edited or ghostwritten because most people don't suddenly produce professional-caliber writing in their late 90s if they haven't done a lot of writing earlier in life. The book is filled with a lot of novelistic description, such as, ". . . her eyes glittering dangerously as she leant back and folded her beefy arms," that is characteristic of ghostwriting. A memoir like Below Stairs, Marga I got part-way into this book, and something about it seemed seriously 'off.' I suspect it was very heavily edited or ghostwritten because most people don't suddenly produce professional-caliber writing in their late 90s if they haven't done a lot of writing earlier in life. The book is filled with a lot of novelistic description, such as, ". . . her eyes glittering dangerously as she leant back and folded her beefy arms," that is characteristic of ghostwriting. A memoir like Below Stairs, Margaret Powell's story of her life in service, is filled with a lot of individualistic detail. But Minding the Manor is filled with a lot of very generalized detail that someone could have cobbled together by reading a pile of servant-life memoirs. The book's tone also does a lot of odd switches. The narrator says things in lower-class speech like, "I'll give ya a fourpenny one so as I will!" Then she switches to to sociological passages like this, "The Depression may have destroyed large parts of Britain, but London had largely escaped and, driving through it now, I saw no sign of it. The new "sunrise' industries, such as producing electrical equipment and consumer goods, helped to offset unemployment in more traditional industries. And there were many jobs created in engineering--manufacturing of clothes and shoes, food and drink production, furniture, and printing to name but a few." Whoever wrote that paragraph was someone who went to college, not someone who quit school at the age of fourteen to go to work. I'm calling it a ghostwritten book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jacquelyn

    I loved this look into life "downstairs," but what I loved even more was the author's positive outlook on life. When she wrote the book she was in her 90s and still hosting dinner parties for 25-30 Scrabble friends. Her attitude is very inspiring. The look into life as a scullery maid was enlightening and made me miss "Downton Abbey" even more. I loved this look into life "downstairs," but what I loved even more was the author's positive outlook on life. When she wrote the book she was in her 90s and still hosting dinner parties for 25-30 Scrabble friends. Her attitude is very inspiring. The look into life as a scullery maid was enlightening and made me miss "Downton Abbey" even more.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shiloah

    This was an absolutely delightful read! Mollie was a cheerful and inspiring woman. I loved every minute reading of her experiences “minding the manor” and of her antics usually based on boys. I highly recommend this one. Especially great for those who always wanted to know more about how the rich lived.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Carr

    I really enjoyed reading about Mollie's time in domestic service. Being a Downton Abbey fan, I liked hearing the stories from a person who actually lived the downstairs life. This was an easy and enjoyable read and Mollie seems like she would be a hoot to be around. I really enjoyed reading about Mollie's time in domestic service. Being a Downton Abbey fan, I liked hearing the stories from a person who actually lived the downstairs life. This was an easy and enjoyable read and Mollie seems like she would be a hoot to be around.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Staci Bishop

    They could have literally scripted Downton Abbey from this book. Not only the events but the characters too. They were all there. I didn't realize at first that this was a true life memoir but her life was fascinating. It made me appreciate the DA series even more because they addressed so much that was true to life, even in the case of Mollie Brown. This book gave additional insights into current events of the day and an in-depth look at the life and responsibilities of the house servants. My h They could have literally scripted Downton Abbey from this book. Not only the events but the characters too. They were all there. I didn't realize at first that this was a true life memoir but her life was fascinating. It made me appreciate the DA series even more because they addressed so much that was true to life, even in the case of Mollie Brown. This book gave additional insights into current events of the day and an in-depth look at the life and responsibilities of the house servants. My how different times were back then. Her story was well written and full of exciting adventures. The audiobook was also a treat.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tuesdayschild

    3-* Headstrong, flighty, and boy mad (!): I didn’t find the younger version of Mollie very endearing, she realises she has to adjust her behaviour after the thought of losing her position (job) becomes a real possibility. She begins by breaking a no courting rule with a footman in the same residence - he had a really scary hair-trigger temper. Mollie then gets involved in a few taboo activities that were seriously frowned upon for a servant of the upper class, she rapidly switches her romantic in 3-* Headstrong, flighty, and boy mad (!): I didn’t find the younger version of Mollie very endearing, she realises she has to adjust her behaviour after the thought of losing her position (job) becomes a real possibility. She begins by breaking a no courting rule with a footman in the same residence - he had a really scary hair-trigger temper. Mollie then gets involved in a few taboo activities that were seriously frowned upon for a servant of the upper class, she rapidly switches her romantic interest to a fascist supporter, and attends a few fascist rallies that get out of hand. Time to ditch that scary boyfriend and try something else..... like agreeing to pose for a pin-up styled photography (back then) which ends up being published in a trashy newspaper. I preferred Mollie so much more when she’d matured, which was after she’d become a cook and that was towards the end of the story. While I found portions of the book interesting, it’s not a read I’d recommend. I think Monica Dickens writes a better story about a similar topic, she comes from a different social class than Mollie though: One Pair of Hands by Monica Dickens, narrated by Carole Boyd.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Babs

    I really enjoyed this book....the writing had a very personal narative to it; I enjoyed Mollie's journey from childhood, to young adult, to adulthood. Always enjoy the history in this type of book since I was not intereste in history growing up but love soaking it in as an adult. Mollie (was/is) truly an amazing woman we could all learn from. She was an inspiration. I really enjoyed this book....the writing had a very personal narative to it; I enjoyed Mollie's journey from childhood, to young adult, to adulthood. Always enjoy the history in this type of book since I was not intereste in history growing up but love soaking it in as an adult. Mollie (was/is) truly an amazing woman we could all learn from. She was an inspiration.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Messenger

    I loved this book! What a great memoir she wrote and such a fascinating story of her very long life. It also followed history that was going on during this time which made it even more interesting. I loved all the recipes and tips throughout the book. I believe if you looked up “work ethic” you would find her picture.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ginny

    This was such a treat! Reading this book feels like you are sitting and having a cup of tea with the author (who was in her nineties when she wrote this). Young Mollie was a delight and the older Mollie is, too. If you love Upstairs, Downstairs or Downton Abbey, this is a great read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Emily Phillips

    This was an absolutely divine and heartwarming read. Mollie describes her “ordinary” life as a scullery maid and cook, and by the end you have nothing but admiration for her. She recounts her memories with humour and style and gives an interesting reflection on working class life in the 1930s. You can’t help but smile reading this. I’d seen people say “if you like Downton you’ll love this” and it really is true!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tracey

    I really enjoyed this. Life as a servant was hard, but a very enjoyable read

  27. 5 out of 5

    Haley

    Manor houses, dinner parties, the London season - it all sounds so glamorous and exciting, for the blue bloods anyway. But what about the "other half"? You know, the butler, the footmen, the lady'd maids, the chauffeur, the cook, the kitchen maids, and finally, at the very bottom of the latter, the scullery maids. What about them? It's a common misconception to assume that domestic servitude began to die out after the end of World War One. Well into the late 1930s, it was not unusually to find t Manor houses, dinner parties, the London season - it all sounds so glamorous and exciting, for the blue bloods anyway. But what about the "other half"? You know, the butler, the footmen, the lady'd maids, the chauffeur, the cook, the kitchen maids, and finally, at the very bottom of the latter, the scullery maids. What about them? It's a common misconception to assume that domestic servitude began to die out after the end of World War One. Well into the late 1930s, it was not unusually to find twelve or thirteen people employed for the benefit of just one man! Such was the case of this story's main protagonist. The story of Mollie Brown gives us a rare glimpse of what life was like "below stairs," and as I was pleased to discover, the hit t.v. series Downton Abbey got many of the details correct. After an idyllic childhood spent amidst the lush Norfolk countryside, Mollie was employed at just fourteen by a certain Mr. Stocks, an elderly member of the gentry with both a country estate and a London residence. As she was soon to discover, the work was hard. Back-breaking in fact. Every day at six thirty A.M., Molly would rose to commence her morning duties, including, but not limited to, waxing the kitchen floor, polishing the pots and pans, wrestling with the wood-burning stove until her hands were black, starting the morning tea and, perhaps most grueling of all, scrubbing the front door steps until they shone. And all of this before 8 A.M.!Then the real work began, aiding the cook in the kitchen, mincing, dicing, pouring, stirring. Three meals a day, every day, for near to twenty five people. It was not unusual that she wasn't finished until near ten o'clock at night. But it wasn't all work, work, work. During the London season, Mollie took advantage of her two hour break after lunch to explore the city, taking a sojourn to say Harrods or the famous Selfridges. London in the 30's was an exciting place. Walking down the street, Molly searched for and gawked at the society ladies, with their sleek, black dresses and their tanned skin (sun tans were becoming popular at this time). She witnessed future King Edward VIII chasing after his beloved Wallace Simpson while out for spices, was struck by the normalcy of the seven year old future Queen Elizabeth while seeing her at a bus stop, and was caught up in one of Mosley's famous Black Shirt speeches at Speaker's Corner, all the while blissfully unaware of the tensions mounting throughout Europe. One of the prominent themes throughout the book is the irony behind the system that pinned anywhere from ten to twenty people all living under the same roof and yet, as it were, the master of the house might not even know some of them existed. Some, like the every obsequious butler, believed it was their God-granted duty to serve the gentry. Others simply accepted it as a constant; it was the way things things had been and would continue to be. Members of the landed class were the very models of etiquette and style. Much unlike today, where celebrities have to earn the public's respect, the gentry were respected on account of their family titles. To use Mollie's words, "How could they've known better? They didn't know any better. They'd been born to a life of privileged." So while it was indeed a strange system, it was also one that brought very different kinds of people within close proximity of one another, leading to budding romances and friendships that would last a lifetime. It was also the system that, whether you'd think so or not, opened doors for people. Just two years before the start of World War Two and the end of servitude as it was then known, Mollie, Mollie became cook at just twenty years old. Now isn't that just the "bees-knees"! I have to envy Mollie. I don't envy her job as a scullery maid. The work was exhaustive, no doubt. But I envy her work ethic and the possibilities she created for herself. "People just don't work that hard anymore," she says. I can believe that. But on the rare account that someone does, it's harder for that person to accomplish the same noticeable results that she did, or so I find. There's a delusion of butlers or housemaids, even scullery maids, as subservient, bitter people with no alternative. But the truth is that, below stairs, they lived and dreamed of a fulfilling life for themselves in a manner similar to those of us today. I'm sorry to make a Downton Abbey reference, I really am. But I keep thinking back to what Lord Grantham said in season one: "We all have a part to play." I think that sums up domestic servitude quite nicely.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Louise Culmer

    Delightful memoir of life in domestic service in the 1930s. Mollie Moran started as a scullery maid in 1931, at the age of fourteen. Going from life in a cottage in Norfolk to a big London house was a dramatic change for her. She worked a fifteen hour day with one half day off a week and every other Sunday. Her workload seems incredibly heavy, but despite that she enjoyed her time in service, learning to cook, experiencing London life, and life in a great country house, and making a lifelong fri Delightful memoir of life in domestic service in the 1930s. Mollie Moran started as a scullery maid in 1931, at the age of fourteen. Going from life in a cottage in Norfolk to a big London house was a dramatic change for her. She worked a fifteen hour day with one half day off a week and every other Sunday. Her workload seems incredibly heavy, but despite that she enjoyed her time in service, learning to cook, experiencing London life, and life in a great country house, and making a lifelong friend in fellow servant Flo Wadlow (who wrote her own memoir of service Over a Hot Stove). Despite the long hours there was the occasional outing to the pictures, to shops, even now and again a dance(and of course the opportunity to meet boys). There were escapades like the time she and Flo climbed out of a window to go to a forbidden dance. Then there was the time she went to swim in the Serpentine and was photographed in a bathing suit, the picture subsequently appeared in the News of the World, causing quite a stir below stairs. And the occasion when she got a good close up look at Wallis Simpson. Above all though there was the opportunity to learn to cook, preparing luscious meals from fresh ingredients, and learning so well that she was able to become a cook herself at the very early age of twenty. The book sparkles with Mollie Moran's great zest for life as nothing daunts her, not even cooking for a shooting party of thirty.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Patrice Sartor

    DISCLAIMER: I received this book for free from a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. 4.5 stars! What a joy this was to read! I feel like I came to know Mollie, similar to if she was my grandmother (or a friend) and sat me down to tell me the story of her youth. Mollie's tone is comforting and familiar, making for a lovely book. Her personality shines through on every page. All of it captivated me, from getting to know what Mollie was like as a child, to her many adventures (and hard work!) as a teenage DISCLAIMER: I received this book for free from a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. 4.5 stars! What a joy this was to read! I feel like I came to know Mollie, similar to if she was my grandmother (or a friend) and sat me down to tell me the story of her youth. Mollie's tone is comforting and familiar, making for a lovely book. Her personality shines through on every page. All of it captivated me, from getting to know what Mollie was like as a child, to her many adventures (and hard work!) as a teenager to a young adult in service, to the Afterword, where she beautifully wraps everything up and catches up the reader to her current life, at age 97. I am a fan of Downton Abbey, and while that probably increased my enjoyment, I think the appeal of a well-written memoir by a very cheeky and sharp lady can be appreciated by many. As a bonus, many photographs are included, which helped to deepen my involvement in the story. Each chapter also ends with a recipe from the times, and while I didn't try any, I liked reading them, as well as the household tips. What a blast from the past! Thank you, Mollie, for telling your tale, and doing it in such a wonderful way.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Maggie Duval

    I adored this book and its author. In fact, I wish she was a friend/relation because I would love to hear more of her stories. The book fell into my hands this week at the library and complements another book I'm reading on the 30s in England, a time of major transition from the old hierarchal order to the new, what would become known as, a more distributed networked order. Moran expertly and entertainingly captures that pivotal point in history. Equally intriguing is her detailing of the devastat I adored this book and its author. In fact, I wish she was a friend/relation because I would love to hear more of her stories. The book fell into my hands this week at the library and complements another book I'm reading on the 30s in England, a time of major transition from the old hierarchal order to the new, what would become known as, a more distributed networked order. Moran expertly and entertainingly captures that pivotal point in history. Equally intriguing is her detailing of the devastating loss still felt due to the first World War both thanks to catastrophic body counts as well as the walking wounded like her father, serving in the trenches, who came home with destroyed lungs thanks to German mustard gas attacks. When WWII begins, you feel that weariness of, "here we go again." Throughout the book, her humor, can do attitude and indomitable spirit shines through. She highlights the strength of the womenfolk in her family as well, which I loved. Couldn't put it down and enjoyed every page of it. Bonus was her descriptions of the dishes made as well as recipes she provides - inspired me to start cooking up a storm!

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