An amazing find this week. While working my way through auction catalogues, I stumbled on a wonderful leather-bound journal entitled "Inventory of Linen" and inside the handwritten inscription "Hawnes Park, Inventory of House Linen made in 1852 by A. C. Thynne". With Gold leaf tooling to the leather title label and hand marbled paper to the front and back end papers, this has been a beautiful item in its heyday. Now rather battered and dogeared, but the pages inside make for interesting reading.
I am no historian, but I do find the social history associated with this type of document quite fascinating. This journal gives the most interesting snapshot of life in a fine country house from the mid 1800s to 1929. The house later became known as Haynes Park and in 1929 became a girls' boarding school.
Before that, however, it had been the country estate of the Barons Carteret. On the death of the childless 3rd Baron Carteret in 1849, the Barony became extinct and the estate passed to his nephew, Rev. Lord John Thynne, the Sub Dean of Westminster. (There is a monument to him to be seen in Westminster Abbey).
He had married Anna Constantia Beresford, and as was the custom, the household was run by the lady of the house, so it was she who compiled this record of the household linens up until her death in 1866. I imagine the records were kept updated by the housekeeper after that.
Each double page has columns showing the date, quantity, description, marks or monograms, size and number at a table. Lots of pencil written notes are added and items crossed out, so this document was kept regularly updated. Think of it as an 1800s spreadsheet!
An example from 1861 tells us there were 4 Irish linen cloths carrying the mark J T 1861 each 6 yards in length and 2.5 yards wide, which would be used for a party of 18. They had been purchased from Dickens and Jones at a cost of £6 and 6 shillings each!
Some of the entries in the "marks" column show a drawing of a coronet, denoting that these had belonged to the house when it was owned by the 3rd Baron. There are notes, such as "all worn out 1902" or "2 cut in half 1907". Nothing was wasted and cloths were cut and reused in smaller sizes until totally worn out.
The coronet motif can be seen to the top right.
The variety of linens is remarkable. One page is devoted to napkins which are described as Fish and Pastry and Thumb napkins! Also waiting napkins, some cut from tablecloths in 1902. And Layovers, a term I had not come across before, but I presume them to be what we call table runners as they vary in length from 4.5 to 6 yards and some have been cut into sideboard cloths.
Then we move upstairs to the bedrooms - Sheets Fine, Sheets Coarse, Pillow Covers, Pillow Covers Coarse, Towels and Toilet Covers!
The list of Sheets Fine.
The Coarse sheets are noted as being for men, upper maids, footmen and servants, the Fine sheets of course were reserved for the family of the house and their guests.
Of 6 fine pairs of 4 yard sheets with a blue coronet and dated 1843, set 6 is noted as being "very much scorched, the parts taken out and repaired with fine cloth, 1853." I do hope the laundry maid didn't get into too much trouble for her carelessness.
The variety of Coarse Cloths for the house and kitchen is fascinating. Obvious things such as glass cloths, dusters etc but also Stable cloths, Cook's cloths, Slop Pail cloths, Hearth cloths, Knife cloths and China cloths, the list goes on! I wonder how on earth they could tell the difference. It is noted that many of these were taken to London in 1888, which I presume to be 67 Eaton Place, the London home of Francis John Thynne, who inherited the estate on the death of his father.
From 1897 onwards the record keeping is much more scant and it appears to stop in 1907. The very last entry is in 1929 with just 2 pages. So life in this beautiful house was about to change and the copious quantities of Irish and Scottish linen fall of our radar. I wonder what became of it all??