History of the Victorian Kitchen
Bowhill House was built in 1812. However, the Victorian Kitchen was a later addition, built in around 1832 at the same time as the stables and courtyard area. The Victorian Kitchen was used from the 1830s until the 1930s when sadly it was destroyed by fire. At that time, the kitchen was moved to the main House itself and the old Victorian Kitchen fell into disrepair. However, in the 1970’s the 9th Duchess of Buccleuch decided to restore it to its former glory. She researched its history from past members of staff and their family members who had worked there and the result is what you see today.
A hive of activity
We know from the census that in 1861 there were over nine members of staff working in the Victorian kitchen at Bowhill. In addition, there were gardeners, farm hands, gamekeepers and many more staff.
We are lucky enough to have records of those nine roles with the employee’s name and salary details:
|Baker||Philip Stoik (German)||£54 12s|
|1st Kitchen Maid||Julia Poole||£30|
|2nd Kitchen Maid||Charlotte Welby||£18|
|3rd Kitchen Maid||Susan Chapman||£16|
|4th Kitchen Maid||Rachel Watkins||£14|
|Cooks Apprentice||George Magdelin||n/a|
|Stillroom Maid||Jane Inglis||£14|
Nine members of kitchen staff may seem excessive but Bowhill was a busy place! On the week of 7th December 1835, the Dinner Book, which the House Stewart filled in, showed that an average of 43 people a day ate in the dining room at Bowhill. This included the Duke and Duchess, family members and guests. However, there were also all of the staff to feed so that number probably doubled.
In the 1800s, French chefs were in high demand. French cuisine and presentation was highly skilled and being able to present your guests with this cuisine was very fashionable and showed your position in society.
In the early 1800’s the chef was Joseph Florence. He was chef to the 3rd, 4th and 5th Dukes of Buccleuch. He was also a favourite of Sir Walter Scott. One account states: “the French artiste who presided over the ducal kitchen loved when Sir Walter was a guest, to compliment him with medieval erections of pastry or marchpane (marzipan), or with tableaux such as ‘the hunt, cut out of toast, galloping over a landscape of boiled spinach’” (Bowhill Guidebook).
In 1861, Julien Magdelin, was chef. We know from census records that he held the salary and thus importance as the House Steward. Traditionally the House Steward managed all the rest of the staff in the household. So the chef and Victorian Kitchen were clearly very important in Victorian times.
Key Features in Bowhill Victorian Kitchen
All the activity took place around the enormous range and the large central kitchen table. All the dishes, pots and pans would be placed conveniently to hand. Thanks to such organisation, several servants could work in the kitchen at the same time, in different areas for different tasks, and without getting in each other’s way. They could also all sit around the table to eat.
Copper pans and dishes were used because they are such good conductors of heat.
All the pans are numbered and carry the Buccleuch monogram. The cook would ask for the pans she needed by its number, as all the pans were arranged on the shelves according to their size and number.
Another essential piece of equipment was the kitchen range. It was made from iron. The range burnt wood or coal and the meat cooked in the spit in front of the fire. The range made the kitchen very hot, but that’s why the ceiling is so high. All the heat and the cooking smells escaped towards the vents in the ceiling.
Informal education and School groups
Chances are if you grew up in the Scottish Borders then you visited the Victorian Kitchen at Bowhill in primary school! It continues to be an excellent resource for school visits concentrating on the Victorians.
The Victorian Kitchen is also usually open to members of the public when the grounds are open. (please note due to the current covid-19 pandemic the Victorian Kitchen remains closed – for opening times see Opening Dates & Times)