Diana’s Legacy – Tales & Treasures From A Family In Service

14th April 2022

We have recently been contacted by Diana Pattison whose family had for many years lived and worked at Wentworth Castle. Diana has very kindly offered to share her family treasures and stories with us, and here she tells us a little bit about why she did.  

Years ago, like many visitors, I followed the restorations of Wentworth Castle Gardens with great interest. About a dozen members of my mother’s family had been servants at the Castle. Stories of their lives were told at almost every get-together, and I realised what an idyllic childhood mother and her sisters had had, living in Stainborough Park, where we ‘townies’ regularly walked my aunt’s dog on visits from Sheffield. 

A common impression is that servants always lived in cramped attic rooms with almost no possessions. But since my post-war childhood, cherished items of woodwork and needlework, made or owned by these Wentworth servants, were passed down to me. Some dated back to the 1880s.  Pieces of woodwork had been made by joiners and carpenters with real expertise, but, of course, no power tools, not even electric light in the workshops and just a home-made pole-lathe. There was an assortment of mainly copper and brass objects that had once belonged in the Castle kitchen and scullery, passed down to the female servants when they were no longer wanted. Some of the ladies were excellent needlecrafters. The majority of the Senior family had been born or lived in Menagerie house, near the Stainborough archway. It was a simple life, but they were surrounded for over 50 years with some lovely possessions. Menagerie House is now subject to Conservation as a fine Grade II Listed building and is currently receiving some much-needed restoration.

My collection had grown to the point of taking up too much room when my husband and I were retiring and needed to downsize. I made a Will that included its donation. We did move, but I still hung onto everything! Meanwhile the old Heritage Trust closed, and the gardens were closed to the public. Some years after the National Trust had entered a lease agreement to manage the gardens, I had to re-think my decision for practicality. Why not make a donation to Experience Barnsley? And why not do it now while I’m fit, to save a major chore for my Will Executors?So last year I contacted the Museum and was invited to tour both the displays and the storage areas. I met the staff to learn about how such projects are handled. The revised decision has considerably lifted my spirits because it would seem so wrong to sell or tip everything, and my stepfamily live far too far away to transport it and anyway don’t know Wentworth. It’s a real pleasure now to begin cleaning things up, writing an inventory, matching old photos to the owners and makers, and noting little stories about them. Old hand-crafted objects can really get to live again. They take on an important new relevance in today’s world. We are working towards delivery in May.

Diana Pattison

Diana’s Legacy – Tales & Treasures From A Family In Service