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Life below stairs

5 October 2012 by Karen

Woman holding a sparkly black dress

Pauline Rushton with one of Mrs Tinne’s many evening dresses.

Have to admit to being a bit of a Downton Abbey fan. I realise that you could drive a 1911 Renault type CB1 through the holes in the plot, but the Thomas/O’Brien feud and Lady Edith getting to act for once have kept me stuck to the sofa.  The goings-on below stairs are definitely more interesting than the Crawleys’ whinging that they only ‘own most of the village’, which is probably why I’m enjoying the Beeb’s latest offering, Servants: The True Story of Life Below Stairs.

If you missed the first episode it’s available on iPlayer until Friday 19 October, and episode two will be broadcast tonight. Our very own Pauline Rushton, curator of costume and textiles, will be featuring. She’ll be talking about the Tinne letters – around 1,000 letters which were sent between 1923-54 by the well-to-do Dr and Mrs Tinne to their son while he was off being educated. In the missives they regale their son with tales from home, with the servants featuring quite heavily, and not always in the best of lights. The letters are a fascinating insight into the sometimes fraught relationships between servants and their employers.

You may remember Mrs Tinne from the exhibition of her clothes held at the Walker in 2006. The collection features more than 700 pieces ranging from bathing suits and outdoor clothes to evening wear and accessories. Highlights of the collection can be found in the catalogue Mrs Tinne’s Wardrobe – A Liverpool Lady’s Clothes 1900-1940 which you can purchase from this very website. My personal favourites are the darling cloche hats. And if you fancy seeing the pieces in the cloth, as it were, you need only wait a few weeks as a display of the wardrobe opens at the Walker on 17 November.

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