The Scullery

Saturday, December 30th, 2023

Two years ago, the room in the photo above was in a shockingly filthy state. It was originally the former Annexe’s kitchen, but was part of the fabric of the central part of the main house. The Annexe is otherwise set apart as a self-contained cottage that forms the western wing of the property. Access to this kitchen is via a long, narrow corridor. Historically, in 1930 the kitchen was designed to service the main house, whose inhabitants would not have ever set foot in a kitchen, let alone cooked for themselves, but relied on servants living in the Annexe to prepare and serve all the food. Adjoining this kitchen was the pantry which led into the big house. A serving hatch had been built into the party wall between kitchen and pantry, through which food prepared in the kitchen could be passed into the big house and taken to the dining room some distance away. When my family bought the house in 1960, they turned the small pantry into a kitchen for their own use, and the larger kitchen, together with the access corridor, were deemed to be part of the Annexe, for the sole use of its occupants.

In the early 1980s a cloak room, a “flower room” and the downstairs WC in the main house had to be rebuilt due to subsidence, so my parents saw this as an opportunity to build a modern single-storey kitchen extension instead of the cloak and flower rooms. The new kitchen would be much closer to the dining room and far more convenient. The small pantry kitchen then took on utility-room duties. Now, it is in effect a multi-purpose room which is much appreciated by B&B guests as a place to prepare and eat evening meals if they don’t want to eat out.

In December 2021, the cottage was vacated and I was left with an almighty cleanup job. The kitchen was left in a particularly bad state, and I knew it would take time and money to restore it. The sanitary facilities also needed attention. It was at that early stage that I decided to upgrade the whole cottage, not just the bathroom and kitchen. Plans were drawn up in 2022. For the kitchen there were two alternatives: one was to keep it as part of a rearranged single-storey Annexe, and the other was to transfer the old kitchen and corridor to the main house, extend the main block of the cottage upwards by building an upper storey for the two bedrooms and a new bathroom, and fitting a new kitchen in the space that was formerly occupied by a ground-floor bedroom. The second alternative was chosen, and the new Annexe was completed in November 2023, with new occupants moving in as the paint was drying.

Now it was time to deal with the filthy Old Kitchen which was used as a builders’ mess room (literally!) throughout the project. The main house did not need a third kitchen, but it could certainly benefit from having a store room and a folding and pressing area for the B&B’s bed linen which could easily be accessed by staff. This large room, bigger than either of the two kitchens in the big house, would be ideal on both counts. The question was finding a name for it. It would best be described as a utility room, but I wanted a more traditional appellation, so it has become the Scullery (there was already a “Laundry Room” where the washing machines are).

To enable easier access to the Scullery from the main house, a doorway was created in the space formerly occupied by the serving hatch, and the door from the larder into the corridor was blocked off as it was now redundant.

All the old units, worktops, cupboards and grimy wall tiles were removed from the Scullery and put on the bonfire and skip. Literally everything bar the kitchen sink was stripped out. The sink was kept, as it was in relatively good condition and stainless steel is easy to clean and restore. My builder fitted new cupboards and worktop surfaces earlier this month and built some shelves. New windows were fitted and the smaller windows above the sink will be replaced this summer. During the Christmas break I filled the holes in the wall, cleaned and painted the room and the shelves and continued to restore the old quarry-tiled floor, which I don’t think had ever been properly cleaned since the 1950s. The builders had removed most of the grime from the floor and given it some preliminary coats of polish, but there were still areas that needed attention. It’s an ongoing process, though the red tiled floor is looking much better now, and I still have two doors to paint and a filthy built-in cupboard to clean and paint. The cupboard is used to store paint and tools, so it can wait until summer. It feels odd to have suddenly gained a very useful, functional large room in what is already a large house. The extra worktop surfaces (visible in the panoramic photo below) are excellent places for my large pressure cooker cum slow cooker, dough mixing machine, bread slicer and spare coffee machine, all of which are used daily but do not fit in the main kitchen. The trestle tables are brilliant for folding superking size sheets. Every well-appointed B&B needs a Scullery.

Panoramic view of the scullery