One variation in diet that I enjoyed was when mum and dad were away for the day and Jayne had her chance to do the cooking. My favourite was cheese and potato pie – probably Jayne’s choice because it was the only thing she knew how to cook! A fair bit of the equipment used in the guesthouse seems to have come into our possession in various, dubious ways. Mum and dad were first in service to a well-to-do family in Surrey and later went to work at Poplar Schools in Hutton.
In 1836 the new Poplar Poor Law Union was formed to administer the local workhouses. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, and in 1906, the Poplar Guardians erected a training school for around 700 children on a 100-acre site at Hutton in Essex. The land cost £101 an acre but lacked a water supply, drainage system and road access.
This, together with the ornate design of some of the buildings, contributed to the unusually high final cost of the project (£184,280), which was one of the last of its type to be erected. The buildings took the form of a "cottage homes" village arranged around a large green. Five double cottages for boys stood at the west of the green and five for girls at the east side. In the middle of the boys' cottages stood an elaborately decorated dining hall (the girls prepared and served meals in their own cottages as part of their domestic training).
The single-storey building was surmounted by a bell tower, and a terra-cotta frieze adorned the top of the bay at the eastern side, one part depicting St Leonard — possibly a reference to St Leonard’s, Shoreditch. Shoreditch Borough seems to have made use of the school. The interior was equally ornate, in fact, during a House of Lords debate on 4th May, 1906, concerning the alleged extravagance of the Guardians, one speaker remarked that 'the beams in the Dining Hall would do credit to an English Cathedral.'
Forty acres of the site were used as a farm where children worked to provide much of the school's food. Five hundred fruit trees were planted, some of which survive in the gardens of houses on Colet Road in Hutton. The school had no uniform as such. Boys wore knickerbockers and tunics, or trousers and jackets, while the girls wore blouses with frocks, jumpers and print pinafores. Boys were trained in small 'shops' in the trades of boot making, tailoring, carpentry, baking and gardening. They were also encouraged to learn a musical instrument and join the school military band, which was of a high standard. Older girls trained as domestic servants and were taught cookery, needlework and laundry skills.
On 14th May, 1919, Queen Mary and Princess Mary visited the school. They watched a physical drill by the younger children and toured classrooms and training shops before enjoying a musical performance by the school band and choirs. In 1930, control of the school passed to the London County Council. In the 1950s, the school`s farmland was sold. In the 1970s, the school was taken over by the Inner London Education Authority. In 1974, following changes in the law relating to children in care, the school's intake fell considerably. The main school building was sold to Essex County Council for use as an adult education centre. By 1980, only 40 children were still in residence and the home was closed. All the children were placed in foster homes, with the last child leaving in March 1982.
Various pieces of china, kitchen utensils and cutlery had identifiable marks from these places! Dad, of course, also used to work as a waiter and many useful items would arrive with the names of different hotels stamped on them. Harry was a skilled silver-service waiter, but his preferred job was as wine waiter, which he considered to be a much higher-status occupation. He worked at the Chez Laurie on the main road between Herne Bay and St Nicholas, and for a long time at the Beresford Hotel, Birchington. There were also special events that were held in the Winter Gardens, Cliftonville, and at which he was usually head wine-waiter.
One of the major items in each room were large china water jug and bowl sets. We had a number of these, enough to equip quite a few rooms. My sister and I suspect that these came from a large house where my parents were in service, or from Poplar Schools.