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Rare game larder restored on the grounds of Brodsworth Hall

PUBLISHED: 00:00 29 August 2018

Matthew Lester of English Heritage outside the restored game larder at Brodsworth Hall Photo: Anthony Chappel-Ross

Matthew Lester of English Heritage outside the restored game larder at Brodsworth Hall Photo: Anthony Chappel-Ross


A long forgotten part of game keeping is uncovered in the grounds of a South Yorkshire country house

Ellie Matthews, collections curator at English Heritage wheels a restored game cart Photo: Anthony Chappel-RossEllie Matthews, collections curator at English Heritage wheels a restored game cart Photo: Anthony Chappel-Ross

A rare game larder, once used for storing the spoils of the shooting season, has been restored at Brodsworth Hall near Doncaster. The octagonal shaped building sits in the award-winning gardens and is within walking distance of the kitchen which would have made it much easier for kitchen staff to fetch freshly shot game such as pheasant, grouse and hare.

The larder was restored by curatorial and gardening staff at English Heritage as part of a wider conservation project at the hall. They researched historical documents including game books, oral history recordings and historical photographs of the larder to find out more about who would have used it. Timber repairs were made, the roof was re-covered, the inner mesh to the sides was reinstated and the stones it stands on repaired or replaced. The inside of the larder has also been improved.

When it was built, the larder was set under shady trees with louvered sides for ventilation and raised on supports to deter vermin. Inside it game was hung from rods and there was a small table for the head keeper to complete his records. The structure remains on its original site – on the route along the back drive and close enough to kitchen, scullery, inner game larder in the cellar and the gun room by the back door to be handy for staff preparing meals.

New interpretation panels have been suspended from the rails from which the game would once have hung. More is now understood about the lives of the former owners and employees, from game keepers and gardeners to kitchen maids and cooks. An oral history speaker outside the larder allows visitors to hear former staff talking about plucking pheasants and deterring poachers.

Former head gardener, Ernest Swift. Photo: Edwards FamilyFormer head gardener, Ernest Swift. Photo: Edwards Family

Brodsworth Hall and gardens were the creation of Charles Sabine Thellusson in the 1860s, whose aspirational tastes were reflected throughout the estate. Eleanor Matthews, curator of collections and interiors at the hall said: ‘The estate was transformed into a model Victorian gentleman’s estate in the 1860s with the new house and gardens surrounded by parkland. Shooting was the family’s main leisure activity in winter and formed a large part of their social life at Brodsworth. The Thellussons spent a large proportion of their estate income on ensuring good sport. They planted and maintained the woods, and employed up to 10 gamekeepers providing them with rent free cottages, suits, guns, and allowances of ale and cheese. The keepers reared and protected pheasants and organised drives for the shooting party. Structures like the game larder, game keeper’s cottage and kennels helped the estate run efficiently. The larder was used for hanging game within easy access of the kitchens. Working on this project has helped us to understand more about life on the Brodsworth estate.’

Dan Hale, head gardener at Brodsworth Hall said they used photographs of former staff standing in front of the game larder to help them restore the surrounding gardens. ‘We got one of the garden team to stand in the exact spot to make sure that each tree was planted in the same place. This has been a brilliant team effort and we are thrilled with the way that it looks,’ said Dan. He and his team have planted pine trees, strawberry trees and 2,000 snowdrops on either side of the path leading to the larder.

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