Maureens Story - an Upstairs Downstairs of Highclere Castle, setting to Downton Abbey, home to the Carnarvon family of Tutankhamen fame

Extracts from Maureen's Story

"It's strange to think that I ended up in one of the grandest stately homes in England when my own beginnings were so humble."

"We used to put everything through very large sieves in those early days because liquidisers didn't exist. All sorbets and ice cream were made and turned by hand in a container bucket; then rock salt and ice were put around the container and the connecting handle was turned for two hours. Cooking was generally done in the copper saucepans. To whip eggs or whites everything was done by hand in copper bowls over warm water. What a godsend it was when later we had a Kenwood mixer and liquidiser - heaven!"

"What a bonus if Tom Cruise came along! Well , he did. What's more, he was very well thought of by all the film crew. Apparently he was very good to all of them and a joy to work with. He was a very charming and pleasant person but just before he arrived I was told by the crew not to look him straight in the eye or he'd get me sacked. I just laughed and said "Oh, don't worry, I've had so many people trying to sack me that I've got used to it by now and besides, I don't work for the film crew I work for the 7th Earl of Carnarvon."
(the crew's warning was, of course, just a joke)

"Greg Rusedski and Lucy Connor's wedding:
From the first time I met Lucy ..... I knew that the wedding breakfast would take place at Highclere. Lucy's face lit up when I opened the front door. There was such warmth and enthusiasm there. At the time I wasn't aware that her fiancé was Greg Rusedski and in any case I'd never heard of him."

"1st September 1968 was my first day as the 6th Earl of Carnarvon's assistant cook. You could say I had very high expectations. I had a half-day off each week and my wage was £3 per week with split shifts. Wednesday until 6pm was my half day. I had to return by 6pm in order to prepare the evening meal for Lord Carnarvon and the staff, although later I was allowed a full day when I went to Newbury College to do a City & Guilds course in domestic cookery. I passed with distinction."

"As Lord Carnarvon talked about the famous painting of Charles I, The Queen commented to his Lordship: "Oh yes, but I have the original". Classic, I thought. "

"Trade Secrets on BBC2 was a programme where I had to demonstrate housekeeper's tips, like cleaning teapots and how to get rid of water stains and dog hairs. Nearly 200 tips were given on the programme and some of them were included in a BBC book, also called Trade Secrets "
(there are also handy hints at the end of Maureen's Story)

"There was an occasion when I turned Bill Gates, head of Microsoft, out of the back State Rooms. Everyone was in a conference called 'Experience through the Gates of Microsoft'. Well, I'd never heard of Bill Gates and he shouldn't have been walking around the State Rooms because they were off limits to the conference. He didn't look like anyone who might own a huge business as he had long hair and wore jeans and sweatshirt with crumpled jacket. How was I to know how important he was? It was the first time we'd run such a large conference in the Library, with 280 people, an activity day and then dinner as part of the event. I explained the situation to him and for a change I was very tactful and courteous - then someone told me who he was. I apologised to him and we had a good laugh about it; he was a very nice person to talk to and very easy going. I offered him a tour of the Egyptian artefacts as a way of saying sorry and he accepted. "