Audio clip and photo gallery: Hear the memories of Blickling Hall’s Downton Abbey-style cook who has died aged 100.
PUBLISHED: 17:13 11 January 2013 | UPDATED: 17:13 11 January 2013
A rare link with the Downton Abbey-style world of large houses and servants has ended with the death last week of former Blickling Hall cook Florence Wadlow, a month after her 100th birthday.
Mrs Wadlow’s historical fund of memories included cooking for Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and his wife during the 1936 abdication crisis, and preparing chicken in aspic for Queen Mary.
She leaves many others with mouth-watering memories of her tapioca puddings, apple fritters and old-fashioned steak and kidney pies, topped with homemade flaky pastry.
And her memory will live on at Blickling, now owned by the National Trust, where an interview with her was recorded and is available for visitors to hear as they visit the stately home’s kitchens.
Blickling house manager Jan Brookes-Bullen said “Flo” was loved and would be greatly missed by everyone on the estate, where she had been a frequent visitor in recent years.
“She was lively, funny and very much on the ball. In many ways she was queen of below stairs - her memories were sharp and so helpful to us. It gave us the opportunity to get things right,” said Mrs Brookes-Bullen.
“She has really been the catalyst for so much that we have tried to do at Blickling.”
Last year Mrs Wadlow had gone back to Blickling to “open” her old bedroom there which staff had tried to recreate as it would have been when she worked at the hall for Lord Lothian, from 1936-1939.
With her eagle eye for detail she had immediately pointed out that the bedspread was the wrong colour, the lamp was not right and there would have been no radio in the room, Mrs Brookes-Bullen recalled.
Blickling volunteer Bunty Gotts, who plays Mrs Wadlow during recreation events at the hall, remembered that she did not approve of the ITV series Downton Abbey, despite its wide appeal.
“When Flo was asked by a visitor what she thought of it she said: ‘Not much. They have got it wrong. They should have talked to people like me,’” said Mrs Gotts.
Unlike her Downton counterpart Mrs Patmore, Mrs Wadlow had not known the butler, who never visited the kitchen. She had also only been “upstairs” twice during her time at Blickling Hall, on one occasion to accept a £1 tip from Mrs Baldwin, the PM’s wife.
Lord Lothian had asked her to cook for him when he was appointed British ambassador to the US but she had turned down the offer and went to work instead at Heydon Grange, staying until the death of its owner, Molly Bulwer-Long, in 1998, when she retired to Fakenham.
While at Heydon, Mrs Wadlow became immersed in village life as an active member of the WI and Heydon Minstrels entertainment troupe. She also made wedding dresses and going-away outfits for a number of local brides.
Mary Anne Shippam, one of Mrs Bulwer-Long’s six children, remembers her as a great character and loyal friend of the family who could cook good, plain meals and turn her hand to a hot chocolate soufflé, prepared as the first course was being eaten.
Mrs Wadlow was back at Heydon Grange for a party on her 100th birthday, attended by 80 people, according to her son Robert. She also leaves a son, Terrence, and two grandchildren. Funeral arrangements have not yet been finalised.
● Visit: www.edp24.co.uk to hear an audio clip of Mrs Wadlow speaking about her days at Blickling Hall.
Flo Wadlow Clip