Insole Court is a truly wonderful example of one family’s eccentric tastes and changing fortunes. It has been chopped and changed many times over the years and it is said that since the first clod was cut there has never been a time when there has not been significant building work being undertaken.
As with many of these grand houses our primary interest in the working areas. The servant’s quarters, back stairs, pantries, sculleries and of course kitchens. A direct relative of the first of the |Insole family to inhabit this ground lived her until the 1940s and possibly because of this the kitchens remain intact. There are actually two ranges installed back to back both served by the same chimney though obviously by different flues. The first is a huge ‘Wellstood’ range manufactured by Smith & Wellstood. This was their flagship model and arguably was only challenge for technological dominance by the ‘New Gold Medal Eagle Range’ of which there is one in the room behind. It is especially interesting to see these two ranges in the same kitchens especially as they were installed within such a short period of time from one another as you can see in the original ledgers.
Our primary aim here was to conserve both range with as little intervention as possible to retain all the original evidence of their working life. The Eagle Range was chosen to be decorative exhibit, but it was decided that the Wellstood should be recommission so as to demonstrate to visiting groups how the kitchens operated in the period and what environment the staff were expected to work in.
The firebars had been removed and used as a grate and the grate was missing entirely. We have a large collection of original literature on cooking ranges and thankfully several catalogues dedicated to the ‘Wellstood; are in our possession. From the engravings and the measurements taken on site I was able to make technical drawings of the missing parts and produce accurate patterns. Several other sundry parts were requiring though the missing hot plates were found to be being used on the Eagle Range. There was a lot of work to be done in servicing the internal flues and damper assemblies as well as the chimney itself.
Once the work was complete we had the honour of liting a fire in the grate for the first time since at least the 1940s. We have since trained the museum staff in the operation of the range and guests visiting Insole Court today can see the Wellstood at work and get a taste of what it was like in an early 20th century kitchen.