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October 18, 2015 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Memories of the last butler at Apley Park

Tom J Gray, Blues & Royals 001

Tom J Gray, Blues & Royals

Mrs Smallwood's  chocolate cake from Tom Gray

Mrs Smallwood’s chocolate cake from Tom Gray

Having taken the girls on their ponies XC (cross country training) this morning, I whizzed straight off to meet Tom W Gray (TWG, born 1930, now a very bright & lively 85 yr old), son of the last butler at Apley Park (the proper name for the big house in the middle of Apley Park, now usually called Apley Hall). I’ve known his sisters Sue Ward & Anne since Gavin inherited Apley Estate in 2006, but I had never met their brother Tom. Their father [also] Tom J Gray (TJG, born 1883) was batman (in the Blues & Royals) then butler (at Apley Park) to AW Foster, the last of the Fosters to live at Apley Park. Their memories are fascinating, more of which I’ll share this week, with their permission.

Tom junior was born in 1930 in a house in Herefordshire without running water. He had to walk to a pump 200 yards down the road & return with 2 pails (c. 2 gallons each) of water on a yoke. The world has changed so fast – it makes it amazing to think that this was part of the childhood of someone alive today. Their home in Apley Park was one of the first on the Apley Estate to get electricity, running water & a eventually also a telephone.

Tom told me how his father survived the First World War & then how his family lived through the Second World War; recipes they used (baked jointed rabbit with onion & sage stuffing, topped with bacon from a neighbour’s pig); how they lived so close to nature, living off the land; what privileged lives they feel they had, as the butler’s family living in the centre of a beautiful park; how people lived closely together in the small, tight knit community of Apley & Norton.

As I left, I felt very honoured to be given this fantastic chocolate cake using Mrs Smallwood’s recipe (she was one of the last cooks at Apley Park & handed on her recipe to Mr & Mrs Gray).

One Comment

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  1. Corinna Hamilton / Oct 19 2015 4:19 pm

    Dearest H,

    This is so interesting, Mrs Grey never spoke of her son , to me anyway, nor did either of her daughters, I wonder why. I assumed that there were just the two girls.


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