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April 2002
Local girl goes back in time
Antonia Dawson

Antonia Dawson tries to get back to life in the 21st century.

Nottingham girl Antonia Dawson, has just took part in a new docu-soap called 'The Edwardian Country House.'

She joined 18 other volunteers to recreate the upstairs-downstairs life of the early 20th century.

Antonia was a police switchboard operator, but gave it up to take part in the programme for three months. She chose to take on the role of a kitchen maid.

The series hopes to turn back the clock and recreate the Edwardian life as it was for the upper classes and their servants before the First World War.

Everything is traditionally British, there's a grand country house, croquet in the garden and a stable full of horses.

Nowadays of course, class is not as important or defined. But back then life was utterly divided and ruled by class.

Interview with Antonia Dawson:
How much fun was it?
I wouldn't use the word 'fun', but it was a hard experience and worth doing.
Why did you chose to be a kitchen maid?
That was the position I applied for, so I could go downstairs. I thought it would be more relaxed, we'd have more fun. I knew it would be hard work but I wanted to be in with the nitty gritty.
Why did you want to be part of the programme?
I wanted to appreciate where we come from, as a 21st century person who's got her own house and car, a good job and no one reliant on me, I wanted to see what options I'd would've had 100 years ago and what would've been open to me.
What were your duties?
I used to get up at 7:00am, put the porridge on, get the servants breakfast ready and start preparing the veg. Our breakfast was at 8:15am and the servants dinner was a full roast. In the evening we'd have what remained from the meal upstairs.
You must be crackers!
At the time it seemed completely sane! When I got back and told people, that the first thing I did in the morning was to look out the window and see how windy it was, so I knew how hot the ranges were going to be that day, they look at me and say 'oh my God , I don't believe it'.
How long did it take you to get the hang of it?
Surprisingly quickly, after a couple of weeks when you knew how to work the ranges, every day was the same, so it didn't take that long.
What were the people you were waiting on like?
We only saw them at morning prayers, I wasn't in regular contact at all, I went around once when the family were in bed and I was slightly drunk! My life was downstairs.
Weren't they horrible people?
They liked their role and there you go. They got a little bit used to their role!
Would you do it again?
It wouldn't be the same if we did it again, I'd just like to perfect what I learned.
What have you learned from it?
It's not what I've learned, but what I've come to realise about myself, I thought I was quite subservient, but I've learned I'll stand up if something is wrong.

 


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