Historic food store revealed at Doncaster's Brodsworth Hall

Matthew Lester at the newly restored game larder.
Matthew Lester at the newly restored game larder.

A historic food store at Doncaster's picturesque Brodsworth Hall has been revealed after being restored to its former glory.

The rare game larder, once used for storing the spoils of the shooting season, has been restored at the English Heritage property by curatorial and gardening staff as part of a wider conservation project at the hall.

Ellie Matthews of English Heritage with the restored game cart.

Ellie Matthews of English Heritage with the restored game cart.

The larder, which has been in urgent need of repairs, sits in the award winning gardens and is within walking distance of the kitchen which would have made it easier for the kitchen staff to fetch game such as pheasant, grouse and hare.

The octagonal structure, which stands 5 metres high and 3.5 metres wide, now stands proudly in the re-landscaped gardens surrounding it.

Together with volunteers, the dedicated gardens team used historical maps and photographs to ensure that the gardens were created to look as they would have in the late nineteenth century.

Dan Hale, Head Gardener at Brodsworth Hall said: “We have used photographs of former staff standing in front of the game larder to follow the exact line of the path and the planting.

"We got one of the garden team to stand in the exact spot to make sure that each tree was planted in the same place. This has been a brilliant team effort and we are thrilled with the way that it looks.”

Dan and his team have planted pine trees, strawberry trees and 2,000 snowdrops on either side of the path.

When it was built, it was set under shady trees with louvered sides for ventilation and raised on supports to deter vermin.

Inside it, game was hung from rods and there was a small table for the head keeper to complete his records.

The structure remains on its original site – on the route up the back drive and close enough to kitchen, scullery, inner game larder in the cellar and the gun room by the back door to be handy for staff preparing meals.

The project team conducted timber repairs, the roof was re-covered, the inner mesh to the sides was reinstated and the stones it stands on repaired, having previously been damaged, were replaced.

As well as work to the structure and the surrounding garden, the inside of the larder has also benefitted from work.

While Dan concentrated on the area around the larder, the curatorial team looked at historical documents such as game books, oral history recordings and historical photographs of the larder to find out more about who would have used the larder.

New interpretation panels have been suspended from the rails from which the game would once have hung, with the curatorial team drawing on the rich history of the Hall’s archives.

It now illustrates more clearly the lives of the former owners and employees, from game keepers and gardeners to kitchen maids and cooks. An oral history speaker outside the larder allows visitors to hear former staff talking about plucking pheasants and deterring poachers.

Brodsworth, which is uniquely shown ‘as found’, was the creation of Charles Sabine Thellusson in the 1860s, whose aspirational tastes were reflected throughout the estate.

Eleanor Matthews, Curator of Collections and Interiors at Brodsworth Hall said: “The estate was transformed into a model Victorian gentleman’s estate in the 1860s with the new house and gardens surrounded by parkland.

"Shooting was the family’s main leisure activity in winter and formed a large part of their social life at Brodsworth.

"The Thellussons spent a large proportion of their estate income on ensuring good sport.

"They planted and maintained the woods, and employed up to ten gamekeepers – providing them with rent free cottages, suits, guns, and allowances of ale and cheese.

"The keepers reared and protected pheasants and organised ‘drives’ for the shooting party.

"Structures like the game larder, game keepers’ cottage and kennels helped the estate run efficiently. The larder was used for hanging game within easy access of the kitchens. Working on this project has helped us to understand more about life on the Brodsworth estate.”

The family fortunes changed and eventually Brodsworth Hall passed into the care of English Heritage in 1990.

The gardens had become overgrown and the game larder was dilapidated and in desperate need of structural and cosmetic work. English Heritage undertook careful restoration to recapture the original spirit of the larder and in 2018 work was completed to restore this engaging game larder.