Steep steps, chaotic kitchen and mischievous cats - the trials of working in a 14th Century castle


The summer holidays are drawing to a close and soon many students will be drifting back to their schools/colleges and universities.

For those students who have spent their vacation working, I hope they feel pleased and fulfilled having earned much-needed cash, but also helped the many businesses in the area in what appears to have been a very busy season.

I can remember having various seasonal jobs from the age of 15, and it was a great sense of achievement to have your own money to spend.

One summer I took a job as a waitress in a 14th Century castle.

The castle was mainly a ruin, but one part of it was a restaurant and ballroom, it was an absolute gold mine.

Anyone getting married in the area had their reception there, and the New Year’s Eve fancy dress parties were legendary.

However, the place was a nightmare to work in.

There were steep narrow passages with uneven stone steps and flags, awkward corners and tight turns everywhere.

To be fair there was no such thing as health and safety or risk assessments in the 14th Century and very few in the early 1960s either.

In the season we served, morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea, high tea and dinner at night, six days a week.

Each menu was different and strictly timed, it was mayhem. You were up and down the steep steps, falling over one another as you juggled to serve the customers seated at tightly packed tables.

My speciality was tipping someone’s Sunday lunch into their lap as I tried to lob another plateful of food to some poor unsuspecting soul jammed into a corner.

It could be argued I wasn’t the most accomplished waitress and had no wish to make it a permanent career.

If it was chaos in the dining room, the kitchen was in a league of its own.

I think it was situated in the original kitchen,the floors were uneven and became very slippery.

There was nowhere to put anything, as a consequence we used to line all the pre-made puddings along the floor at one end.

There wasn’t enough room to swing a cat, talking of which, there were several felines who had made the castle and particularly the kitchen their home. Not only were we falling over one another we were regularly tripped up by scampering cats.

We sometimes spotted them helping themselves to great lashings of whipped cream adorning many of the puddings.

We would quickly reapply the cream, but I suspect many went out without the customer realising someone else had been at their pudding first. Nowadays the public hygiene brigade would chop our heads off and stick them on spikes lined up outside the castle walls.

Eventually the restaurateur retired and the whole of the castle became a museum.

I have fond memories of the chaos and fun that summer over 50 years ago and hope the working students of 2018 have too.