"Recollections of a maidservant at Bodwrdda"

I was very young when I started work at Bodwrdda. I’d prepare breakfast for the labourers before going to the cowshed to help milk the cows. The labourers used to have their breakfast in the kitchen, bread and milk, and on a Sunday only a slice of white bread. I was responsible for the kitchen, and the old lady of Bodwrdda would tell us what work was to be done. We used to bake barley bread without any fine flour in it, and I always used to have to pester R Pritchard to make sure that he’d crushed enough barley beforehand so we could get on with the baking – imagine pestering an old man with a stick as he was at the time. I’d knead the bread in a large trough that was about five foot long. The old lady would make the yeast for me, there were plenty of hops growing in the garden, and I’d gather them to make the yeast. We used to put beer on the hops and boil them. The family who ate in the main hall or any visitors that came to call would always have bread made form fine wheat flour.

I’d usually go down to the village and once a week I was allowed to go home to Pencaerau, but we always had to be back before ten. The other maid and I used to take it in turns to go out. When I went down to the village I used to buy three pence worth of dried yeast in the shop without the old lady knowing, and then the following morning I’d crush it in my hands and add it to the wet yeast, it made the dough rise so much better.

My wages at the time were £6 for a season. We used to get up everyday even high days, holidays and Sundays, before five usually about ten to five. We’d prepare the food and then go milking. J Pritchard would get the cows in and both of us maids would help him do the milking. Then it was back in to the kitchen to give the labourers their breakfast at ten to seven. There were about twenty cows rearing calves. We’d keep milk to make butter in nine milk pots, and we’d be churning twice a week.

There were seven labourers on the farm and we had to prepare their meals on time, sometimes there used to be other workers such as the masons and carpenters that used to come and do the repairs, they also needed to be fed. In the morning they used to have bread and milk or gruel with a cup of tea and a small piece of bread and butter. For dinner they’d have plenty of potatoes and meat, the meat would have been salted and kept in brine for a long time, this is what they had in the winter and it was very tasty. There’d be no pudding apart from rice pudding on Sundays. The barley bread was very healthy for them, and there was always as rule plenty of barley to be had. However if it had been a bad season and it was difficult to dry the barley baking would be difficult and the bread would be crumbly and the men would complain loudly. They used to grow ample amounts of wheat and barley on the farm that the men would harvest with scythes. During harvest time more men would be employed to cut the corn. When they worked up on Ystum I used to have to take them a picnic. I had a large basket with a wide handle to carry on my arm it was a basket big enough to carry all the food for all the labourers. Tied all around the basket were pitchers of tea and in the basket there would be barley bread and meat.

We’d have meat from the farm always. In the winter the meat would have to be preserved, enough of it to feed the family and all the labourers until the following spring. In the autumn they’d kill a bullock or pig or more and the butcher would come up from Aberdaron from time to time to kill and prepare the meat. There were two large hogsheads in the dairy and when the meat had been well salted it was placed in these and covered with water with plenty of salt added, beef in one and pork in the other. So there was always plenty of meat and it was tasty and nourishing. Each day the old lady and I used to cut off a piece of the meat and place it in a pot and add plenty of fresh water to it and leave it to soak over night. By the following day it had lost its saltiness and was really tasty – good enough to get the labourers out of their beds to enjoy it, there was always platefuls of meat for everyone to enjoy every day at midday. 

On Wednesday and Sunday mornings they used to have ‘brewis’ and they never had fresh meat, neither did the farmer or his servant ever go to town only on very special occasions. It was a hard and poor world when RG went to Bodwrdda. To make the ‘brewis’ we’d use the water that the meat had been boiling in, leave it to go cold then skim the fat off the top and mix the water and the fat with oatmeal in a wooden bowl. They always used wooden bowls with a smooth edge for the ‘brewis’, the servants used to say that it always tasted better from a wooden bowl !!

Bodwrdda is one of the largest farms on Llyn, and is about a mile from the village of Aberdaron.

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