Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Hello I am Doctor Annie Gray and I'm here in the kitchens at Audley End House. You might well recognise them. Now we've been absolutely blown away by your outpourings of love for our Victorian Way videos and especially for the character of Mrs Crocombe. But you have also frequently expressed interest in the amazing actor that portrays Mrs Crocombe - Kathy Hipperson. We haven't wanted to introduce you to Kathy in person before because we thought it might sort of destroy the magic. But so many of you have asked for a video with Kathy in person that well, we couldn't really deny you could we? So without much further ado, here is the face of Mrs Crocombe. The brilliant Kathy Hipperson! We asked you for the questions you most wanted to ask Kathy and over 400 of you responded which is just brilliant. Now unfortunately we can't answer every single question, and many of you did ask quite similar things. Just to say, none of the food on the shoots goes to waste don't worry. Also some of your questions you'll find have been answered in our behind the scenes videos so if you click on the link above me now you will find that you can go and find out all sorts of tasty titbits about Mrs Crocombe - everything about what she wears to a little bit more about her life to a really fascinating probable photograph of Mrs Crocombe herself in later life. However, we want to give it our best shot so Kathy - are you ready for your adoring public and their most burning questions. I think I am. Kathy, do you have a natural English accent? And, what were the challenges of bringing to life a character such as Mrs Crocombe? Urm...well. The challenges with bringing someone like Mrs Crocombe, a servant, to life are such that not much was written about her so a lot of the research that we did to bring her alive has been based on the house research and research done about servants generically from that time in history. Nothing specific about her apart from what's in the census which obviously is only ever ten years so it's quite challenging but we brought together what a servant would do and to be able to get to her position, how she must have behaved and what she must have been like. Have you ever cooked Mrs Crocombe's recipes at home, what's your favourite recipe and have you incorporated any of Mrs Crocombe's recipes into your everyday life? Not into my everyday life, no. Urm, I definitely cook some of her recipes at home. Her recipes, some of them, are very popular with my family. My favourite one is gingerbread cake. Yeah. I make that quite a lot. Yes so do I weirdly enough. It's really nice isn't it? And there's also the wider world of Mrs Crocombe as well. So what about, I mean because there is her book but obviously both in the videos and also when you're on site her at Audley End you cook other recipes that aren't in Mrs Crocombe's book. Her book is just a snippet - what about other Victorian recipes? Urm...we love here working in the kitchens we love using Eliza Acton. So anything pretty much in her book we are ready to cook. Mostly cakes and sweet things because I've got a sweet tooth. Do you think you relate to Mrs Crocombe in any way? Urm...I'm not a cook. So I'm not sure I do in that way. And I'm not a Victorian servant and I'm not alive in the Victorian age. But I suppose that I like to think I'm quite hard working and she must have been to have got to her position here at Audley End House. She must have been fairly fair otherwise it is unlikely she would have got this position. And she comes from a farming background - I come from a farming background. Was Mrs Crocombe a real woman? Urm… We get asked this a lot. As in was she a real a real person? I assume so because quite clearly you are in fact real. Yes. I'm real. And Mrs Crocombe was real. Yes. A simple answer to that. Again, if you watch our behind the scenes videos you will find out all about the real Mrs Crocombe. What's your favourite part about being a historical interpreter? I love finding out about people like Mrs Crocombe. So about people who aren't known and who are what I would class as ordinary. So whilst kings, queens, dukes, famous people are interesting, it's always nice to get a chance to play someone who isn't so well known. And also a huge part of what I do is in schools and with children so I do a lot of education and that's what's really important. What do you do apart from historical interpretation do you have a regular job? Urm...well historical interpretation is my regular job. I work every day in a costume from some time in history. So as I mentioned I do quite a lot of education - I work a lot in education in museums and in schools. But I also work - I've got my own theatre company and we specialise in producing plays based around history - little known history, British history. And I work for other historical interpretation companies, as well as Past Pleasures who I work for here at Audley End House. I ride horses, I fly birds of prey in the medieval era… I think you're being a bit coy Kathy. You ride horses side saddle dressed as a Tudor with a falcon on your arm. Come on… I have been known to do that, yes. Tell us a bit more about your theatre company. Well our theatre company that I have with a friend of mine called Simon Kirk is Time Will Tell Theatre. And as the name suggests we specialise in sort of history and time - telling times gone by. We like to make a drama out of history and we do lots of unknown stories. A lot of female stories in history. And they are plays aren't they? They're really lovely showpiece plays most of them which are quite immersive and involve an audience as opposed to what you tend to do here which is much more ad-hoc and tends to be sort of talking to two or three people in small groups. Oh yes and we play lots of different characters. Sometimes in our plays we are specific historic characters, other times I've done a play that Simon (who writes them) created with myself and another female actress and we didn't play a lady in them at all Was that the one which I saw, the one where you all had mustaches? Yes and strange beards, yes that's the one, yes. Who was Mrs Crocombe married to and did she ever have children? Well actually the title Mrs, in Mrs Crocombe, is a title of honour, respect really because she's a cook in such an important household. But she didn't get married until she left. As a woman in such an important job she couldn't work and be married So although we don't technically know the year that she left working at Audley End House we do know that once she left she was married. And that was in 1884 wasn't it? That was right, yes, and she married Mr Stride and she then, being quite elderly at this point She was what 40, what was she 43 in 1881 so she was what 45? She isn't going to have children at 45 in the Victorian age So she didn't have any children, no. I just feel like between the two of us we shouldn't say elderly. Alright, middle-aged. But he had children and it's because of those children and his relatives that we have the cookbook. Yes, and again, you can find out more about Mr Stride, about his relatives and about Mrs Crocombe's later life by going to the link to The Victorian Way - Behind the Scenes videos. Is there anything that you hope people will take away from these kinds of videos and the other projects that you do? Um, I would like them to take everything away, everything that I say really. I'd like them to take away certainly here in the kitchens, while we're working here in the kitchens certain facts about what life was like in this kitchen, facts about Mrs Crocombe and then facts about servants in general in the later Victorian age and perhaps to get them thinking about what life, not just for them but the whole country, the whole world in that era. So I'd like to give them lots of things to think about, to get them to think about what being a servant was like and that actually some of the things they've been told aren't quite true myth-busting Yes, I mean we used to get people come in and go 'ooh, I wouldn't have liked to have been a servant, it was so hard you started life at 12-years-old, scrubbing floors' and of course here, Mrs Crocombe shows you were, if you made it to a house like this, really, really good and certainly not some form of underpaid slavvy I think the statistic is something like 25% of servants - and that's it - worked in houses of more than two people so to be working in a house like this with 24, 25 servants, you were good - and you could demand a decent wage as well. Exactly, and if you think about it, she as a 13-year-old when she may have started, the options were going to work on the farm and in some areas of the country working in a factory. I think this was definitely a better job. Yeah, I mean full board and lodging, a pound of meat to eat every single day, you're doing quite well. Do you love your job? Do people recognise you on the street? Um, no, I don't get recognised on the street. I absolutely love my job most of the time. What's not to love? Generally I get to dress up, I get to talk to some really lovely visitors I get to share knowledge that I have found interesting with people who mostly find it interesting I don't get recognised, I don't think, mostly because in history women wore a lot of hats and covered their hair and their heads and it does dramatically change you. My voice gets recognised occasionally, mostly at English Heritage sites Is a historical interpreter an actor or do you have acting training or a degree or are you just really interested in history and also in acting? Um, I think a historical interpreter can have all sorts of different backgrounds. Well absolutely you have to have an interest in history and a lot of really talented historical interpreters I know have degrees and masters in history. It certainly helps. If you have some natural acting ability I think that helps too. It's just being personable actually with the public is the most important thing. I actually do have an acting background that's what I trained in. But you do also have a degree in pure maths, Kathy. Which doesn't help me in my historical interpretation No, but it's pretty impressive. Unless we're going to do some interpreting maths Enigma. I was about to say, which would only involve modern history because obviously women didn't do maths in the olden days. There are lots of historical interpreters out there who have got technically neither of that training but they've got such a passion for history and a lot of them are teachers, so because they're naturally good at speaking to people and explaining things that makes them equally as good. Do you wish modern life was a bit more like Mrs Crocombe's? What like living in the Victorian times? Complete with syphilis and polio and rickets and malnutrition and really low birth rate Massive sexism, no women's rights Um, no. Right ok, bring on the antibiotics and the birth control pill. Right, next question. What is one recipe that Mrs Crocombe refused to make or simply couldn't get right - and I think this is talking about you as Mrs Crocombe. That was going to be my first question. Um... um... um... um...sheep's head. I knew you were going to say that. I've apologised so many times. I won't be making sheep's brain croquettes again Oh you enjoyed that Ever You were there with your fingers in the brain going this is great, I really love the fact that I'm making sheep's brain fritters and I want to do it every week. I won't be doing that again. Annie once made me cook a sheep's brain. Not again. And the ears. Is the costume comfortable? Well, historic clothing rather than costume because it is very, very accurate and does it take a while to get into the kit for Mrs Crocombe? It doesn't take long to get into it. She's a servant so her clothes are fairly practical. It's comfortable. It's a corset that's been made specifically for myself that I wear underneath and it would be quite a different thing I think, if you were asking me, and I was playing Lady Braybrooke, because naturally as a lady of status and her corsets would be quite tightly laced. And she'd be changing clothes five times a day. And doing all her hair and all that stuff. So no, I think it's quite easy and I find it relatively comfortable, yes. Kathy, were you a fan of the Victorian era before you accepted this role or did you really come to it through playing the character? I didn't know anything much really about the Victorian age before I started working here I knew quite a bit about the Tudors, that's a very popular time and the Civil War was quite an interest for me Oh yes I've seen the pictures So yes I came to the Victorian age really through working here, through you, working with you and through Mrs Crocombe. Absolutely. How does live interpretation change when you're interpreting to a live audience versus interpreting to a camera, so a media outlet? And do you have any tips for people doing the latter? Well naturally it changes because the live audience interact with you. And here in the kitchens we aren't performing as such, we are generally talking, often one-to-one with the audience. So I will talk about anything So an audience member might have a particular interest or the conversation we are having might take me off into talking about all sorts of things music halls or museums or anything. So you never know where you're going to end up with a live audience. I suppose people ask questions and it's very much led by them into where you want to go as well as you gently steering so you can make sure that they come out with what you want them to know as well it's quite a sort of iterative process And also we are led by what we are actually physically doing. So if we are cooking we're led by someone's questions about that but also how that is going, you know if we're making soup or whatever. When we're doing something in a recorded way then that changes completely You're more of an education format you're just standing and presenting, there's less of an interaction with it I prefer to have an audience personally. So I'm not so keen on the recorded stuff, I prefer having an audience to respond to. So my advice is just imagine there is someone there in the room with you when you're talking to your camera or whatever it is. Imagine there is one person there, or two I used to just imagine hundreds of little sofas whenever I was presenting to camera, just little tiny sofas with people sitting on them. Exactly. You need an audience I think. This is clearly someone who knows the 19th century word for recipe. Normally are there any adjustments to the receipts before filming? Urm...no not really. We try and keep the filming within a certain time period. So we might prepare things beforehand. Like we might have made the pastry beforehand, or we might have lined a mould beforehand. But no we try and follow it as a close to the letter. Word for word there might be alterations because when you write down a recipe you might miss out bits that are obvious to you so certainly with Mrs Crocombe's cookbook there are a few bits of instructions that are missing because she didn't need to write them. She understood what she meant. And even in printed recipe books you can find that. Even in modern day you can find that. And there also massive bits where the recipe is wrong as well in modern and indeed old books. Yes. So we might change it to make it more practical but we can get all the ingredients so we don't need to change anything for that that aspect. Apart from Isenglass. Apart from Isenglass. What fashion era do you prefer besides Victorian of course? At the moment, because it changes with whatever I'm doing most of, at the moment it is Edwardian. Which isn't so far away. Isn't that really uncomfortable? I don't find it uncomfortable at all. But then I play lower class, practical ladies who do work and things like that. So probably if you'd asked me four or five years ago I might have said Tudor. It varies. I suppose you also have the advantage that you've studied ballet and dance so you've got quite a poise. Whereas the one time I wore an Edwardian corset I found it forced me to stand in a horrible way. What, like properly? Yeah something like that. What is your favourite Victorian dish? And have you ever tried anything from Mrs Beeton's cookbook?