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  • 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?