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Tea By The Nursery Fire: A Children's Nanny at the Turn of the Century (VMC) [Paperback]

Noel Streatfeild
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
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Book Description

13 Sep 2012 VMC (Book 697)
Emily Huckwell spent almost her entire life working for one family. Born in a tiny Sussex village in the 1870s, she went into domestic service in the Burton household before she was twelve, earning £5 a year. She began as a nursery maid, progressing to under nurse and then head nanny, looking after two generations of children. One of the children in her care was the father of Noel Streatfeild, the author of Ballet Shoes and one of the best-loved children's writers of the 20th century. Basing her story on fact and family legend, Noel Streatfeild here tells Emily's story, and with her characteristic warmth and intimacy creates a fascinating portrait of Victorian and Edwardian life above and below stairs.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (13 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844088987
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844088980
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 12.7 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 223,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"[A] sweet little book." --Anglotopia.com

Book Description

A life in service, from nursery maid to head nanny, in Victorian and Edwardian England.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Only for Noel Streatfeild fans 27 Nov 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is Noel Streatfeild's fictionalised biography of "GrandNannie" who appears in her fictionalised autobiographies (A Vicarage Family etc). I enjoyed it because it adds another piece of the jigsaw and helps explain the nanny figures that appear in the majority of her children's books. As with many of Streatfeild's books, the writing is a bit flakey in places, but nonetheless she tells a good story.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely story of past times 4 Dec 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I love the stories of Noel Streatfeild, and this real life story of a Nanny who worked for her family in earlier times is a fascinating read of what life used to be like for servants.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Non-fiction as cosy as fiction 31 Aug 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
This little book (218 pages) by Noel Streatfeild (no typo, that really is the spelling) is subtitled "A Children's Nanny at the Turn of the Century". It is non-fiction, but reads as easily and cosily as fiction.

Noel Streatfeild describes the life and times of Emily Huckwell, a Sussex girl born in the 1870s who went to work as a nursery maid when she was not yet twelve years old. Eventually, she was made head nanny to a wealthy family and looked after two generations of their children. One of those children became the father of Noel Streatfeild.
All "her" children loved her very much - which is hardly surprising, seeing how well she treated them and how much time she spent with them, in stark contrast to their own parents, who would see them for one hour between tea and bed time when they were little, and ship them off to boarding schools when they were older - and so Noel was of course introduced to her father's old nanny when she was a little girl.

In those days, people did not question that girls from poor families went into service until they married, and boys worked as farm hands. It was also not questioned that servants were available at all hours and every day; having a week off was all they had in a whole year, and sometimes they did not even take that, if they felt they could not be spared.

The work Emily does, the children and their parents and the other staff at the house are all well described, as are the big houses where she works.
The rhythm of daily life is occasionally interrupted by visits to or from other families, and punctuated by family prayers, meals, lessons and walks.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book 22 Oct 2013
By Kathy
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I loved this. I found it really illuminating about the way wealthy people lived and treated their children in the late Victorian era up to the first world war, in contrast with the poor people also described. Noel Streatfeild always tells her story in an interesting and direct way, and I found much of this very touching.

I'd recommend this to anyone who likes Noel Streatfeild's books. I would say it was aimed at adults, but could be enjoyed by children too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A glimpse of another era. 11 July 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This would make a good film. Descriptive and very intuitive about characters. Details of the age of service very interesting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book 28 Mar 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have been a nanny a great deal of my working life so this was a wonderful glimpse into my career as it would have been in the past. Wonderful descriptions and lovely tale of past tricks of the trade. Rather sad end but showed what love nannies have for their 'changes'. Thank you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wondereful story 3 Mar 2013
By R S
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As one interested in Noel Streatfeild's works, was pleased to discover 'Tea by the Nursery Fire.' Warm and cosy as her beloved 'Shoes' books are, this title, based on the reality of her father's nanny; is a fair portrayal of Victorian nursery life and just as interesting and un-put-downable as her 'kid's lit.'.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It's partly fiction 4 April 2014
I don't think Emily can have been born in the 1870s as Noel's father was born in 1865 and Noel herself in 1895, so she would already have been up and running when Emily is a young woman at the time of the Boer War. I found an Emily Huckwell, born in 1844, on the 1911 census, so if this is the same person her brothers could hardly have been killed in World War One. Also, Noel's father William Streatfeild came from a clerical, not an aristocratic family. So I think that while Emily was certainly a real person this is actually a novel about how the aristocracy treated their servants, and what these servants could expect from life (not very much). And note, too, that Emily's fiance is killed because the Baronet makes him put up a flag for the King's coronation. How relieved I am that we're not living in those 'good old days'! I was fascinated by this book, and by the simple goodness of the central character, and it reminds me that Noel Streatfeild wrote excellent books for adults as well as children.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
Published 3 months ago by F A EVANS
2.0 out of 5 stars nothing spectacular
I personally didnt enjoy this book at all, it was not gripping or exciting, would definatly not recommend as I found it quite boring.
Published 5 months ago by alice
5.0 out of 5 stars lovely story
Interesting true story by one of my favourite children's authors. Noel Streatfeild and her sisters and brother were sometimes looked after by their father's former nanny -an old... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Bookthrower
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read
I bought this because I am a fan of Noel Streatfeild's children's books. I found this story about a nanny and her relationship with her employers and the children she cared for,... Read more
Published 5 months ago by starcat
5.0 out of 5 stars lovely
A charming and fascinating book, I found it quite compelling and hugely enjoyable, I started reading t 5.00 plans by 9.45 am had finished the book, all chores forgotten!!
Published 6 months ago by KateC
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm a Nanny
As a nanny myself I was very interested in reading this. I thought it was brilliant. I loved the way in which a nanny's relationship with the children and family for which she... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Bookblogger1991
5.0 out of 5 stars snug and cosy
this is a delightful little book and as one of my grandchildren said it make you feel snug and cosy. Read more
Published 12 months ago by grandma
5.0 out of 5 stars A biography of Noel Streatfeild's nanny - evocative and charming
A biography of Noel Streatfeild's nanny - evocative and charming. Beautifully written, a real "find". Read more
Published 13 months ago by mosses farmhouse
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful tale of life in a time gone by
I really enjoyed this book. Noel Streatfield writes beautifully and descriptively. The tale was made more poignant by the fact it was based on a true life.
Published 14 months ago by Jendo
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