From the dining–room, of which, though already seen, and always to be seen at five o’clock, the general could not forgo the pleasure of pacing out the length, for the more certain information of Miss Morland, as to what she neither doubted nor cared for, they proceeded by quick communication to the kitchen — the ancient kitchen of the convent, rich in the massy walls and smoke of former days, and in the stoves and hot closets of the present. The general’s improving hand had not loitered here: every modern invention to facilitate the labour of the cooks had been adopted within this, their spacious theatre; and, when the genius of others had failed, his own had often produced the perfection wanted. His endowments of this spot alone might at any time have placed him high among the benefactors of the convent.

Northanger Abbey, Chapter 23

The relentlessly improving hand of the General at Northanger reigns down on Catherine’s wild imaginings about abbeys: she is very soon disabused of  her romantic notions as she tours the Abbey with the General in Chapter 23.

We will look at the improvements the General may have added to  his kitchen tomorrow, but today I’d like to try and imagine what Catherine Morland would have liked to have seen, instead of being confronted by a gleaming range of very modern conveniences.

I think she might probably have imagined a room  that looked something like this:

(Do remember you can enlarge all these illustrations , in order to examine the detail, merely by clicking on them)

This is the rather magnificent kitchen not of an abbey,  but of Burghley House in Lincolnshire the home of the Cecil family.

It is one of the oldest parts of the building, built circa 1555.

The ceiling, as you can see, is appropriately fan vaulted, and has a very tall roof- complete with glazed lantern. This enabled the smoke and fumes from the large  kitchen fires, necessary for the cooking of the meat for the household, to rise and escape.

It also has some other “Gothic”-touches : the massive oil painting of a butchered oxen…

…and a chimney fire breast decorated with skulls…how horrid.


These were the skulls of turtles ..used for making turtle soups….

And placed above, a stern warning notice from His Lordship to the staff …Would you join the company of skulls if you disobeyed? *shudder* It brings to mind shades of Mrs Norris, frankly. How horrid

And what would be cooking in this  dark and mysterious place?

Suckling pig…?

(Do please click on the video to make it play)

On a spit hand in front of a roaring blaze, turned by some small child or dog?

Served on a large platter?

Of course, Catherine saw none of this……what she did see, we shall discover tomorrow…..