First, I’m glad that you’ll be joining us here shortly. The Steward has made your travel arrangements and has set aside one of the crofter cottages we renovated a few years back for you to use as a living space and a weaving studio. He’s overjoyed to have you here to oversee apprentices and offer apprenticeships in weaving. And of course, Catherine’s eager to start grilling you for interesting recipes to use in her Kitchen. Not to mention it’ll be nice to have you as a staffer for all the apprenticeship programmes.
I was amused that you asked who acted as Brittle here. (I see you’ve been re-reading Stoddard’s excellent Evenmere novels.) The answer’s simple if a bit odd by estate standards: no one does. There’s no Gentry here to give orders to a Butler nor does The Steward, Jean-Pierre, nor, if the Journals are truthful and they may not be, any of his predecessors over the past thousand or so years, actually give orders to any of the Staff. Long before the Diggers, the Levellers or the Paris Workers Commune, this Estate apparently functioned as less of a hierarchy and more as a collective with staff chosen managers for task areas.
We’ve got (currently) Ingrid as Stewart (selected by the senior staff as mandated by the Charter), Head Cook (Catherine), Librarian (Iain), Brewmaster (Björn), Pub Manager (me), Head Gardener (Gus), and Gillie (also handled by Gus). They pick the staff under them but everyone pitches in as need, so work crews (visiting musicians and other long-term guests are strongly encouraged to lend a hand) are comprised of those best suited to task at hand. So when Gus needs night watches over the expectant ewes in the Spring, he usually has two or three Several Annies who volunteer. In turn, Catherine has several staff always willing to spell them and take warm food and beverages out to them. And several of the lads got basic vet training from the vet who practices in the nearest village as that’s twenty miles away, so she’s not really available if something goes wrong. (We’ll need a vet here if we go back to using horses.)
It’s a big Estate, nearly twelve thousand acres in size. And the staff’s small for its size, barely thirty including apprentices. I don’t know how far back present practices go but Gus guesses they stretch back several centuries at least and maybe a lot longer if the Journals can trusted. I’ll tell you sometime why we distrust the Journals before the early Sixteenth century but that’s a tale for when you’re here as it’s really best told in the presence of senior staff.
Senior staff are selected by the recommendation of the stepping down holder of that position with the consent of the full Estate staff. Generally they agree, but we’ve had two leave suddenly in recent times (one Librarian named Grubb, one Steward who went fleeing into the night when he realized he really wasn’t in charge) and several die (one gillie strangely enough drowned, one gardener broke his neck in a logging accident) so the Staff as a whole had to pick new ones. We try to bring fresh blood in so we ask Staff for recommendations, so Catherine, to give an example, was recommended by Gus who knew her as her late husband was Swedish from his community and knew she was looking for a new position.
I achieved my position several decades back because I mentioned to Jack as we were busking in (I think) northern Germany that I was tired of busking and needed a steady job managing a pub as Ingrid and I wanted to settle down. I had no idea that he actually lived on an estate or what that meant but we agreed to spend a few weeks here. A few weeks became a few months and a few months became, well, a very long time here.
At any rate, that’s how it works. As general staff, you’ll find it works very well no matter the occasional grumbling from Iain or other senior staff.
Till we see you, Reynard