Well, it’s back on the TV once more. Upstairs Downstairs returned to our screens last night with a bang- well several actually courtesy of Mr Armanjit. Has much changed since series one? Well, there have been a couple of new arrivals: Beryl Ballard, the new house maid/ child carer, and a new daughter for Lady Agnes and Lord Hallam. If you were eagle-eyed enough, you may have also spotted another couple of new arrivals since the programme was last aired. Yes, 165 Eaton Place has now got itself a couple of chesterfield sofas. Naturally, as you would expect for such an upmarket residence, the new settees are traditional chesterfield sofas, as is the rather fetching chesterfield chair in Lord Hallam’s study/office. So, in spite of the impending war threat, there was apparently sufficient money floating around to pay for the new furniture: maybe Lady Holland left her son a few bob in her will. However, generosity apparently has its limits. What’s good for upstairs isn’t necessarily good for downstairs. The poor old servants had to make do with what they already had. So new leather chesterfield sofas for them then.
Now you might think that chesterfield sofas are typically British: you know the type of thing – classy, elegant and refined, but undoubtedly understated. Yet, it seems they were pretty popular in Germany in the late 1930s too, if the researchers got their facts correct. Lord Holland paid a quick visit to Munich with Neville Chamberlain in an attempt to appease Hitler, the then Chancellor of Germany, and avert the threat of another disastrous war. Well, we all know to our cost that Chamberlain’s ‘peace for our time’ statement counted for nothing in the end, but we bet you didn’t know that the senior politicians in the Reichstag had a soft spot for chesterfield furniture, did you? We lost count of the number of leather chesterfield sofas and chesterfield tub chairs on display. When people say that the chesterfield sofa is ubiquitous, they obviously mean it. The traditional chesterfield settee is the sofa of choice for the discerning, and has cross-national and cross-political appeal. Even the bad eggs know a classic when they see one. At least that was something the two governments could’ve agreed on.
Keep an eye out next week, as the plot thickens and the blitz beckons. Who knows how many more chesterfield sofas will be on display? We expect you’ll see quite a few in Whitehall and in the various Mayfair gentlemen’s clubs. What you probably won’t see is a leather chesterfield settee in the servant’s quarters. Still, we can only hope. What’s sauce for the goose as they say.