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Trevor Salthouse, Butler

April 4, 2017
by the gentle author

Trevor Salthouse by Sarah Ainslie

Trevor Salthouse started as a Junior Butler at Barings Bank in February 1981. ‘When ING Bank took over Barings, it came with the silver, the art collection, the wine cellar and me,’ he confided with a mild blush, lest this appear an immodest claim.

Blessed with natural poise, Trevor is the paragon of diplomacy and these days his work is a lot less menial – he might perhaps be described as Hospitality Manager, as well as Sommelier. And, possessing the wealth of experience of one who has seen the workings of the City from the inside for over thirty years, I suspect Trevor’s duties might also occasionally include being a Confidant but – if this is the case – he is far too discreet to admit it.

Trevor confessed to me that he feels far less comfortable in the lounge suit which he wears for work these days, preferring the morning suit that he wore until recently as a uniform which made his role apparent.

“I was born and brought up in Deptford with my twin sister. My father was dock worker, he was called up to join the Royal Navy and served as an Able Seaman on HMS Locust during the Second World War.  He had a rough time of it and it affected him for many years. My mother worked in an office in Central London and then in a shop in Brockley.  She died when I was fourteen and my dad passed away when I was thirty-nine. My parents had a  different style of living compared with today, although they worked very hard we never had much money and we lived in a council house for many years.

I went to Comprehensive School but was not academic so, at fifteen, I was automatically placed onto a list to join the building trade. At first, we lived in Deptford with my grandparents and then we moved to Brockley where we rented a council house. In the late sixties ,my parents scraped together a deposit and purchased a small terrace house in Forest Hill in which my sister and her family live today.

After leaving school in the mid-sixties, I completed a City & Guilds apprenticeship in the building trade. In 1975, when I was seventeen, I joined the Territorial Army Royal Corps of Transport and I am sure helped me secure the job at Barings.

In 1980, we had one of the coldest winters for a long time. I was working outside painting houses and it was freezing.  I decided to find a temporary job working inside where I would be warmer, so I applied to an advert in the Evening Standard catering section advertising for a Trainee Butler for a City institution. Once I applied and had one of two interviews I discovered it was Barings Bank. I must admit, I had never heard of the name Barings before then. There were thirty other applicants but, amazingly, I got the job. Historically, there was a huge catering staff at Barings – five House Butlers in the old days and at least twenty waitresses on hand when required– but slowly this amount was reduced over the years.

I started as a Junior Butler for Barings Bank on the 9th February 1981, when I was twenty-one years old. I was formally trained by Mr Stan Foden who was the Head Butler but –  to confuse matters – there was also an Under Butler called Stan Kempton who took when Stan Foden retired in 1988.  The catering team were expected to serve at the table and look after the requests of Senior Directors and Partners and their clients, when entertaining within the Bank.

Things really changed in 1995 when Barings Bank faced financial difficulties and, as a result, ING bought the business. .  At that moment, we were down to three House Butlers and a handful of waitresses. By 1994, Stan Kempton had retired and I took over as the Head Butler.

At Barings Bank, the  job required working long and, at times, unsociable hours. I tended to start early in the morning, between 06:00 or 6:30, as breakfasts would start at 07.00. On many occasions, I was required to offer evening service for dinners,  suppers, and drinks parties . On occasion, I was  also required to work at the Directors’ private homes, and this also included at weekends and sometimes over the Christmas period. I also used to cater at the Barings inter-banks’ shoot at Holland & Holland near Ruislip, West. London, and at a private estate in Scotland. I recall being in charge of some very nice wines whilst travelling there by train. When I enquired why the beaters on these shoots received a higher wage than me, Stan explained ‘they have a greater risk of being shot’.

Barings Bank was the company I started with and then carried on with ING Bank. I love the hospitality side of my job, especially the wine tastings and interacting with our clients. I got a huge amount of satisfaction seeing our clients happy and I enjoyed the fact that I was working for a fantastic family and Company as I do today with ING.

The work has changed a great deal from being a Butler to being a Manager. When I first joined Barings, I was classed as a ‘Junior Butler’ and  it involved a great deal of menial work, which, looking back I quite enjoyed – it involved sometimes cleaning shoes and the family silver and general housekeeping, but the best part was serving at the table. Over time I acquired experience and knowledge about wines and how things should be done correctly. When it came to entertaining our very senior clients, the Partners would always prefer Butlers serving at the table for these events.

Whilst serving in the private rooms complete discretion is  required. I am acutely aware that people are talking about sensitive information – the rule was always: what you hear in the room stays in the room. One minute you could be talking to a CEO or a Senior Partner and the next you would be in the kitchen washing up and assisting the Kitchen Porter, you had to be very  flexible. You also have to be a good manager. Some members of the service staff including Messengers were ex-military, mostly Non-Commissioned Officers who had learnt to communicate and manage people whilst in the military. Some of those chaps I met in the early eighties were then coming up for retirement and had seen action in the Second World War, so they were very interesting people to talk to.

Barings was a very Victorian bank, so I felt I had experienced the nineteenth century in the twentieth century. Rothschilds, Warburgs, Casenoves and Lazards.  all had a similar style of service and culture. Barings Bank was the oldest Merchant House within the City, but many of those companies go back to the seventeenth century and were the building blocks of the City of London.

Approximately a hundred years ago, life would have been much harder for service and house staff.  They were expected to live on the premises where they worked which meant they were ‘on call’ 24/7 especially for the junior staff – they would also have been paid a minimal wage. They would have had to do manual and sometimes boring work and very long hours.

The majority of people I worked with are very respectful. You know what your job is and you try to do it the best you can. You were always instructed never to address a Director and Partner by his first name, it must be always either – ‘Sir’ or ‘Mister’ then surname.  There was a strict dress protocol and you must never let the side down.  You were expected to uphold a high level of professionalism within the bank. There was no point in being in service if you didn’t have loyalty, it was essential.

Stan Foden always reminded me, ‘never cross the invisible line.’  That line is always there, regardless.

When our guests came into Barings Bank, and now ING, to present and hold meetings, we try to ensure they feel at ease as much as possible so that they could conduct their business without too much inconvenience or stress. I am sure these meetings were and are very stressful at times, having to do presentations, and on occasions, eat a formal lunch whilst presenting.

You have to be one step ahead the whole time, you have to understand people and have a grasp of human nature. You have to be flexible when it comes to your approach to serving at the table or dealing with people. Even at reception, if you are inappropriate in your behaviour it could affect ING’s business. It is called ‘the seven second interview.’ After seven seconds, people have made a fundamental decision based on the first view they have – of me or the front of house staff including reception. You have to be a psychologist.

I do not think there will be City Butlers in the future, I believe I am one of the last. Butlers duties have changed a great deal in the last ten years, the term – ‘House Manager’ is used more these days.”

‘When the Directors of Barings Bank went grouse shooting, I asked Stan the Head Butler why, as a Junior Butler, I was paid less than the Beaters. He told me it was because I was less likely to get shot.’

‘When ING Bank took over Barings, it came with the silver, the art collection, the wine cellar and me’

‘I am very happy with my lot and I know a lot of these people here are very wealthy, but I am not sure if they are happy’

Photographs copyright © Sarah Ainslie

13 Responses leave one →
  1. Paul Loften permalink
    April 4, 2017

    Brilliant ! I loved reading this. Thank you so much Trevor and the gentle author for sharing this rich history with us .

  2. April 4, 2017

    What a delightful article.
    I love Trevor”s take on life

  3. April 4, 2017

    I know; one is the keeper of secrets for all time the buzz word here is discretion hear all and say nothing, for sure Trevor is on the max for this. He entered a new world no fringe benefits for him !or is there. It has to be sheer dedication with his whole life revolving around that big circle of management. These pages say Trevor has survived this exciting new world of his with distinction. I like his style well done ‘Mr Trev’. Poet John

  4. Dean Armond permalink
    April 4, 2017

    What a fascinating article.
    Trevor seems a lovely man with thought and consideration for others both high and low and a very sensible outlook.

  5. Chris Russell permalink
    April 4, 2017

    Great article and so enriching and wonderful to read about Job Satisfaction and what Service actually is and means. Life is not about chasing the money……it’s trust, confidence, respect and self respect, duty, community, loyalty, being a good example, communication etc. Can only imagine that you are a good man-manager Trevor.

  6. Deborah permalink
    April 4, 2017

    What a fascinating glimpse into a less well known aspect of the city of London Trevor has shared with us. I really enjoyed learning about his work.

  7. Jon Raper permalink
    April 4, 2017

    This is a wonderful interview with a charming gentleman. Than you for bringing us this insight into another world.

  8. April 4, 2017

    What a lovely man. Great photos from Sarah. Lets nationalise the banks under workers control.

  9. April 4, 2017

    I love reading your blog each day. They are always so interesting one and this was no exception. Such an insight into a world most of us never see. I particularly liked the recent cat blog too!

  10. Rod permalink
    April 4, 2017

    A glimpse into another life , thank you

  11. Herry Lawford permalink
    April 4, 2017

    Lovely article Gentle Author. I have a friend who was a Barings director and knew Trevor. Says he is very good at his job. Interesting that he prefers his lifestyle to theirs. I’m sure he’s right about their relative happiness.

  12. April 4, 2017

    I loved reading the story of Trevor, a dignified and discreet gentleman. Valerie

  13. Mo06 permalink
    April 5, 2017

    This is a lovely little article.

    I spent some time working at ING Barings in the late 1990s, after the Barings collapse. I was based in the building at 60 London Wall, I wonder if Trevor is based in the same building.

    Thanks for the article.

    Mo06

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