Laura Howell has been part of the brilliant Drivers’ Club team since the day the doors were thrown open to the sumptuous private members’ club and Briefing Room. We spoke to her about her hectic mornings as mum to three kids, her close friendship with Drivers’ Club Manager, Helen, her obsession with one particular cleaning product and why she’s renowned for playing pranks on other members’ of the Bowcliffe team…
Laura Howell aka Little Laura (see above pic!)
How long have you worked at Bowcliffe?
I’ve been a fixture since day one of The Drivers’ Club. I spent my first two weeks cleaning silver and getting ready for the grand opening – it was a nightmare! Let’s just say there was lots of carting things around on trollies! The preparation was so very worth it in the end though – just look at the place now. It’s a pleasure to have been there from the beginning.
Can you tell us a little about your career to date?
Before I worked here I worked in a café in Wetherby called Bon Appétit, then Ashfield Nursing Home in Wetherby, and then I did Domiciliary Care around the Otley community.
Tell us a little more about what a day in the life of Laura looks like…
My husband wakes me up, I wake up, I wake the kids up and then I run around like a headless chicken screaming at the kids to try and get them ready in time. Then I send the two eldest off to high school before heading to my Grandad’s with my youngest. After making my youngest breakfast I set off to take him to school. I have a daily ritual of calling at Bramham shop for supplies to keep me going for the day – usually something for lunch, some Yorkshire Mix sweets and/or Lucozade, depending on how I’m feel that day or what I did the night before.
I arrive at work, greeted by Simon (the chef) and Helen’s (Drivers’ Club Manager) lovely smiles. I usually make a cup of tea to start the day (well, this is Yorkshire – we run off tea) with lots of sugar! If someone else makes it for me, I’m very good at guessing exactly how many sugar cubes have been put in – often not enough! Helen and I then start to get things ready for the day, and serve any early bird tenants or guests that have come in for a tea/coffee or breakfast.
Favourite part of your job, why?
The lovely tenants and members that I get to see on a daily basis. No day in The Drivers’ Club is the same! It is a great place to work all year round – with the terrace open in the summer and the fire lit in the winter. All the people here are also great to work with – there really is no place like Bowcliffe Hall. Everyone is quirky in their own way.
In order to create a bit of fun and camaraderie, I’m known to enjoy playing a few jokes and pranks on people. For example, there was an occasion where I rang Ann (who works on reception) to say that there would be a delivery of 52 live chickens to reception – she got in a bit of a flap! Also telling Barney (who does all sorts around the Estate) that we had some royal visitors landing by helicopter on the East Lawn – he got very excited, and daily jokes on the chefs and Helen. It keeps me amused.
Do you have a favourite artefact, picture or object in the Drivers’ Club?
I like the moth lady (The Spirit of Ecstasy), who looks over The Drivers’ Club. The Jaguar, I like him, too. I’m not sure who would win in a fight, though.
What’s the toughest part of your job?
There isn’t one – I enjoy it immensely.
You work closely with Helen, the Manager of the Drivers’ Club, so you must know each other pretty well, do either of you have any interesting or funny ‘quirks’ that you’ve come to find out?
If I’m being very honest, when I first started working with Helen, I wasn’t sure that we would get on as well as we do! I thought we were too different – how could I be so wrong? Helen and I are very, very close. I got married in May 2015, and Helen played a big part at my wedding – she did all the decorations, the flowers, and even secretly decorated the inside and outside of the church without me knowing. I am very close with Helen inside and outside of work – she’s like my Bowcliffe mum – always very supportive, and great fun. She even tries to finish my sentences before I’ve even started talking!
What is your favourite room or place in Bowcliffe Hall?
The Briefing Room is one of my favourite rooms because it’s so homely and cosy – especially when the fire is lit, I could fall asleep in there!
What do you believe makes the Drivers’ Club such a special place? (to eat, drink and do business)
It’s obviously all down to Helen and me! I suppose the amazing food might have a part to play. The décor definitely – you can tell just how much effort has gone into the tiniest details. But more than anything, just the lovely atmosphere that encapsulates you as soon as you enter Bowcliffe Hall. It’s a pleasure to spend time in the Drivers’ Club.
Tell us something about Bowcliffe that not many people would know…
When Robert Blackburn lived here, there were peacocks roaming around the grounds. There is a rumour that one of them was buried underneath the terrace!
Favourite part of the whole estate, why?
I like the Chapel – there is just something beautiful about it. Maybe I can relate to it because it’s small like me! I had to clean it all out once and there were so many cobwebs, I’d never seen anything like it! An interesting fact – the pews and door came from All Saints’ Church in Bramham.
Current favourite dish on the Drivers’ Club menu?
Duck and chorizo salad.
Over the past few years, there have been lots of changes and additions to the Bowcliffe Estate. Which parts have been your favourite to watch come together?
It would have to be The Wing, wouldn’t it? I remember walking around it in rigger boots and a hard helmet! It’s such an amazing and unique space to hold a meeting, wedding or a party! The views are stunning.
Hobbies and interests outside of work?
My new dog, Lola – she has made me get out and walk more! I spend most of my time with my husband, kids, and grandad and usually enjoy a tipple on the weekend.
Tell us a secret about yourself…
I have an obsession with bleach – I have to bleach everything! My husband goes absolutely bonkers with me!