Heather C-R ....
Recently, I offered my services to Dana as a volunteer as a researcher. For my first assignment she asked me to look into information regarding servants in the Victorian Era for the Servants Ball and the rest of the monthly contests and challenges for you.
With the wealth of information available on the Internet, and in my own small library, and what has already be sent to the list, I could have published a small book! Instead, I have tried to condense it all here for you to hopefully help you decide what kind of character you would like to make for the upcoming Servants Ball!
If you would like to do your own research I would suggest going to Google and using search terms: Victorian Servants, Victorian Era, Victorian Maids, Victorian waifs, Victorian Era Clothing, Distressing Cloth, Victorian Costumes. You will get more information and pictures than you will ever be able to use!!!
First, since we are all very visual people, you might want to indulge in some eye candy and pick up some videos to watch!! I checked out both Blockbuster and Netflix and they both carry a good selection of Victorian Era Flixs including:
The Pallisers Definitely pleasurable viewing for all who enjoy watching the period passion, pomp, and politics of upper-class Victorians. The BBC's 12-disc, 26-episode serialization of Anthony Trollope's Palliser novels (1865-1880) introduces Plantagenet Palliser and Lady Glencora, whose politically expedient marriage sets the stage for the rest of the Palliser dynasty's saga.
Thirty years before Robert Altman redefined the English drawing room drama with Gosford Park, this beloved Masterpiece Theatre series chronicled the lives and loves of the aristocratic "upstairs" Bellamy family and their loyal "downstairs" servants. Catch a first glimpse of 165 Eaton Place and become enchanted with the saga that captures the essence of Edwardian England.
An epic television miniseries, this BBC production is a literary adaptation that follows the Victorian pride of the Forsyte family through the scandals and mistakes of the patriarch, Soames . His ways change when he sees his cherished daughter grow up to be a captivating young woman who carries on the family pride. Based on James Galworthy's Nobel Prize-winning novel.
When Sir William is found dead soon after his guests arrive at his English estate, Lady Sylvia Constance, Ivor and his other guests try to make sense of it. Meanwhile, gossip flies among the household help, including Mrs. Wilson, Henry (Ryan Philippe) and Parks witty murder mystery won an Oscar for its screenplay.
***** This film is an in-depth look at the English class system and the sub class system of the "above stairs" and "below stairs" groups.
Remains of the Day
Dutiful butler Stevens is the epitome of dedication as he tends to the house of his master, Lord Darlington. Head housekeeper Miss Kenton tries to coax Stevens out of his staid shell, but it's only later in life -- when Stevens realizes what his silent response to his master's Nazi sympathies has cost him -- that he seeks her out. This Merchant-Ivory period drama was nominated for eight Oscars.
In the posh London enclave of Berkeley Square in 1902, a deep friendship blooms between three young nannies: tough East Ender Matty, heartbroken Hannah and naive farm girl Lydia. Meticulous period detail, a rich soap opera plot and winning performances highlight this enormously popular 10-episode British miniseries, a bighearted drama of the Edwardian era.
***** Wrong era but still good for historical servant reference!
Victoria and Albert
An acclaimed, superstar cast brings to life the epic love story of Victoria and Albert, recounting the passionate and political romance between the two royal figures. This history-based miniseries recaptures the court life of Victorian England with beauty and accuracy and adds new light to the legendary character of Victoria, portraying her as young and full of life.
"Masterpiece Theatre" production of the Charlotte Brontë classic about the titular governess who, resist she may, falls deeply in love with her employer, Edward Rochester. Blissfully, he, too, feels the same way, but fate tears them apart. The wrenching tale is packed with sorrow and missed opportunities, but in the end, true romance finds a way to a satisfying, if unexpected, ending.
Franco Zeffirelli once again proves himself a faithful custodian of the classics with this adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's 1847 masterpiece. Anna Paquin plays the young Jane Eyre, orphaned and forced to endure life at a harsh boarding school. She grows into an independent, strong-willed woman who takes a governess position at Thornton Hall, where she falls in love with the brooding owner, Mr. Rochester.
Suitable Clothing for Victorian Servants
English vs. American
You can have a lot of fun with this! The Americans seem to be a bit more relaxed in servants attire! Clothing was quite different on the American side of the pond! While the British and Europeans where quite strict with their uniforms, the Americans where a bit unsure it seems.
The following has been taken and rewritten from Harpers Bazaar “Suitable Dress,” November 2, 1867 [electronic version] Nineteenth Century Fashion Magazine.
In an article published in Harpers Bazaar on November 2, 1867, it was noted that, “The uniformity of dress is a characteristic of the people of the United States. The man of leisure and the laborer, the mistress and the maid, wear clothes of the same material and cut.”
The article goes on about the Americans views of social equality and their views of how clothing affects that appearance even though those clothes may not be appropriate to the job being performed! Amazing how that is still in effect today!, For example, the article mentions trains on maids silk dresses and tight suits on male laborers where we now see platform shoes, bare bellies and mini skirts in offices and stores! Somewhat impractical in both cases!!
The article can be at www.http.//hapersbazaar.Victorian-ebooks.com
In a British country house of the period, the head butler and the housekeeper would have been equals, roughly speaking, each supervising the two major realms of service.
Excerpt from Dinner is Served: The Roles of Victorian Servants by Thersa Stenzel
A rigid set of rules dictated when they arose, bathed, ate, who they spoke to,
and how they dressed.
For example at mealtimes, the Upper Servants; Butler, Housekeeper, Cook, Valet, and Lady's
Maid met in the Housekeeper's room and filed into the servant's hall in order of station. The Butler sat at the head of the
table, and the Housekeeper took a seat at the opposite end. The male servants sat in order of position on one side and
the female servants down the other, but only after the Butler gave them permission. He would carve the meat and send
the plate to the Housekeeper who served the vegetables. The Second Footman took the plates round to each servant in
order of seniority. After dinner, the Upper Servants retired for coffee and fine desserts in the Housekeepers Room while
the Lower Servants; Footman, House, Kitchen, and Scullery Maids washed up after the meal.
Considered the most senior servant, the Butler existed as "Mr. Jennings" to the servants and "Jennings" to his employer.
He presided over the male staff, supervised the footmen in their serving of meals, the wine cellar, the "plate" (or family
silverware,) and each morning ironed his Master's newspaper. He performed most of his duties from a special room
called the Butler's Pantry. There the plate and china resided when not in use. The Butler would be the one to take a
gentleman or lady visitor directly into the drawing room whilst making sure that the tradesman, workers, or other staff
waited in the hall. He maintained responsibly for ringing the "dressing bell" to let guests know it was time to put on their
dinner attire. He would oversee the setting of the table, trimming candlewicks, filling lamps with oil, and cleaning the
silver. The last duty of the day would be to check that all fires and lights were safely damped out and all doors locked. In
1872, a Butler would earn $750 a year.
The senior female servant, the Housekeeper supervised the hiring and firing of the woman staff. Referred to as "Mrs"
whether married or not, she looked after the household accounts, purchased supplies, cured, bottled, and preserved
food. She met daily with the Lady of the house to go over the books and preside over the Servant's Tea, using that time
to relay any necessary information to members of the staff. She oversaw the storeroom, china closet, still room, and linen
cupboard. If the laundry was sent out, she carefully recorded each piece as it went out and came back. Easy to identify,
the Housekeeper wore a black silk uniform and large set of keys safely at her waist. Keys prevailed in importance, as
many expensive items, tealeaves, spices, and pickled meat remained locked up. Her last duty in the evening would be to
oversee the washing and storing of the dinner china. In 1872, she would have earned $300 a year.
The Lady's Maid, called "Miss" whether married or not, (or her mistress could choose to call her by her Christian name,)
was often chosen for her looks and youth, although, having a French Lady's Maid remained the height of respectability.
Her main responsibilities consisted of attending to her Ladyship's grooming, dressing, packing and laying out her clothes,
washing and repairing undergarments, and fixing her hair in the latest fashion. These duties consumed the day as the
Lady of the house could spend four to five hours dressing for various meals. The Lady's Maid would also oversee the
tidying of her Ladyships' boudoir. At times considered a sort of companion to her mistress and yet treated as a servant,
she lived a lonely life. Being better educated than the average maid, permitted to wear her mistress' cast off clothing, and
served breakfast each morning by a Second Housemaid, the other maids often resented her. Her last duty would be to
wait up until her ladyship retired to assist in undressing, loosening, and brushing her hair. In 1872, she would have
earned $150 a year.
A Valet would look after his master's clothing ensuring his wardrobe remained in good order. Sometimes referred to as a
gentleman's gentleman, his job consisted of laying out clothing, keeping shoes and hats clean and in good repair,
standing behind his employer at dinner, running his bath, and traveling with him. He also had the precarious responsibly
of shaving his master with an open cut-throat razor. Most of his job would have taken place in the Brushing Room where
you would find boot trees, hatboxes, wire brushes, polishes, and mothballs. In this room, the Valet would have ironed top
hats, whitened riding breeches, brushed wool coats, and washed and stretched his master's gloves. His last duty would
be to wait up until his Lordship retired to assist in his undressing. In 1872, he would have earned $300.
Many Cooks supervised large staffs to produce three sometimes four elaborate meals a day for the Family and to
impress guests. She met daily with the Lady of the house to discuss menus as a minimum of six courses were expected
and up to twenty-two could be served on special occasions. In addition, the Cook would be required to provide food for
nursery meals, cricket teas, picnics, and dinner parties. Lighting a fire was much more difficult without the ease of
matches. Every evening she would preserve embers until morning with a metal dome.
Only extremely rich families could afford to hire a male cook or the ultimate status symbol, a French Chef. The last duty of the day would be to prepare the Family's evening meal. In 1872, a male cook would have earned $500, a female cook $350.
The Groom oversaw the care of the horses. If no Coachman served on staff, he would also maintain and drive the
carriages. Mornings were spent mucking out the stables, feeding, and cleaning the horses, and preparing a horse or
carriage when a member of the Family wished to go riding. Any time a horse or carriage went out, it had to be
immediately cleaned and properly stored so that it was ready at a moments notice. He also fashioned and mended
harnesses. He did not live in the house, but in accommodations above the stable. Unless the Family went out for the
evening and needed the carriage, his last duty would be to feed the horses and put them in the stable. In 1872, he
The Footmen had duties in and outside the estate. Responsible for carrying coal, cleaning silverware, announcing
visitors, and waiting at table, he also attended the Lady of the house when she went calling by leaving the visitor cards at
the front door while she passed the time in the carriage. They often wore vividly ornate uniforms with colorful hats
trimmed in gold braid, short knee britches, white gloves and stockings until the late 1800's when their uniforms were
simplified. Since they served in pairs, height was vastly important and a tall footman earned more than a short one.
The First Footman acted as a sort of valet to the eldest son serving him breakfast, running his bath, preparing clothes, and
shaving him. He would also lay the breakfast on the sideboard (the English are not waited on at breakfast,) clear the
table after each meal, and clean the glass and plate. He also served afternoon tea to the Family in the drawing room.
A Second Footman would have handled the more mundane duties of cleaning the staff boots, emptying the male chamber
pots, and valeting the youngest son of the house. His last duty would be to clear and clean dinner china. In 1872, he
would earn $150 a year.
Housemaids kept the estate immaculate, bedrooms supplied with water for washing, bathing, and insured fires continued
to burn. They scrubbed and emptied chamber pots, drew curtains, turned down beds, dusted and polished, cleaned
bedrooms, and tidied the public rooms. They performed grueling monotonous labor as the floors had to scrubbed by hand, fireplaces cleaned out daily, grates polished with black lead, and water lugged from the kitchen and then carried
room-to-room. Larger households would employ a First Housemaid for the lighter work and Second and Third
Housemaids for the more physical work. The center of her cleaning was the Housemaid's closet. It contained such
supplies as foot brushes, stove brushes, banister brushes, carpet brushes, shoe brushes, furniture brushes, velvet
brushes, closet brushes, oil brushes, carpet brooms, bed brooms, hair brooms, and wall brooms. She also served the
Housekeeper her morning tea. The last job of the evening would be to fill hot water bottles and place them in the Family's
and Upper Servants beds to warm them. In 1872, they earned they earned $100-150.
A Kitchen Maid's first job was to prepare the breakfast trays for the Upper Servants and to assist the Cook in preparing
the Family's breakfast. She is responsible for making all the breads, sauces, and vegetable dishes for the Family's
luncheon, all servants meals and to store any leftovers. She prepared a light evening meal for the children of the house
and assisted the Cook in the preparations for the Family dinner. She is only allowed upstairs once a day for compulsory
prayers. All her time is spent in the kitchen or her room. Her last duty would be to store away leftover from the Family
dinner. In 1872, she earned $75-100 a year.
The Scullery Maid, considered the lowest servant in the house, worked eighteen hours a day. Usually in her early teens,
she would be the earliest to rise, with the first task to stoke the kitchen range to a fierce heat so the teakettle boiled
quickly for morning tea. She must empty all chamber pots of the female staff and assist the Lower Servants in preparing
breakfast for the Upper Servants. She had to clean the kitchen passages, pantries, kitchen, and scullery, lay the
servant's hall table for breakfast, clear and wash up afterwards, including all pots, pans, and kitchen utensils used. She
would continue lay tables, clear, and wash up throughout the day. A dinner for five utilized 180 separate pieces of
porcelain, silver, and crystal, each item needing to be washed and safely stored away. Allowed upstairs only once a day
for compulsory prayers, it is the only time she would see her employers. In 1872, she would have earned $50-75.
Dairy Maids churned butter into milk, made clotted cream, butter, milked the cows and delivered it up to the estate, turn
curds into cheese and kept the diary clean using only sand and hot water.
Laundress was in charge of cleaning clothes and household washing. Smaller homes had their laundry sent out.
Nanny's cared and dressed the younger members of the family. Took children on excursions to get plenty of fresh air and
would be assisted by nursery maids. In larger establishments, a footman would be assigned to the nursery. Nanny slept
in the nursery in a separate room next to her charges.
The Governess taught children until the boys left for boarding school. The girls remained in the schoolroom. Although a
Governess would have the demeanor and deportment of a lady, usually educated cultured, properly mannered and well
bred as well as young and fresh faced, they were treated as servants, because of this, they were often very lonely. There
lady-like deportment often created romances in the family.
Maid-of-All-Work was hired if you could only afford one servant. She did a little bit of everything combining the work done
by the Cook, Housemaid, Lady's Maid, Laundress, and Nursemaid.
Page is a young boy hired to run errands and answer the door. He served as a junior grade Footman.
Of course, this is not the complete list of servants! There are also Parlor maids, gamesmen, Tweenies, Plain Cooks, and a host of others, but this list should give you a good start!
Now, for the all important question…
Did servants go to Balls?
Well, er… yes, sort of….
They definitely dated, danced, partied and married!!
Though after reading about all of the duties and work they did I haven’t a clue how they managed to have the time nor the energy! But they did and thankfully managed to procreate!!
Good Luck, I hope this information was useful!
I hope you have a chance to enjoy a video!
I just finished working on a project about Marie Antoinette for Stampington Magazine that was lots of fun. Watching the video was a huge help and a lot more fun than just reading the books and doing online research! LOL!!