Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pictures, And a List

Take a step back in time with me and experience the world of living in an English manor house. It was a comfortable existence - if you were upstairs. Downstairs was a different issue.

Your stately home might look like this...

Or this...

These houses had their heyday during the Victorian era, but still existed in ever-decreasing numbers until World War II.

And then there were the servants. The numbers varied depending on the family's circumstances, but large households were not uncommon. Downstairs staff would include:

  • Butler - responsible for running the house
  • Housekeeper - responsible for the female staff and maintaining the house's furnishings
  • Cook or Chef - in charge of the kitchen staff and prepares the family's meals
  • Lady's Maid - responsible for care of the lady's clothes, sometimes secretary
  • Valet - responsible for the gentleman's clothes, sometimes secretary
  • First Footman - next in line to replace the butler. Served the family meals. Accompanied the lady of the house on shopping expeditions. Should be tall and handsome.
  • Second Footman - similar duties to first footman - but in an apprentice role. It was a social coup to find a first and second footman who looked similar - like bookends.
  • Footman - additional staff for opening doors, waiting on table, etc.
  • Chamber Maid - responsible for cleaning bedrooms
  • Parlour Maid - responsible for cleaning the main reception rooms
  • Housemaid - general purpose worker
  • Between Maid - worked in either the house or the kitchen as required
  • Under-Cook - apprentice to the cook. Responsible for the staff's meals
  • Kitchen Maid - kitchen work
  • Scullery Maid - dish washer
  • Laundry Maid - responsible for the household laundry and ironing
World War II effectively ended this lifestyle, although some great houses and their attendant staffs do still exist.

This is the world of my WiP.


  1. Elspeth - Thank you for that "sip" of life before WWII. As you say, life "upstairs" was quite different from life "downstairs" (You've reminded me of that fabulous series, by the way - thank you)! I think one thing I love about Agatha Christie's novels is the way she depicted life before, during and after the war. We can really see how the world changed.

    By the way, those are truly lovely 'photos!

  2. Ah yes, to be a member of Europe's elite before WWII. Quite the life!

    I love that first photo!

  3. Margot; Wasn't that a wonderful series? I have the first three seasons on DVD.

    Stephanie; Quite the life if you were a member of the family. Not quite the same life if you weren't.

  4. Wow. I'd like to borrow a maid or two. I don't really care which ones. So different from the way we live now.

  5. Sure makes for a lot of murder suspects if the bitchy lady of the house winds up dead, eh? teehee. Part of my always wished I lived like this, and then the voice in the back of my head said I would have been stuck in laundry and I am glad to no longer be tied to the circumstances of my birth (a knocked up teenager and her heavily drinking farmer's son boyfriend) Oh yes... far better not to carry those social strata...

  6. Carol; I should think the size of the house dictates the size of the staff. Not a bad way to live - but the lack of central heating might be a deterrent during the damp winter months.

    Watery Tart; It CAN make for a great many suspects - which is why I'm far more concerned with Upstairs than Downstairs. It is nice not to placed for life by the circumstances of your birth - but certainly in England the 'right' accent still makes one heck of a difference.

  7. Beautiful buildings! So hard to imagine living that kind of lifestyle!

  8. In my current life, I serve as scullery, kitchen, and laundry maid. My wife, bless her heart, has actually professional skills and keeps us from going to the poor house. Each to his or her own.

    Best, Galen.

    Speaking of this topic, my spam verification word was RINGBUT...kid you not!

  9. Karen; It does make the travel itch flare up, doesn't it?

    Jemi; It was a world which really no longer exists - unless you're unbelievably rich. Ah, well.

    Galen; I love those word verifications - some are gibberish, but some really make me laugh.

  10. Can't image living in a house like that much less having that many people to take care of you. Wow.

  11. Ahhhh...what a lovely time to live. Although I'm not sure I could have done the really tight corsets and huge, heavy dresses in the heat of summer!

  12. Hey where'd you get those pics of my winter and summer houses?

    Marvin D Wilson

  13. So, the footman is the one you want to have an affair with, and should be played by Colin Firth in a movie... right?

  14. I love this period too and I loved Upstairs, Downstairs and The Forsythe Saga which had a lot of back and forth between the servant class and the upper class too. I also adore the movie 'Gosford Park'. Thrilling and funny and so Altman!

  15. What an interesting post. I'm bookmarking it because it's a great reference.


  16. I'd be happy with one servant :)

    Seriously, that was so useful! I've been toying with an idea for a fantasy story where the girl works as a maid, and now I have many different types to choose from. Thanks!

  17. Mason; I'm sure they would be just as puzzled by our modern lives.

    Stephanie; The corsets were more or less gone by 1910 - and lighter material for dresses as well!

    Old Silly; LOL!! You stole my line!

    Elisa; But of course. Malina, however, will be standing by to replace him.

    Jan: I loved Upstairs Downstairs and Julian Fellowes writing in Gosford Park is brilliant.

    Ann; I'm so glad you'll find it useful. What a nice surprise.

    Lorel; Yipee! Glad to be of service.

  18. I think I could use some of that staff right now...

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  19. One of my favorite things to do while living in England was to visit stately manors like these. Though it would have been fun to see one with the hustle and bustle of all that help, you have to use your imagination these days.

    That’s a lot of characters to keep straight in your WIP!

  20. I could use all that staff.
    Where do you get your information from, it is very thorough.

  21. Elizabeth; Me too!

    Jane; Luckily, my WiP takes place upstairs - the servants have very small supporting parts.

    Carolyn; Thanks for saying that! Some info I already know from years of reading about this period - some from the glories of the internet.

  22. Please, Elspeth, make sure the book can be bought in India. I love the world of your WiP, but can't really fly down to Canada to get a copy.

    ~ Rayna


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