Servants in Victorian Times – Part 2
In part one of our blog of servants in the Victorian household we looked at the roles of the senior servants, namely the butler, housekeeper and the valet. In this blog we look at some of the lesser servants and to see how their roles contributed to the workings of a large Victorian house and estate.
The footmen were like the honor guards of the household, they were there standing to attention when guests arrived and ready to move as soon as luggage was produced or guests needed assistance getting into carriages or on their horses. The footman’s duties would include cleaning all boots and shoes of the family and their guests and to make sure the household silver was sparkling. The footman would also attend table with the butler, answer the door and other guest facing duties.
The ladies maid was another senior position, and was the female equivalent to the valet. She would look after every whim of the lady of the house. Every need that her mistress had she attended to, including helping to dress, brushing her hair, preparing her riding clothes and evening dresses.
The cook was really her own boss, and any person interfering with the production of meals from the kitchen be it other servants or indeed part of the household family, were taking their lives into their own hands. The Victorian kitchen was a hive of activity, it had to prepare at least three meals a day, as well as food for the servants. It would also produce afternoon tea and picnics when required. To help the cook she would have her own team dedicated to the kitchen which included kitchen maids and a scullery maid who would handle all the menial kitchen jobs such as the washing up.
In a large household of servants there would be several housemaids and under-housemaids. It was their job to ensure that the house was kept clean. The job was a thankless task, getting up early to light fires and empty chamber pots. Then after changing bed linen, they would turn their attention to every room in the house to clean before the family started to use the rooms. The work was arduous and the hours long, but being a housemaid gave the opportunity for young servant girls to get their first steps in servitude.
Probably the most junior position in the Victorian household was the houseboy, and it was his job to wait on all the other servants. The young boy in question would only be about fourteen years of age and basically did what everybody told him to. In addition to these servant positions in large households there would be, a coachman, groom and a stableboy. Obviously to look after the horses and prepare the masters coach, and generally preparing for any travel requirements the master had.
A full complement of servants was not a cheap thing for the master of a household to keep going. It was also a very difficult thing to control, and there was a strict master / servant relationship. In fact, in many Victorian households the owner of the house was frowned upon even going down to the servant’s quarters.