There was a general discussion regarding people in servant-type roles lived near to the big house, particular examples being gardeners, coachmen and laundresses/washer women. It is often unclear who was directly employed and who was self employed and this led to difficulties in numerical analyses. The consensus seemed to be to include those with 'servant' as relationship with the head of the household but as ever; your study, your rules!
Liz Craig did some number crunching and noticed a decline in both the number of servants and number of households with servants between 1841 and 1861. Julie G also did an analysis of servants in Long Buckley Wharf, often local people employed by the farms, the pubs or the 'Big House' and Sadie McMullon gave a reflection on the daily life of a servant in Fletton.
Allie Nickell was on a role with blogs about individual servants and their stories. She started with a chauffeur who was sued for breach of promise by his servant fiance before moving onto a children's nurse who wanted a situation, another chauffeur with a 'need for speed' and the wedding of James and Mary, gardener and (probable) domestic servant. She also contributed a page about yet another chauffer father and son John and Joseph Donnelley - no, not the chauffer of the breach of promise!
Janet Barrie mused on whether the number of servants was a proxy for social status and whether there was an element of 'keeping up appearances' in servant employment. Certainly when the female owner of Springhill house married, the new husband arrived with so many servants that it was necessary to build an extension. She also noticed that one local clergyman had a total of seven servants - obviously a good living in Holy Orders. There was also a degree of social standing within the servant community, with the census being careful to distinguish between the 'professional nurse' and two other nurses in the same household. There were also strict criteria for application on occasion, with at least one advertisement being qualified with 'No Dissenters need apply'!
The Victorian Commons blog joined in the fun with a fascinating blog about the domestic and household servants (not civil servants) in the Palace of Westminster in the 19th century.
Perhaps the most unusual take on the topic however was from Liz G who looked at a chambermaid at Ockenden House - or rather, her ghost.
This was also the first blog prompt which resulted in a reading list:
- Tessa Boase 'The Housekeeper's Tale '
- Margaret Powell 'Below Stairs'
- 'The Duties of Servants' 1890
- 'Toilers of London' 1889
- 'Servant's Practical Guide ' 1880
- Mrs Beeton 'Book of Household Management' 1861
- Pamela Horn, 'My Ancestor was in Service'
- Mollie Moran 'Aprons and Silver Spoons' 2013
- L Davidhoff and L Hawthorn 'A Day in the Life of a Victorian Domestic Servant'.
- Michelle Higgs 'Servant Stories'
Should be enough to be going on with there.
(Other booksellers are available...)