Archive for November, 2006

The Scullery Maid

Why describe the lowliest of the servants in a Regency household first? Because heretofore so much has been written about the butler and the housekeeper, who, along with the stewart, stand on top of the servant food chain. We know them by heart and they are no longer mysterious.

A scullery maid’s life was generally one of drudgery and servitude, She arose very early in the morning (often at 5:00 or 6:00 a.m.) and after a day of scrubbing and carrying water and heavy pots, she would stumble into her simple attic bed at 10:00 p.m.

According to PBS’s Manor House, the Scullery Maid’s Daily Duties include the following (Granted, the Edwardian Period comes well after the Regency Period, but in respect to servant duties time moved slowly and the customs of great houses changed just as slowly. The wages would have been different, though the daily schedules remained largely the same) :

Morning Duties

You must rise at six o’clock and wash and dress, with your hair tied neatly back beneath your cap.

Your bed must be made and you must be downstairs at work within half an hour of waking.

You first task of the day is to stoke the Kitchen range to a good heat, to boil water for early morning tea.

You must then empty the chamber pots of all the female Servants, and wash them around with a vinegar soaked rag kept only for this purpose.

You should also assist the Lower Servants in preparing the early morning tea for the Upper Servants.

You must then set about cleaning the Kitchen passages, the Pantries, the Kitchen and Scullery.

When the Chef de Cuisine arrives in the Kitchen at half-past seven you will be expected to curtsey and bid him “Good Morning”.

At a quarter-to eight you should lay the table in the Servants’ Hall for Breakfast.

Breakfast is served in the Servants’ Hall at a quarter past eight. You should clear the table afterwards and wash the dishes.

At a quarter-past nine you must appear in a presentable state, attired in a clean apron, for Morning prayers in the Main Hall. This is the only time that it is acceptable for you to be seen above stairs, and it is compulsory for all members of Staff to attend.

Your duties resume in the Kitchen at ten o’clock, when you must wash up all the dishes from the Servants’ Breakfast, as well as the pans and kitchen utensils used in preparing both the Servants’ and Family’s Breakfasts.

At half-past ten you should lay the table in the Servants’ Hall for tea.

At eleven o’clock tea is served in the Servants’ Hall. You should clear the table afterwards and wash up.

You should then assist the Kitchen Maid and Chef with preparations for the Servants’ Dinner and Family’s Luncheon, should they require you to.

You must ensure the Kitchen is kept spotless at all times and continuously wash up after both the Chef de Cuisine and the Kitchen Maid as they make their preparations.

At Midday you are to take your Dinner in the Kitchen with the Kitchen Maid so that you may watch over the Family’s Luncheon, whilst the Chef takes his Dinner in the Servants’ Hall with the other Servants. The Second Footman will lay the table, serve, and clear away the dirty dishes.

Afternoon Duties

Your duties resume at one o’clock when you must begin washing up after the Servants’ Dinner, and the Family’s Luncheon.

Providing your work is done, you may have one hour at your leisure between half-past two and half-past three.

At half-past three you should lay the table in the Servants’ Hall for Tea.

Tea is served in the Servants’ Hall at four o’clock, you should clear the table afterwards.

At half-past four, you should resume your duties in the Kitchen, washing up after the Servants’ Tea and the utensils used in preparation for the Family’s Tea.

You must assist the Kitchen Maid with any food preparation for the Family’s dinner and Servants’ Supper and continuously wash up any pots and pans used.

After the Family’s Dinner has been served you must clean the Kitchen Passages, Pantries, Scullery and Kitchen.

Supper is served in the Servants’ Hall at half-past nine. The Second Footman is to lay the table, serve, and clear away afterwards.

Providing you work is done, from half past nine until you are required to go to bed, you may enjoy your leisure.
The duties of a scullery maid were physically demanding and never stopped during the day. She cleaned the kitchen floor as well as stoves, sinks, pots and dishes. The young maids lit bedroomfires first thing in the morning, and carried heavy buckets of warm water up the stairs for bathing. Below is a description from The Servants by Ellen Micheletti

“There were several kinds of maids – chambermaids, parlormaids and maids-of-all-work. These young women were the ones who swept, dusted, polished, cleaned, washed, fetched and carried from early morning till late at night. In Frank Dawes’ book Not In Front of the Servants, he gives a schedule of the week for maids that has them working from 6:30 am till 10:00 pm with one half-day off a week. They had to do all the cleaning and polishing with none of the labor saving devices we take for granted. There was no such thing as polish for instance. Furniture polish was made from linseed oil, turpentine and beeswax. Carpets had to be brushed by hand, lamps had to be cleaned and filled and fires had to kept lit and tended. This necessitated maids lugging large amounts of coal up flights of stairs to all the fireplaces, and a large estate could have many, many fireplaces.”

In this audio clip, a former scullery maid describes her job, which she likens to a form of slavery. (Click on the bold words to listen.) From the descriptions from several sources, I surmise that a scullery maid’s job description remained the same for several centuries, including the Georgian, Regency, Victorian, and Edwardian Eras. A modest household could often only afford a maid of all work. Such a servant worked alongside her mistress and led a hard life indeed.

On this website, Hitchingbrook House: Life in an Edwardian Countryhouse describes in great detail the rules for servants as well as a typical day in 1901. Click on the bold words to enter the website.

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Jane Austen’s characters attended assemblies, routs, and parties so often that one is left to wonder: Did these people never stay home?

When the social whirl was in full swing during the London social season, a well-connected, rich, well-born, or idle person could attend several gatherings in one night. Here is a first-hand description of an assembly by Louis Simond, a transplanted Frenchman in America, inveterate traveler, and author of An American in Regency England (p. 31):

“Great assemblies are called routs or parties; but the people who give them, in their invitations only say, that they will be at home such a day, and this some weeks beforehand. The house in which this takes place is frequently stripped from top to bottom: beds, drawers, and all but ornamental furniture is carried out of sight, to make room for a crowd of well-dressed people, received at the door of the principal apartment by the mistress of the house standing, who smiles at every new comer with a look of acquaintance. Nobody sits; there is no conversation, cards, no music; only elbowing, turning, and winding from room to room; then, at the end of a quarter of an hour, escapting to the hall door to wait for the carriage, spending more time upon the threshold among footmen than you had done above stairs with their masters. From this rout you drive to another, where, after waiting your turn to arrive at the door, perhaps, half an hour, the street being full of carriages before the house–then every curtain, and every shutter of every window wide open, shewing apartments all in a blaze of light, with heads innumerable, black and white (powdered or not), in continual motion. This custom is so general, that having, a few days agao, five or six persons in the evening with us, we observed our servants had left the windows thus exposed, thinking, no doubt, that this was a rout after our fashion.”

Indeed, with such a throng of people inside an enclosed space and candles blazing on hot spring and summer nights, the rooms would have been stifling. Had the windows and doors not been kept open, the heat and lack of fresh air would have been insufferable. People often needed to step outside to the terrace or gardens to gain some relief from candle smoke, body odor, and fetid air.

As you can see from this illustration of the Assembly Room in Bath by Thomas Rowlandson, the public assemblies also provided opportunities for dancing. One must surmise that private and public assemblies differed in character. The size of a hostess’s house and her budget must also have dictated whether she could also provide music and dancing at her gathering.

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Sally Lunn’s House in Bath

The oldest house in Bath is now know as Sally Lunn’s House, a picturesque building built in 1482 and located near Bath Abbey. The shop’s specialty for over 300 years has been the Sally Lunn Bun, a semi sweet bread made from brioche dough that tourists still purchase by the dozens to take home or eat on the spot in a small tea room setting.

Sally’s history may be more lore than fact. Some say she was a young French woman who lived in the late 17th century and sold bread on the street for a baker. Eventually she found work in a kitchen and began making a bun with sweet or savory toppings that became famous. Others say that the bun was originally created in France, while still others claim that Sally was English and the daughter of a local pastry chef.

Whichever is the case, the shop, wildly popular during the Georgian Era and open for breakfast and tea, still attracts customers in droves. The orginal recipe of the Sally Lunn Bunn was discovered in the kitchen and was passed down along with the deed to the house.

Today’s visitors can visit the cellar to see the Roman foundations (c. 200 AD) and medieval kitchen (c. 1150 AD). The building itself was erected in 1482, and the stone facade added in 1720.

The following comes from the Sally Lund’s Museum in Bath, England:

“Legend has it that from her home in France, where the Protestant Huguenots were being cruelly persecuted, came young Sally Lunn to find employment with a baker who rented premises in Lilliput Alley. She sold his wares in the street, but when her skill at baking Brioche was discovered she no doubt spent for more time in the bakery itself. Sally Lunn’s Buns were a tremendous success; others tried hard to copy them, but her skill with the rich, soft and delicate dough inspired customers specifically to request the Sally Lunn. ”
Sally Lunn’s

4 North Parade PassageBath BA1 1NXTelephone: 01225 461 634

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