Servant names & hierarchies
Posted by Jessamyn on September 16, 1997 at 23:24:31:
In response to Servants and names, written by ElaineL on September 16, 1997 at 10:43:28
My source for all of the following is the excellent book Not in Front of the Servants by Frank Victor Dawes (originally pub. by Wayland in 1973; my copy pub. by Century in 1993).
You have the idea of first names reversed. Using the last name was a sign of respect accorded to the upper servants. So a butler would be "Dobbins" while the girl clearing the coal out of your hearth would be "Mary."
There's an entire chapter on hierarchy below stairs, but here are the highlights of the early 19th-century staff:
"In large establishments, upper and lower servants dined separately. Upper menservants wore ordinary clothes, while their subordinates were dressed in livery, or uniform.
"At the top of the hierarchy stood the land steward, who managed the estate, collected rents, settled disputes between tenants and so on. A house steward or housekeeper ruled supreme over the indoor servants. Immediately beneath him were two servants of equal rank, [valet] and [clerk of the stables], the former as personal attendant and confidential adviser to the master and the latter in charge of the stables and all the outdoor livery servants, from the coachmen down to stable boys.... Below them, in the ranks of upper servants, came the butler and gardener.
"Of the inferior menservants--those who wore livery--the coachman ranked the highest. Under him came the footmen, grooms, under-butlers, under-coachmen, park-keepers and game-keepers, and lowest of all the yard boys, hall boys and foot boys, sometimes as young as eight or nine years old....
"Women servants had no ornamental function and were kept out of sight as much as possible, attending to the routine and menial functions. Primacy among the females below stairs belonged to the lad's maid, the personal attendant of the lady of the house.... Next in rank was the housekeeper, serving under the steward if there was one. If not, she supervised the whole establishment. Lowest of the female upper servants was the cook.
"The chambermaid headed the lower female servants, who included housemaids, laundry maids, dairy maids and maids-of-all-work. At the bottom of the scaqle was the lowly scullery maid who cleaned the kitchen, scrubbed the pots and pans and did most of the servile work."
There's a lot more interesting stuff, but my fingers are falling off!
Posting followups to old messages is disabled; instead go to the main index and post a new message which mentions this one.