” Leading the way was, of course, King Edward VII. Small beer – roughly with 2.5 per cent or less alcohol content – … Michelle Higgs, Servants’ stories: life below stairs in their own words 1800-1950. Selma Panter, a maid in the 1930s, recalled that ‘the servants’ hall had a big table on stone slabs, the chairs were rejects, no backs to them. Burnett Collection of Working Class Autobiography, 2:384, Brunel University Library. London: John Murray 2010. Lucy Delap, Knowing their place : domestic service in twentieth-century Britain. This paper refers to the servants’ full names except in the case of Megan whose life story has been collected by Rosemary Scadden. Dinner is the meal for which this formal service is best adapted, and even at dinner it should not be carried out, Serving Table laid for Breakfast, Russian Style. Sideboard laid for Breakfast, Russian Style, When a meal is served after the Russian fashion, all the responsibility of supplying food to those at table falls upon the attendants. Inquiring readers, from now until the U.S. airing of Downton Abbey, this blog will explore the facets of living in an English country house during the Edwardian era, and drawing upon the similarity and differences between the Edwardian and Regency eras. Servants’ spaces for eating in country houses and large townhouses were different to those of smaller middle-class suburban villas. Whereas the upper classes had acquired a cultural taste that privileged the aesthetic over the practical, the lower classes were thought incapable of reaching the same refined aesthetic pleasures. Drawing on servants’ memoirs and the theoretical framework presented above, this article studies the location within the home, the furnishing, the light and even the smells of servants’ spaces to recreate the material experience of servants. In both big and small households, servants could use to their advantage the spaces that were designed to hide them by hiding in return their own acts of rebellions from the employers. Margaret Powell, Below stairs. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2011, 21. in its entirety unless there be more than one waitress for each eight covers at table, since nothing appears upon the table save the centrepiece (at dinner, a bonbon dish or two is allowable) and the articles that compose the individual covers. After the fish came the entrée, which might consist of vol-au-vent, mutton cutlets or sweetbreads served with champagne or claret. Perhaps the best way to give directions for serving a meal is to present a representative menu, and tell how to get it before those who are seated at table. Luton: WEA Luton Branch 1977; Katherine Henderson 1987, ‘Had I but know’. Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1990, 18; Siân Pooley, ‘Domestic servants and their urban employers: a case study of Lancaster, 1880–1914’, Economic History Review, 62, 2 (2009), 405–429. Following the recommendation of famous architects like Isaac Ware, the servants’ hall was often positioned next to the butler or housekeeper room so that he or she could monitor it at all time.35 However, the butlers and housekeepers did not only survey this space from afar. Oxford: Clio, 1982. By 1931 twenty percent of all female workers were still employed in this sector.2 However, domestic service was fraught with tension leading the press to denounce a ‘servant problem’ between the late nineteenth century up to the start of the Second World War.3 Over these years, servants argued for better working conditions and more freedom while employers increasingly struggled to find servants. They ate in front of an open drawer in which they could hide their hot meal in case the employers came in the kitchen. Winifred Foley, A child in the forest. Similarly, in a second household Elsie Oman worked for during the war, the mistress and her two sisters helped the maid with the cleaning and ate alongside her, but they still maintained distinctions at Christmas.52 They received their guests in the dining room while Elsie Oman had to stay in the kitchen. Barnsley: Pen & Sword History 2015. Michel Foucault, Discipline and punish: the birth of the prison. The cooks’ empowerment can also be read in the fact that many of them called their working space ‘my kitchen’ whereas the entire place was owned by their employers. Everyday life for a domestic servant in Edwardian townhouses was often far removed from the splendour of their surroundings… Share on Facebook; Share on Twitter; Share on Whatsapp; Email to a friend; This competition is now closed. Chapter 6. Report of the Women's Advisory Committee on the Domestic Service Problem Together with Reports by Sub-committees on Training, Machinery of Distribution, Organisation and Conditions, XXIX, 7, 1919, 29. For the same reason, there was no need to decorate with attention the servants’ hall. It follows, then, that, where this fashion is adopted, a full staff of trained household employees is needed, if the wants of those at table are to be properly supplied. Its hidden character made it an area of the house that was not under the control of Jean’s grandmother but in the hands of the maids. To reveal the role of spaces for eating in servants’ experiences of domestic service, this article also draws on the work of Pierre Bourdieu, Michel Foucault, and James Scott. Winifred Foley, a maid-of-all-work in the 1930s, recalled that,44. London: Century in association with the National Trust 1989, 80. Bath: Chivers Press 1983. London: Hainemann 1972; Mollie Moran, Aprons and silver spoons: the heartwarming memoirs of a 1930s kitchen maid. Stroud: Alan Sutton 1990. Wimborne: Word and Action 1988. While ‘them upstairs’ dined on the finest of foods, often having 9-course meals, with the best china and cutlery, the servants ‘downstairs’ often used “Servants china and cutlery” and, sometimes, were allowed to eat the left-overs from ‘upstairs dinner,’ or they had very basic but nourishing food. Let us remind you when the next issue is out, and keep you updated on news & events. Hastings: Hastings Local History Group 2002, 15-17; Jean Rennie, Every other Sunday. This recollection mystifies the downstairs of the house: it was invisible and inaccessible. Chapter 5. London: Pan 2011. Jeremy Musson, Up and down stairs : the history of the country house servant. Family – Master, mistress, and one child. Critiquing the idea of home as the middle-class sanctuary’ in  Inga Bryden & Janet Floyd (eds), Domestic space: reading the nineteenth century interior. Despite the grandness of these houses, the servants’ halls were squalid, dark, damp, and decked out with shabby furniture, which emphasised the servants’ place at the bottom of the social hierarchy within the house. Styles of Serving Meals. University of Essex, I-CEM project, 1901 Census for England and Wales. '56 This behaviour was a very obvious reversal of the general code of conduct between servants and employers. Bread and butter, pickles and relishes, are also given a place on the table.But, save relishes, etc,, only one course appears at a time upon the table. Home. The Edwardians surprisingly ate huge amounts of food. John Burnett, Useful toil : autobiographies of working people from the 1820s to the 1920s. Llandysul: Gomer 2013; Rosina Harrison, Rose my life in service. Her research interests include gender, class and identity as well as emotions and subjectivity. The Up-to-Date Waitress - written by Janet McKenzie-Hill; who was born in Westfield, Massachusetts in 1852 and was a famous author, cooking instructor and lecturer on domestic science. Critiquing the idea of home as the middle-class sanctuary’ in  Inga Bryden & Janet Floyd (eds), Domestic space: reading the nineteenth century interior. In consequence, between 1901 and 1931, more than eighty per cent of workers in domestic service were female. Servants’ position was at the boundary of public and private spaces: they ate in a house, but not their own; at work, but still within the domestic sphere. In mansions, servants and employers were separated by what was termed the ‘upstairs-downstairs’ system which made servants mostly invisible to their employers. The Dining-Room and the Pantry and their Furnishings. Only the upper class could afford to employ men servants while the main employers of servants, the middle class, recruited female workers. This window is a feature in images of several servants halls, which makes me think it … While employers and domestic manuals simply described a system of spatial segregation, servants’ accounts allow us to reconstruct the physicality of these spaces as well as their complex power dynamics. Anne Kynoch, The King’s seat. Food items like ice creams, chips, fries, chocolates and candyfloss started registering in the Edwardian era. Many of us today cannot understand why servants in country manors such as Downton… Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction : a social critique of the judgement of taste. Really it was very poor, very poor; there was absolutely no comfort.’27 Margaret Powell also described a servants’ hall furnished with ‘misshapen wicker chairs which had once graced their conservatory and weren’t even considered good enough for that now.’28 Employers followed the advice of domestic household manuals which argued that the ideal servants’ hall was to be furnished with ‘very simple’ or ‘plain’ furniture.29 Kerr in his book The gentleman’s house argued for ‘all private rooms to be equal to those of a similar class of persons in their own homes- perhaps a little better, but not too much.’30 He added that ‘elegance, importance, and ornament would be quite out of place’ in the servants’ quarters. Help mistress to lay table, and prepare breakfast. Serving Breakfast, English Fashion. In some houses, the upper-staff even ate in a different room than the rest of the servants. London: Hainemann, 1972. London: Routledge 1994, 222-228; Selina Todd, ‘Domestic Service and Class Relations in Britain 1900–1950’, Past & Present, 203, 1, (2009), 191-192. Wimborne: Word and Action 1988; Margaret Powell, Below stairs. Luton: WEA Luton Branch 1977. Instead of admitting her mistake, she ‘rushed to the pig bucket’ and ‘fished the kipper out’. Selina Todd, Young Women, Work, and Family in England 1918-1950. A Guide for Edwardian Servants - The Up to Date Waitress - a 1908 Book by Janet McKenzie Hill, Sponsored by the Alexander Palace Time Machine, Schaffer Collection of Russian Art Treasures, Hagia Sophia Drawings by Grelo 1680 and Loos 1710. After it was sent upstairs, Margaret Powell recalled with pride and amusement that ‘Mrs Bernard sent the parlour maid down with a compliment. Rules of the Household. London: Collins 1956, 102. London: John Murray 2010, 52. London: Virago 1977, 37-52; John Burnett, Useful toil : autobiographies of working people from the 1820s to the 1920s. As a consequence, a maid might suffer from this ambiguous relationship in which she would sometimes be a companion and other time a stranger. Edwardian Life: Family Mealtimes. If you have any questions please get in touch with. Hastings: Hastings Local History Group 2002. London: G. Bell and sons, ltd, 1916. In this room, servants could gather away from the eye of the employers, gossip and jokes could be spread and even more dangerous, theft could be committed. Servants were provided with food, clothing, housing, and a small wage, and lived in a self-enclosed social system inside the mansion. Padstow: Tabb House 1982. Bassingbourn: Archives for Bassingbourn & Comberton Village Colleges, 1981; Michelle Higgs, Servants’ stories : life below stairs in their own words 1800-1950. Servants worked in a variety of households and their relationship with their employers varied accordingly. London Routledge/Thoemmes Press (1997), 14; Joseph Ambrose Banks, Prosperity and parenthood : a study of family planning among the Victorian middle classes. Jeremy Musson, Up and down stairs: the history of the country house servant. While autobiographies might exaggerate the frequency of such transgressive acts, employers were nevertheless constantly worried about what servants were up to in the kitchens. http://icem.data-archive.ac.uk [accessed 1st October 2017]; 1931 Census for England Wales quoted in Lucy Delap, ‘Kitchen-Sink Laughter: Domestic Service Humor in Twentieth-Century Britain’, Journal of British Studies, 49, 3 (2010), 624. Lady Cynthia Asquith wrote in the late nineteenth century that servants and employers ‘knew their places, and kept to them as planets to their orbits’, as they navigated the upstairs and downstairs parts of the house.21 Edith Edwards, a kitchen maid in a rich Macclesfield household who barely saw her employers and was ignored by her mistress when she occasionally visited the kitchen, certainly knew hers. ‘As there was always plenty of food in the store cupboard, which was never locked’, she cooked a hot meal for servants. Should a servant choose not to take beer, he or she may redeem its value as a "Beer Allowance." Edwardian Life Servant's Rules. As she was locked all day in the basement of the house, invisible to her mistress, Edith Edwards ‘used to feel down here’.22 She experienced the physical boundary between her employers and herself as a social boundary so that she was not only ‘downstairs’ but felt ‘down here’. Meat composed maximum of the menus be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. At nine 0’clock, housemaids and valets arrived to draw bedroom curtains and deliver a cup of teac as ordered by the hostess the night before.” Chapter 1. Employers rarely ventured in servants’ spaces for eating, except in some lower-middle-class households, and therefore, many knew very little about them. Bath: C. Chivers, 1978; Samuel Mullins & Gareth Griffiths, Cap and apron : an oral history of domestic service in the Shires, 1880-1950. There was no fire to sit by, merely a coke boiler and a gas-stove’.40 The lack of chairs and other furniture signaled to servants that their well-being did not matter to their employers. She is the other working class female represented in the play. They play into a long tradition of servants’ humour that emerged in Edwardian Britain as servants increasingly contested the outdated paternalistic and deferential relationships of domestic service while lower section of the middle class could afford to employ a maid.60 Popular culture was full of rebellious maids playing tricks on their employers and particularly on lower-middle families whose snobbishness was ridiculed. The nutmeg in the rice was simply perfect!”’53 The most eccentric story comes from Margaret Powell who recalled how one morning her employers requested a savoury for dinner using the kipper left from breakfast. More broadly, this article has emphasized the importance of listening to the marginalized voices of servants to understand what it meant to work as a live-in domestic servant, toiling, eating and sleeping under the same roof with limited opportunity for privacy and freedom. Monica Dickens, One pair of hand. Although servants were necessary to the functioning of the house, their presence in the upper-class household was not desired. Moira Donald, ‘Tranquil havens? Barrie. Eileen Balderson, Backstairs life in a country house. Robert Kerr, The gentleman’s house or, How to plan English residences : from the parsonage to the palace : with tables of accommodation and cost, and a series of selected plans. Many autobiographies contain some acts of everyday resistance that contradicted the ideal vision of domestic service and its social stratification on a small scale. Edwardian Britain had large numbers of male and female domestic servants, in both urban and rural areas. Dinner is the meal for which this formal service is best adapted, and even at dinner it should not be carried out Megan described in the household she worked in during the interwar period that servants were not authorised to eat eggs as they were reserved for the employers.58 The cook rebelled against the system by stealing eggs to make a sandwich for the other two servants, which they savoured in the kitchen away from their employers’ gaze.59 Because cooks had control over the kitchen, they could use it to subvert the authority of their employers. Middle and upper-class women relied on servants to run their homes smoothly. While not all kitchens and servants’ halls were hives of rebellion, they remained a servant-dominated space where employers would scarcely venture. Even at the table, servants were in constant contact with authority. Barnsley: Pen & Sword History 2015; Anne Kynoch, The King’s seat. The application of the rules was facilitated by the layout of the house. However, the design of the kitchen itself was servants’ most significant issue. The middle class is defined here, following Benjamin S. Rowntree, as the households employing at least one servant.14 Employing a servant facilitated the household access to leisure which was at the core of middle-class identities since the early nineteenth century.15 Moreover, the presence of an ‘other’ in the household helped to establish one’s middle-class status by opposition.16 This broad definition encompasses a variety of middle-class households, from well-off families to those at the margin who struggled to keep up appearances, as well as those who employed a servant as part of their business such as boarding houses.17 Therefore, within the middle class itself, servants experienced different relationships with their employers and ate in different types of spaces. Upstairs, an Edwardian home was a picture of elegance, sophistication and serenity, filled with social engagements and lavish dinner parties. Todd, ‘Domestic Service and Class Relations in Britain 1900–1950’, 191. These acts of rebellion can be found in numerous autobiographies. Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction : a social critique of the judgement of taste. Care of the Pantry. This spatial segregation was also the product of the Victorians obsessions with privacy, as can be seen in this extract from The Gentleman’s house wrote in 1864 by the architect Robert Kerr:23. Chapter 7. Joy Lakeman and Joan Bellan, Them days from the memories of Joan Bellan. The meat or fish just as it is taken from the oven or kettle, except for its garnish, is set down before the "head of the house," who carves it and selects the portion desired by each. London: Routledge 2010, xxv. The Care of the Dining-Room. This article also draws on Foucault’s well-known argument that power is not defined by the individual or institution that holds it, but, rather, is an abstraction comprised in a system of rules and methods which define and control those who are subject to it.11  Conceptualizing power in these terms allows us to reflect on the role of spaces in defining servants’ inferior status at mealtimes when the employers were absent. The way servants were eating was also directly regulated in the servants’ hall. The food is served "from the table." “You are a footman, and a footman wears gloves,” says Mr. Carson, the butler of Downton Abbey, in a tone that brooks no argument. Just imagine trying to serve a similar meal to a full room without a well-versed team. 8 a.m. – Have kitchen breakfast while family breakfast. Preface. What are the Duties of a Waitress. It explores the various ways through which servants used the spaces they were confined in to regain their agency and yield some power over their employers. Edith Hall, Canary girls and stockpots. Sit-down Breakfast. A Guide for Edwardian Servants. Millions of Muslim worshippers prayed under Christ, the Virgin and the Seraphim. She is deliberately given a small role by Priestley as this is symbolic. William Parkes, Domestic duties : or, Instructions to young married ladies on the management of their households, and the regulation of their conduct in the various relations and duties of married life. Nancy Sharman, a house-parlour maid in the 1930s, recalled spilling rice on the floor on her way to the dining room where her employers were hosting a business lunch. Stephen Mennell, All manners of food : eating ad taste in England and France from the Middle Ages to the present. We had a very spoiled life, I suppose: It was like England in Edwardian times - servants, meals cooked, beds made. Edward Higgs, ‘Domestic Servants and Households in Victorian England’, Social History, 8, 2 (1983), 201-210. It follows, then, that, where this fashion is adopted, a full staff of trained household employees is needed, if the wants of those at table are to be properly supplied. Dinner is the meal for which this formal service is best adapted, and even at dinner it should not be carried out Scadden only used the women’s first name in her work. The family constitutes one community; the servants another. New York : Harper 1838, 184. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul (1954), 70. Eating in the ‘tiny kitchen’ on her own compared to the ‘living-room’ of the employers was a daily experience of the authority and social hierarchy in service. The compromise style of service is, as its name implies, a "let down" from the formality of the Russian service and a "let up" to the arduous duties expected of the head of the house at a table served after the English fashion. Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree, Poverty: a study of town life. The stiffly dressed male servants who bring the food to the dining room, serve each dish French style, onto the plates of the diners. The long, slow, and heavy meals of the mid-nineteenth century had disappeared by the Edwardian era: now hostesses preferred their dinner parties swift and filling (though this was taken to the extreme by Gilded Age hostess Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish, who would hurry her guests through eight or nine courses in forty minutes), most likely to make time for evening entertainments. Robert Kerr, The gentleman’s house or, How to plan English residences: from the parsonage to the palace: with tables of accommodation and cost, and a series of selected plans. Like sergeant-majors and school prefects, the upper servants were enrolled to enforce the rules when the staff was outside of the gaze of their employers. In contrast, this article has shed light on these spaces using servants’ autobiographies. London: Regency Press 1981; Daisy Noakes, The town beehive : a young girl's lot, Brighton 1910-1934. How shall we ever know if it’s morning if there’s no servant to pull up the blind? Freshly baked bread, meat stews, rice pudding and home-grown vegetables were common meals at the servant’s table. Siân Pooley, ‘Domestic servants and their urban employers: a case study of Lancaster, 1880–1914’, Economic History Review, 62, 2 (2009), 405-29. Servants were not, however, passive recipients of authority but had some agency. Fanny Louvier is a second year DPhil student in Economic and Social History at the University of Oxford. The latter manifests itself in an acquired cultural taste, which encompasses everything from artworks to eating and that prioritizes the aesthetic over the functional.10 Bourdieu’s approach helps us to understand how employers designed their own spaces for eating and those of their servants. The main meal – ‘dinner’– was taken at around midday, while ‘tea’ was a very light meal served at around 4 o’clock. Pamela Horn, Life below stairs in the twentieth century. Chapter 7. Eileen Balderson, Backstairs life in a country house. New York: Random House 1995, 215. Instead of cooking a new batch of rice, she quickly scooped up the rice and served it as if nothing had happened. Upon the table, servants ate separately in the same room as other human beings, recruited workers. – there was no need to decorate with attention the servants ’ memoirs must be put into.... Accompany a meal, edwardian servants' meals was the usual tipple to accompany a meal, was... 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