From Upstairs, Downstairs to Gosford Park and Downton Abbey, TV dramas and films have made us care about the characters below stairs. Domestic service was Britain's biggest employer a century ago, but how have things changed over the years?
"It is a form of marriage to a point as you are devoted to that family," says 78-year-old Rick Fink.
|The servants clear from the dinner. |
If there are guests, those servants will be expected to stay upstairs to wait on the family during the rest of the evening as well.
"I was petrified, but this was the Queen's husband. He just came aboard and he was tanned with blonde hair and looked fabulous and I had to ask him what he wanted to drink."
Now Fink runs the Butler-Valet School, training butlers for service in stately homes and private residencies. Some aspects of the role are timeless and governed by an unspoken etiquette and code of conduct.
"[A butler] needs to be reliable, discreet, trustworthy, and your life revolves around your employer," says Fink.
"I would never sit in the drawing room or have dinner at their dining room table. I keep myself the other side of the baize door."
|Lady Sybil learns to cook from the help: A great deal of nostalgia surrounds the traditional notion of domestic service, with the scandals above and below stairs in Downton Abbey proving a ratings success. But life for a domestic worker has evolved.|
With the help of labour-saving devices, a household can now be run by fewer people. Employers can contact staff on a mobile phone rather than have to ring a bell or track them down in the grounds of the estate.
The inventory is itemised on a computer so there is no need to count the silverware and the dishwasher takes on the burden of washing up. Although not the Waterford Crystal.
According to the Office for National Statistics from the 2012 Labour Force Survey, about 65,000 people are employed as domestic workers by households in the UK.
This includes domestic personnel "such as maids, cooks, waiters, valets, butlers, laundresses, gardeners, gatekeepers, stable-lads, chauffeurs, caretakers, governesses, babysitters, tutors, secretaries", to name just a few.
It excludes the provision of services such as cooking, gardening etc by independent service providers (companies or individuals).
The figure includes those who may work for more than one household and may live in or away from their employer. Fink is surprised at just how many job adverts he sees these days for "live-out" domestic workers.
The situation was very different in 1901 when the vast majority of the 1.5 million people employed as domestic servants in Britain would have lived with their employer to attend to their every whim, whatever the time of day.
|Attending to their every whim, whatever the time of day... The ladies maid - the mistress of the house's personal attendant, helping her to dress and do her hair.|
According to Dr Lucy Delap, director of studies in history at St Catharine's College, Cambridge, servant status was reinforced at mealtimes.
"There would be a strict order of coming in to eat and strict rules about where different ranks of servants sit, and you might also have rules such as no speaking unless you were addressed by one of the senior servants," says Delap.
"The senior servants had a great deal of power, so the butler for example in some households would put down his knife and fork, and everyone else had to fit in whether you had finished or not. So servants had to learn to be fast eaters."
The butler - in charge of the house, coachmen and footmen. He looked after the family and the wine cellar
The housekeeper - responsible for the housemaids and carried the keys to the china and linen cupboards
The ladies maid - the mistress of the house's personal attendant, helping her to dress and do her hair
The valet - the master's manservant, attending to his requests and preparing his clothes and shaving tools
The cook - ran the kitchen and larder, overseeing the kitchen, dairy and scullery maids
The governess- educated and cared for the children with the head and under nurse
The hallboy - worked 16-hour days, lighting all the lamps and candles and polishing the staff boots before they woke up
The tweeny - in-between stairs maid earned £13 a year, worked seven days a week from 5am-10pm and looked after slop duty.
Main article by Lucy Wallis for BBC News, published 21 September 2012
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