What are Servant Bedrooms?

painting1-JosephCaraudLadysMaid - servant bedrooms

Besides the upper and under servant offices used by domestic staff to accomplish their jobs, there were special sleeping quarters allotted to servants. Such sleeping quarters consisted of Under-servant and Upper-servant Bedrooms and Stranger-servant Bedrooms.

  • Under-servant Bedrooms: Male and female domestics had separate quarters for sleeping. Female domestics were usually provided with bedrooms either in the attic, uppermost story, or over servant offices, which were accessible by a back stairway. These rooms were usually small and not suitable for more than two domestics. They were also meagerly furnished with a single bed and, perhaps, a nightstand. It was also desirable that such quarters have a fireplace or some way to help keep occupants warm during cold nights. Under-servant Bedrooms for men were similar to the sleeping quarters used by women. Sometimes, however, men might be housed in a dormitory like atmosphere. In that case a high partition separated each bed. If there were enough male servants, their rooms might be accessed by a special staircase that ascended from servant offices. However, if there were just two or three male servants, their rooms might be placed on the ground floor for added protection against intrusion at night.
  • Upper-servant Bedrooms: Upper-servants had separate rooms and were almost never housed dormitory style. Sleeping quarters were arranged to help upper-servants perform their duties efficiently and effectively. So, the housekeeper usually slept near the maid-servants, and a female head cook slept near the Kitchen. The lady’s maid was placed as close as possible to her mistress so that she could provide immediate attendance. Sometimes her room was also large enough for her to accomplishing starching. It might also contain a long table for cutting fabric, a head for trimming bonnets, flat-irons for pressing clothing, and a soft and hard clothes brush. Sometimes the room for the lady’s maid also functioned in a duo role serving as a Wardrobe-room, and, in that case, it usually had closets too. The butler usually slept near the Pantry, and it was also desirable to have the valet sleep near his master, if possible. Among the upper-servants, the superior servants, such as a Steward or Chamberlain (the lady’s secretary and manager), usually had private Bedrooms. Additionally, if the Housekeeper’s-Bedroom was upstairs, it was frequently placed so that she commanded the female servant’s rooms, and, if on a lower floor, her room might be placed near the back staircase used by the female staff. The Housekeeper’s Bedroom was plainly furnished, usually had large closets or cupboards and a sofa or easy chair.
  • Stranger-servants’ rooms: Servants sometimes assisted or visited other large households to help with parties or special occasions. When this was done, special arrangements were needed to house visiting servants. The rooms provided for these visitors were called Stranger-servants’ rooms. These rooms were usually located within the same apartment as their equals and of each sex respectively. However, these Stranger-servants’ rooms were slightly superior to the accommodations of those used by the regular household staff. When there were many visiting servants, visiting valets needed to be provided with a separate room. It no such room was available, the valet’s room might be accomplished by using a partition to cordon off his bed, washstand, etc. and it helped to have it partitioned in such a way that he had a window.
  • Other Sleeping-rooms: Sometimes there were sleeping rooms for grooms or other Stable workers near the Stables. In large establishments, there might also be accommodations for married servants and their families and for unmarried grooms, stablemen. etc. For unmarried men, however, their accommodations were often dormitory style with their cubicles divided by a partition.

References:

  • Kerr, Robert, The Gentleman’s House, 1865

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