What are Under-Servant Offices?

Footman, Public Domain

Footman, Public Domain

Under-servants, sometimes called lower-servants, performed the duties under the direction of upper-servants. Under-servants included scullery maids, kitchen maids, cooks, footmen, housemaids, and grooms. Special rooms designated for use by under-servants  included such rooms as the Cleaning rooms, Housemaid’s Closets, and Servants’ Halls.

Cleaning-rooms: These rooms were used for specific types of cleaning. In large houses there might be a special Brushing-room to clean garments. Such a room usually contained nothing more than a large table and was placed near the Butler’s-Pantry or Servants’-Hall. In a country home there might also be a fireplace in the Brushing-room to help dry wet garments. Other specialty cleaning rooms included a Knife-room or Shoe-room. If lamps were kept, there was sometimes a special Lamp-room to trim wicks, clean lamps, and so forth. Such a room might also contain a table, shelves, a locked cupboard or locked closet to store candles, oil, or lamp accessories. In smaller homes, the Housemaid’s-Closet might contain the Lamp-room or lamp accessories.

Scullery Maid, Public Domain

Scullery Maid, Public Domain

Housemaid’s Closet: This was a small room or apartment where a housemaid’s cleaning tools were kept. These tools included anything necessary to service Bedrooms, such as pails, mops, dusters, candlesticks, coalboxes, etc. It usually had a sink and hot water, if possible. There might also be a small dresser with drawers, shelves, a pin rail and, perhaps, a cupboard. In large mansions, for convenience, there was usually one closet on each bedroom floor. It was usually located at the end of a corridor, along the back stairs, in a servant passageway, or at some junction between the servant’s area and the main house. In large homes the Housemaid’s-Closets could also be located to aid in odd work and for the cleaning of Basement Offices. When that was the case, these rooms were often placed near Thoroughfares.

Servants’-Hall: In small houses the Kitchen sufficed for a Servants’-Hall. However, in larger establishments there was a special apartment known as the Servants’-Hall, which might also include a Women’s Work-room. The Servants’-Hall functioned similar to the Steward’s-room or the Housekeeper’s-room. The Servants’-Hall was usually near the Kitchen because of the necessity of serving meals. If not located there, it might be placed between the Kitchen and the Butler’s-Pantry or near the Housekeeper’s-room. Additionally, it helped if it was located near a back door because it often served as a Waiting-room for guests visiting under-servants.

If a Women’s-room existed (sometimes called the Housemaid’s-room) it was near the Housekeeper’s-room and the Servant’s-Hall was on the other side. The Servants’-Hall needed to be comfortable, and, so, there was usually a fireplace and sometimes a small Scullery attached for convenience sake. Often there was a table for meals, along with a side table and a dresser or one or more closets. Sometimes there was a bookcase and closets that were subdivided into private lockers for certain servants. In smaller houses, a Servant’s-Hall might fulfill incidental purposes, such as brushing or ironing clothes, dishing or serving dinners, or cleaning up after meals.

In some Servants’-Halls there were sometimes Dressing-closets that included a basin, pin rail, etc. and were used by male servants. In smaller houses, however, the Butler’s-Pantry often served this purpose. In addition to these rooms, there was one room of high standing within the Servant’s-Hall. That room was the room for the lady’s maid or maids. It was usually connected with the servants’ corridor but also needed to be convenient located to the main house. Such a room needed to accommodate two ladies’-maids or more, along with any associated visitors. This room also usually contained a dresser or side table so starching could be accomplished.

In addition to these rooms, there was one room of high standing within the Servant’s-Hall. That room was the room used by the lady’s maid or maids. It was usually connected with the servants’ corridor but also needed to be convenient located to the main house. Such a room needed to accommodate two ladies’-maids or more, along with any associated visitors. This room also usually contained a dresser or side table so starching could be accomplished.

References:

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

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