John , a waiter at the Bedford coffee-house. Johns, Jeremy , valet to Jonathan Strange.
Longridge, John , cook to Sir Walter Pole. Pampisford , Lady Pole 's maid. Wallis , valet to Henry Lascelles. For fairy-servants, see Fairies. A very useful and insightful reference regarding this subject can be found here. The world of the servants hall is highly-organised. In great houses especially, rules dictate everything from when they arose, bathed, ate, who they spoke to, and how they dressed. For example at mealtimes, the Upper Servants; Butler, Housekeeper, Cook, Valet, and Lady's Maid met in the Housekeeper's room and filed into the servant's hall in order of station. The Butler sat at the head of the table, and the Housekeeper took a seat at the opposite end.
The male servants sat in order of position on one side and the female servants down the other, but only after the Butler gave them permission. He would carve the meat and send the plate to the Housekeeper who served the vegetables. The Second Footman took the plates round to each servant in order of seniority. Considered the most senior servant, the Butler existed as "Mr.
Jennings" to the servants and "Jennings" to his employer. He presided over the male staff, supervised the footmen in their serving of meals, the wine cellar, the "plate" or family silverware, and each morning ironed his Master's newspaper. He performed most of his duties from a special room called the Butler's Pantry.
There the plate and china resided when not in use. The Butler would be the one to take a gentleman or lady visitor directly into the drawing room whilst making sure that the tradesman, workers, or other staff waited in the hall. He maintained responsibly for ringing the "dressing bell" to let guests know it was time to put on their dinner attire.
He would oversee the setting of the table, trimming candlewicks, filling lamps with oil, and cleaning the silver. The last duty of the day would be to check that all fires and lights were safely damped out and all doors locked. The senior female servant, the Housekeeper supervised the hiring and firing of the woman staff.
Referred to as "Mrs" whether married or not, she looked after the household accounts, purchased supplies, cured, bottled, and preserved food.
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She met daily with the Lady of the house to go over the books and preside over the Servant's Tea, using that time to relay any necessary information to members of the staff. She oversaw the storeroom, china closet, still room, and linen cupboard. If the laundry was sent out, she carefully recorded each piece as it went out and came back. Easy to identify, the Housekeeper wore a black silk uniform and large set of keys safely at her waist. Keys prevailed in importance, as many expensive items, tealeaves, spices, and pickled meat remained locked up.
Her last duty in the evening would be to oversee the washing and storing of the dinner china. The Lady's Maid , called "Miss" whether married or not, or her mistress could choose to call her by her Christian name, was often chosen for her looks and youth, although, having a French Lady's Maid remained the height of respectability. Her main responsibilities consisted of attending to her Ladyship's grooming, dressing, packing and laying out her clothes, washing and repairing undergarments, and fixing her hair in the latest fashion.
These duties consumed the day as the Lady of the house could spend four to five hours dressing for various meals. The Lady's Maid would also oversee the tidying of her Ladyships' boudoir. At times considered a sort of companion to her mistress and yet treated as a servant, she lived a lonely life. Being better educated than the average maid, permitted to wear her mistress' cast off clothing, and served breakfast each morning by a Second Housemaid, the other maids often resented her.
Her last duty would be to wait up until her ladyship retired to assist in undressing, loosening, and brushing her hair. A Valet would look after his master's clothing ensuring his wardrobe remained in good order. Sometimes referred to as a gentleman's gentleman, his job consisted of laying out clothing, keeping shoes and hats clean and in good repair, standing behind his employer at dinner, running his bath, and traveling with him.
He also had the precarious responsibly of shaving his master with an open cut-throat razor. Most of his job would have taken place in the Brushing Room where you would find boot trees, hatboxes, wire brushes, polishes, and mothballs. In this room, the Valet would have ironed top hats, whitened riding breeches, brushed wool coats, and washed and stretched his master's gloves.
His last duty would be to wait up until his Lordship retired to assist in his undressing. Many Cooks supervised large staffs to produce three sometimes four elaborate meals a day for the Family and to impress guests. She met daily with the Lady of the house to discuss menus as a minimum of six courses were expected and up to twenty-two could be served on special occasions.
In addition, the Cook would be required to provide food for nursery meals, cricket teas, picnics, and dinner parties. Lighting a fire was much more difficult without the ease of matches.
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Every evening she would preserve embers until morning with a metal dome. Only extremely rich families could afford to hire a male cook or the ultimate status symbol, a French Chef. The last duty of the day would be to prepare the Family's evening meal. The Groom oversaw the care of the horses. If no Coachman served on staff, he would also maintain and drive the carriages. Mornings were spent mucking out the stables, feeding, and cleaning the horses, and preparing a horse or carriage when a member of the Family wished to go riding.
Any time a horse or carriage went out, it had to be immediately cleaned and properly stored so that it was ready at a moments notice. He also fashioned and mended harnesses. He did not live in the house, but in accommodations above the stable. Unless the Family went out for the evening and needed the carriage, his last duty would be to feed the horses and put them in the stable. The Footmen had duties in and outside the estate. Responsible for carrying coal, cleaning silverware, announcing visitors, and waiting at table, he also attended the Lady of the house when she went calling by leaving the visitor cards at the front door while she passed the time in the carriage.
They often wore vividly ornate uniforms with colorful hats trimmed in gold braid, short knee britches, white gloves and stockings until the late 's when their uniforms were simplified. Since they served in pairs, height was vastly important and a tall footman earned more than a short one. Fabrics alone were multiplied enormously compared to those worn by men.
Then add on furs, laces, ribbons, feathers, flowers, and on and on it goes. Next imagine the array of jewelry, hats, gloves, shoes, fans, reticules… You get the idea! A lady wore special outfits for the opera, a dinner party, Royal event, a ball, walking at specific hours or places, riding, and so on. Her knowledge of the latest fashions, diverse hair styles, proper garments and adornments for every conceivable engagement, and rules of dress etiquette must be current and vast.
It was essential for her to possess excellent skills as a seamstress, and if also a quality modiste, her worth increased. Next, consider the numerous jewels, hair adornments, and fashion accessories she had to polish, protect, and repair. There were dozens of hairstyles she must know how to create along with the various brushes, combs, and curling devices to clean and repair. One can readily imagine how challenging it was to keep her lady well dressed. Thus she will evince her own good sense, best serve her lady and gratify all those who are most interested in her welfare and happiness.
She should alway be punctual in her attendance and assiduous in her attention. Remember that like the valet, her duties began with the clothing but certainly did not end there. She personally communicated with shop owners and tradesman in purchasing supplies, performed secretarial tasks, and was in charge of packing for trips. Through it all she would be polite, impeccably groomed, and gracious, remembering that she represented her mistress and must please her at all times.
Awesome book! Come back in four weeks for the third essay on Regency Servants! Thank you for these wonderful posts on the duties and roles of various servants and estate personel during the Regency era. I have been amazed at the skills required of many of the servants and the near miracle expected of them. Sharon, may I ask if these posts are found or to be found in a book by you? I would love to have this information in one spot so I could refer to it.
Regency Servants: Valet and Lady’s Maid
I grew up in Williamsburg, VA and my curiosity was engaged early on that topic. I would really encourage you to consider writing this information in a short book so those who are curious like me, can learn these things and know where to consult with them. Might be an idea to consider. I will say that once I have the series done, I will post them on my blog and then add them to my Library at Pemberley.
In fact, I have a couple older blog posts on hygiene, bathing, and toilet history in the Library. Written with England in mind, of course, but things were more or less the same here in the US during those times. Thanks for the overview. The name went out of fashion at that point, but it was revived in the 20th century. I love this post and particularly the chart. Thanks so much. Sharon, Thank you. This was really fascinating. I would have made a very poor Regency lady.
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Sounds like a very busy day! I could definitely use someone to dress me and do my hair… Thank you for sharing! I would especially love someone in-house to do my hair every day. I hate, hate, hate messing with my hair!
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Thank you for sharing. What daunting tasks these servants have. They definitely had to be intelligent and educated. Looking forward to your next post. Oh Sharon, thanks so much for this post — I never realised there was so much involved with these jobs. Thank goodness I never had to do this as I am afraid I would have made a very poor ladies maid.
Looking forward to the next post. Now, my husband would have loved being a valet! He is a wizard at cleaning literally any stain and his attention to the tiniest detail is miraculous! This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Samuel Oliver, Mr. He mended, cleaned, and stocked literally every article of clothing, item, lotion, perfume, etc. Nothing, absolutely nothing, passed his inspection or was touched by any other servant unless overseen or specifically requested. Assistance with dressing and undressing, several times in a day. Aware of latest fashion styles, fabrics, colors, etc. Master of the plethora of possible cravat ties! This was critical during the Regency.