Domestic Offices in English Homes circa 1865 – Butler’s Pantry, Housekeeper’s Room, Servants’ Hall, Wash House and more.

Today I am excerpting again from Robert Kerr’s The Gentleman’s House: Or, How to Plan English Residences, from the Parsonage to the Palace; with Tables of Accomodation and Cost, and a Series of Selected Plans published in 1864/65.  In the last post from this book, I grabbed every usable house layout I could find in the text (many of the images weren’t scanned properly) Now, I’m going to post pictures from my family’s trip to Erddig Hall. Unfortunately, the trip took place so long ago that I no longer remember what images are what. So I will leave it for you to guess. Aren’t I sweet?

From The Gentleman’s House: 

The Butler’s-Pantry

The ancient Buttery or Butlery was the place of the Butler or Bottler, the dispenser of drink. The place of the Server or Sewer was the Sewery, the depository of napery, plate, and the like. The modern butler is both butler and chief sewer; and his Pantry, so called, accommodates both the service of wine and the service and stowage of plate,—chiefly the latter nowadays when drinking is in decadence and wealth increasing daily.

A position ought to be chosen for the Butler’s-Pantry which shall answer several purposes. It must be as near as possible to the Dining-room for convenience of service. It ought to be removed from general traffic (and especially from the Back door), for the safety of the plate. The communication with the Wine and Beer Cellars must be ready. When there is a Housekeeper’s-room, the butler (if there be no Steward) ought to be within easy reach of it, although apart; if there be a Steward, the butler must have ready access to his office; in both cases the transaction of hourly business being in question. With the Kitchen the butler may be said to have no intercourse whatever.

A proper Butler’s-Pantry will be of fair size, say from 12 or 14 feet square up to twice that size. A fireplace is essential. The fittings consist of a small dresser containing a pair of lead sinks with folding covers (for hot and cold water respectively, that is to say, for washing and rinsing), a washbasin (for dressing), large closets for glass, &c., a moveable table, perhaps a napkin-press, drawers for table-linen, shelving, and hat-pegs, and a closet for plate with sliding trays lined with baize. When the plate is of much value, it is usual to attach to the Pantry a fire-proof Plate-Safe with brick enclosure and iron door. Hot and cold water is to be laid on to the sinks; and if necessary the Plate-Safe may be warmed to expel damp.

A separate room for cleaning the plate, called the Plate Scullery, is useful where there is much of such work to do. It will open of course from the Pantry alone, and will contain the usual pair of sinks and a dresser.

The Butler’s-Bedroom is best placed in immediate connection with the Pantry, whereby the plate is under guard at night. Frequently, however, a closet-bedstead is provided for a subordinate in the Pantry itself; but this is obviously a makeshift. It is not unusual to place the door of the PlateSafe within the Butler’s Bedroom. In fact, one of the most essential points in respect of the Butler’s-rooms is to provide against the theft of the articles under his charge; and this idea must govern every question of plan.

In a very large establishment the charge of the plate will devolve upon the under butler, and a separate Butler’s-room will have to be provided for the superior servant (who may be valet also), but still close at hand for business.

Serving or Sideboard-room

It is extremely important in a house of any pretension that an apartment should be provided in communication with the Dining-room for the service of dinner. This appendage will be of such a size as to accord with the style of living, from 10 to 20 feet square; and will be simply furnished with a plain dresser whereon to place the dishes. It will of course be situated in the direction towards the Kitchen (by way of the Butler’s-Pantry), and will form in fact a species of Anteroom to the Dining-room for the serving of dinner, wine, and dessert. In small houses, rather than dispense with it altogether, a Lobby attached to the general Corridor of the Offices will suffice; but to make use of the Family-Staircase, or any Vestibule attached to the Family-Thoroughfares, is always a mistake. There is no great objection, however, to the Serving-room being made available as a sort of Vestibule, connecting the Dining-room with perhaps an outer door to the grounds or the like; but such a thing requires skilful management. The service-door beside the sideboard (see Dining-room) will open into this room either directly or by means of a small intervening Lobby, but no Corridor ought to be allowed to intervene to break the connection. A fireplace is not actually necessary, although not objectionable. A hot-table may perhaps be fitted up as part of the dresser in some cases. A lead sink and washbasin will often be found useful.

There is sometimes a separate appendage called the Butler’s-Service-room, directly attached to the Butler’s Pantry and communicating with the Dining-room through the general Sideboard-room. The fittings will be a dresser as before, for plate, wine, and dessert. It is an equivalent arrangement to place the Butler’s-Pantry in intercommunication with the Serving-room.

If the Offices should be situated in the Basement, the communication there from to the Sideboard-room (still to be attached to the Dining-room), must be specially contrived. For the passage of the servants there will be a Dinner-Stair, so situated as to be convenient for both Kitchen and Butler’sPantry. For the dishes there may be a lift. The position of the lift then becomes matter for careful adjustment. The size of a proper double lift is about 5 by 3 feet; and it must be absolutely vertical throughout.

Housekeeper’s Room

This is primarily the Business-room and Parlour of the housekeeper. The fittings, besides the ordinary furniture of a plain Sitting-room, will consist of spacious presses, from 18 to 24 inches deep, filled with drawers and shelving, for the accommodation of preserves, pickles, fancy groceries of all kinds, cakes, china, glass, linen, and so forth. It may be worthwhile to note that sugar is kept in drawers or canisters; tea in canisters; spiceries and light groceries in small drawers; cakes and biscuits in canisters; glass and china in drawers or on shelves; and linen in drawers; at least this arrangement is one that may be called the standard, although on the other hand certain of these articles will obviously be transferred to the Store-room if there be a complete one.

The chief considerations with regard to the position of the room are such as refer to convenience of supervision on the part of the housekeeper. For this purpose she ought to be near the Kitchen-Offices, and also near the Servants’-Hall in most instances. “It is, moreover, desirable that there may be sufficiently ready communication with the ordinary apartment of the lady of the house, whether Drawing-room or Boudoir. In many good houses below a certain standard the housekeeper is cook also: in such circumstances the Housekeeper’s-room and the Kitchen ought to be especially kept within easy reach of each other, although of course not connected.”

The upper servants take breakfast and tea, and perhaps pass the evening, with the housekeeper in this room, and it must be situated conveniently therefore for this purpose. The same persons dine here also if there be no Steward’s room.

In a large house where a special separation is effected between the men and women servants the housekeeper’s position is to be such as to overlook the women’s department, leaving that of the men to the butler or steward.

For the corresponding room in a small house see Storeroom.

Still-Room

This room in the best cases is provided for the use of the housekeeper and her special assistant the Still-room maid, in making preserves, cakes, and biscuits, preparing tea and coffee, and so on. In establishments of less magnitude it still relieves the Kitchen of all but luncheon and dinner cooking; and occasionally, as when the family are not at home, serves for Kitchen altogether. The pastry-work may also be done in it, and various odds and ends, to the further relief of the Kitchen. Sometimes it is connected with the Housekeeper’s-room by a door of intercommunication; but “this is not always convenient. It is also common to have a door between the Stillroom and the Store-room, so that the stores may be unpacked in the former apartment as matter of convenience; but this also is not always desirable. The Housekeeper’s-room, Stillroom, and Store-room, however, in any case will be well placed in conjunction.

The Still-room will be fitted up with a small range and boiler, a confectioner’s (iron) oven perhaps, sometimes a small hot-plate in connection, a covered lead sink (or a pair) with water supply, dresser, table, closets, and shelving.

Sometimes the Still-room is used as a Women-servants’ Hall, but not in very superior houses. In other instances an Outer-Kitchen (see Kitchen) is made to serve as a substitute for the Still-room, and then the purposes of a Women-servants’ Hall are more readily answered. In the latter case also the men-servants will be accommodated at tea in this apartment rather than in their own Hall.

Store-Room, etc.

This apartment accommodates groceries and other similar stores under charge of the housekeeper. It must be dry, cool, and well ventilated, or it will become offensive. It ought also to be warmed in winter. Its precise size will be according to the scale of the establishment, and in position it must always adjoin the Housekeeper’s-room or Still-room. The fittings will be a dresser with drawers, and closets underneath, broad shelving in two or three rows on the walls generally, and pin-rails in several quarters for different descriptions of goods to be hung up; brass hooks also on part of the shelving. One side of the floor may be left unoccupied for goods in boxes.

In a small establishment, where the stores are not large, the Store-room is sometimes made to serve certain of the purposes of a Housekeeper’s-room for the mistress. In such a case there will be required a better dresser, with a covered sink and water supply—larger space, indeed,—and a fireplace if possible. It may then serve also for the china, glass, and napery, and, if there be no Butler’s-Pantry, for the plate. It is, however, generally best to preserve a Store-room for its proper purposes; and in the case just described, if the room be divided into two, the inner part for the stores under lock and key, and the outer for the purposes of Housekeeping room and China-closet,—the arrangement will probably in most families be found superior. In cases of this kind the Store-room, which must necessarily be near the Kitchen, ought also to be conveniently placed for the lady’s access.

A small Closet here and there may be very usefully appropriated as a supplementary Store-closet for the miscellaneous purposes of the housekeeper. Such Closets may be in almost any quarter of the house, but more especially, of course, within what may be called the particular domain of the housekeeper rather than without its bounds. They must open from Corridors, of course, not from rooms. The fittings will be simply shelves; and in every case ventilation, and if possible light, should be secured. ”

China-Closet And Scullery

The China-closet is a small apartment near the Housekeeper’sroom, or otherwise conveniently situated if the lady be her own housekeeper, for stowing china and stoneware, &c., not in everyday use. It requires a table and dresser, and shelving around the walls. This Closet ought not to be dark, as it sometimes is. It may contain locked cupboards, if desired.

In superior cases there is sometimes attached to the Housekeeper’s-room a small special Scullery for china. Its fittings will be the usual dresser and a sink or washer. In the case of a China-closet of sufficient size this accommodation may be included in itself.

In a small house the China-closet, Butler’s-Pantry, and Housekeeper’s-room are combined, as alluded to in the last chapter.

The House-Steward’s office

This apartment belongs only to first-class establishments. It is a Business-room, which will also be the Sitting-room of the Steward; and it has his Bedroom generally in immediate connection, and a Strong-room or Safe for papers. There is nothing with regard to it which requires special notice, except that it ought to be near the Gentleman’s-room for the master’s convenience; besides that the access to it from without by the Business-room-Entrance should be easy for the convenience of the tradesmen. It may also be observed that it must be placed conveniently within reach of the housekeeper and butler. It ought also to be so situated as to command the entire department of the men-servants, for whose government the steward is responsible.

Steward’s-Room, Or Second-Table Room.

This in a superior house is the Dining-room of the upper servants, and incidentally a sort of common Business-room for them during the day and common Sitting-room in the evening. The house-steward claims the chief interest in the apartment, in his character of chief of the men-servants; but those who enjoy the right of dining here with him are the valet, the butler, the head cook, the housekeeper, the head lady’s-maid, and the head nurse, with strangers’ servants of equal rank, and some others occasionally or by invitation, not including however any persons of the lower grade, which is thus very clearly marked. It is accordingly the Upper-servants’ Hall.

The position of this room on plan is therefore not difficult to be understood. It ought obviously to be placed in most ready communication with the Kitchen for service, and at the same time so as to be convenient generally as regards its incidental uses. The furniture embraces dining-table and sideboard, a bookcase probably, and one or two closets or presses, and the like. A small Scullery is sometimes attached for washing and putting away dishes, &c.

Another purpose of the Steward’s-room is to receive visitors of the rank of the upper servants, and superior tradespeople and others coming on business; for whom it serves as a Waiting-room, and when occasion requires as a Refreshment room. It must therefore be so situated as to be readily accessible from the Back-Entrance; and the nearer it is also to the Steward’s-office and Gentleman’s Business-room the better.

Gun-Room.

This term is used to indicate an apartment which is indispensable in a Country-house of any pretensions, as the depository of sporting implements. A room from twelve to fifteen feet square, or sometimes larger, is fitted up round the walls with presses or glass cases and occasional drawers, according to the species and extent of the sporting to be provided for, in which to place the guns, fishing-rods, pouches, bags, baskets, flasks, canisters, nets, and all other appliances in proper order, upon pretty much the same general principles which may be ‘discerned in the arrangement of the same articles in the shops of their manufacturers. A table and two or three chairs will complete the furnishing of the room.

The Gun-room ought to be situated either in connexion with the Entrance-Hall, or, in a large house, near a secondary Entrance, as may be most convenient; not, of course, at a Garden-Porch, but perhaps at the Entrance pertaining to the Business-room, or the Luggage-Entrance. The apartment ought to have a good window; and a fireplace is important. It is also essential that precautions should be taken otherwise to secure dryness. The cases must be so made (as described for Library bookcases) as to have a free circulation of air all around and at the back, and the wood used must be thoroughly seasoned.

In small establishments we sometimes find the substitute for the Gun-room to be a suitable locked closet in the Servants’ Hall or even in the Butler’s-Pantry. In cases of the other extreme, the Gun-room will be in a separate building comprising the keeper’s dwelling also. There are likewise some instances where a family of the highest rank and of great ancestral dignity will still be found to keep up an Armoury, in a room or series of rooms designated accordingly, accommodating a stock of various arms for the defence of the peace if occasion should require, as well as a collection of warlike relics.

Servant’s Hall

In a small house the Kitchen serves for the Servants’-Hall; but in a larger establishment the provision of a separate apartment becomes necessary, and in a first-class Mansion there must be two such apartments,—one for the men-servants and one for the women, the upper-servants being accommodated separately besides in the Steward’s-room and Housekeeper’s-room.

The relative position for the Servants’-Hall is first near to the Kitchen, for convenience in serving meals; secondly between Kitchen and Butler’s-Pantry; and thirdly, if there be no separate room for the women, near the Housekeeper’s room for supervision. Fourthly, if there be a Women’s-room (sometimes called the Housemaids’-room), this will be near the Housekeeper’s-room on one side of the house, leaving the Servants’-Hall (still so called) near the Butler’s-Pantry or Steward’s-room on the other side for the men, quite apart; but as near as ever to the Kitchen, seeing that it is still the Dining-room of the lower servants as a whole; the Women’s room accommodating the maidservants as a sitting-room and workroom only. Fifthly, the Servants’-Hall ought to be near the Back-door, for readiness of access from without; as it is the Waiting-room for all persons of the rank of the under servants. It ought to have a comfortable fireside, and a prospect which shall be at least not disagreeable. The outlook, however, ought not to be towards the walks of the family; neither need it be towards the Approach. A small Scullery may be conveniently attached sometimes. One more consideration in the highest class of residences is reasonable access to the Beer-cellar; the usher (or the cellarer of old time) having it amongst his duties to receive strangers of his class and bring them refreshment.

The fittings are the centre table for meals, generally also a side table, or otherwise a dresser, one or more closets or dwarf closets, pin-rails for hats and cloaks, a jack-towel roller, perhaps a small bookcase, sometimes a closet subdivided into private lockers for certain of the servants.

In smaller houses the Servants’-Hall is often made to serve almost any incidental purpose; as for brushing clothes; or for ironing at times; or for dishing and serving dinner, with a hot-plate accordingly amongst its fittings; or for washing up, when a pair of butler’s sinks will be provided ; and so on. There are also a few instances where it is the Gun-room of the house, having a locked closet containing the sporting apparatus of the family under charge of the butler. There may sometimes be a Dressing-closet in connexion with the Servants’-Hall, fitted up with basins, pin-rails, towel-roller, &c., for the men. In smaller houses the Cleaning-room and the Butler’s-Pantry will serve this purpose.

There is one more apartment of the character of a Servants’ Hall which is required in an establishment of high standing, namely, a Ladies’-maids’-room ; and this is probably best situated on the Bedroom-Story, in connexion, of course with the Servants’ Corridor, at some convenient point for access for communication to the Main House. It will be an ordinary Sitting-room of its kind for the accommodation of the two ladies’-maids or more belonging to the family, together with those belonging to visitors. A good side-table ought to be provided for clear-starching.

Housemaid’s Closet

This is generally a small apartment, with proper light and ventilation, in which the housemaid keeps pails, dusters, candlesticks, a coalbox, &c., for the service of the Bedrooms. It ought to be provided in every house of even medium pretensions. It must contain a sink with water laid on, and proper waste to the drain. The water ought to be soft; if this can possibly be had. Hot water will also be laid on where there is a supply. Other fittings, if any, will be a small dresser with drawers, shelving, pin-rail, and perhaps a cupboard.

 

In a good Mansion there ought to be these Closets in several situations, for the convenience of the servants, and the prevention of their carrying pails about in all directions. It is to be observed, however, that the place selected for any such apartment ought to be not amongst the Bedrooms themselves, or on a chief Staircase or Corridor, but rather in a Servants’ Passage and at some point of junction with the Main House or at the end of a Corridor.

It is generally well to provide a Housemaid’s Closet also on the Ground-floor or Basement; this being not for the Bedroom work, but for that pertaining to the Principal Rooms. In large houses more especially this accommodation is desirable. A very small closet is sufficient, to hold brooms, cloths, stove-brushes, and the like. It ought of course to be situated amongst those offices which are on the women’s side, and not too far off from the chief Thoroughfares.

Cleaning—Rooms, Etc.

In a house of moderate size the brushing of clothes will be done in the Servants’-Hall; but it is desirable in a larger establishment to have a separate and special place for this purpose. It need only be said that it will be a small room adjoining the Butler’s-Pantry or Servants’-Hall, containing a large table and little else. If there be a fireplace all the better; in a large Country-house, indeed, the fireplace ought to be a good one, so that the wet garments, whether of the family or the servants, may be dried there, rather than in the Servants’-Hall or Kitchen. Sometimes where the Bedrooms are very numerous there may be an advantage in making in two or three places a spacious landing on the Back-Stairs to receive a brushing-table.

There are other small apartments of the same class, still on the men’s side of the house (where there is such a distinction), where knives and boots are cleaned, called the Knife-room and Shoe-room. They may be in the Kitchen-court rather than indoors, if so preferred.

In Country-houses where oil-lamps have to be used, it becomes necessary to provide, near the Kitchen, Servants’ Hall, or Butler’s-Pantry, according to the scale of the house, a small room for trimming these, and indeed for depositing them during the day. It must contain a table, shelves around the walls, and perhaps a locked cupboard (or an inner closet) to receive the oil-cans and some of the valuable lamps. Candlesticks properly pertain to the Housemaid’s Closet; but it is not uncommon to combine that apartment with the Lamproom, or to make the latter an inner closet to the former. All silver of this department goes to the Butler’s-Pantry for safety.

The Laundry offices

It is sometimes considered desirable to constitute this department a separate building at a distance,—at the Stables perhaps, or the Farm-yard; and this chiefly on account of the difficulty of attaching a Drying or Bleaching-ground to the House itself. On the other hand, if the lady of the house or the housekeeper desires to supervise the operations of the Laundry, the provision of a Hot-closet will enable the Drying-ground to be dispensed with; while, as regards bleaching, a portion of the linen may obviously be carried in baskets to a green at a distance with less labour than would be required to convey the whole to a Wash-house equally removed. It may be therefore laid d0wn as the best advice, that, for those establishments, chiefly on a smaller scale, in which the supervision of this department of the work is of importance, its Offices ought to be in connexion with the House, and that in cases where the amount of labour is larger, and the habits of the family less homely, distinct Laundry Offices at a distance may be very much preferable.

WASH-HOUSE AND LAUNDRY

A wash-house on the ordinary scale for a good Country house will be an apartment of about 20 or 25 feet by 15 or 20. It must be well lighted, and lofty. The escape of steam must be provided for by numerous air-flues or other openings at the ceiling, or a large louvred ventilator, as circumstances may dictate; and fresh air may be admitted, whether at the floor or ceiling, by regulated openings. In position it ought obviously to be well removed from the Family-rooms and also from the Lawn, as the smell of washing sometimes travels far. The apparatus comprises a largecopper or boiling-pan; a sort of dresser containing four, six, or more wash-trays, having hot and cold water laid on, and a waste from each, with grated washer, plug, and chain; separate boiler apparatus may be needed for the supply of hot water; a place may be required also for a wringing-machine, perhaps for a washing-machine or the like; and a good-sized table will be desirable in any convenient position. The wash-trays ought to be under the light; their dimensions are generally about 2% or 3 feet by 18 or 24 inches and 18 inches deep, the width at bottom being 6 inches less. The floor must be of stone, with a drain for cleansing; and there ought to be loose standing boards provided at the front of the trays.

 

The question of fuel must not be forgotten: either the Coal-cellar must be at hand or a special Store provided.

The Laundry to correspond will be in size rather larger than the Wash-house. It must be well lighted and ventilated; and the floor ought to be of wood. For apparatus there will be one or more ironing-tables under the light; an ironing stove (which is a close stove or hot-plate on which the irons are placed to heat); a spare table; and a mangle or its equivalent. An average ironing-table will be 6 or 8 feet by 3 or 4; or one of any greater length may be provided for more than one laundress at work. An old-fashioned mangle is about 8 feet by 4, and requires a space of 4 feet at each end for the box to pull out; newer inventions however take up very little room. The mangle may be put in that part of the room where the light happens to be deficient.

The Wash-house and Laundry; are generally placed together, with intercommunication. Sometimes the Laundry is placed over the Wash-house, with a small stair for access; but this is not always convenient. It is also frequently the case in small houses that the work of the Laundry is done in the Kitchen, and a Wash-house only provided in addition; whilst in the smallest class, for still greater economy of space, the Wash-house and the Scullery are often one. Under these latter arrangements it is well to allow a little additional size for the apartments in question.

In cases where the Laundry department is placed at a distance, there may often be required a small Wash-house within the House to be used by the ladies’-maids and others, and for ironing a table may be fixed in the same place, or in the Women’s-room. In larger houses, however, where the ladies’-maids have much clear-starching to do, they will expect to be accommodated rather in what they consider to be their own department; and so it is not uncommon to find some unoccupied Bedroom thus appropriated, or one of the Nursery rooms. The Housekeeper’s-room also is sometimes made to do duty in this way; or the Front or Outer-Kitchen if any; and the Servants’-Hall is occasionally turned to account, although in houses of superior class this cannot be done.

Drying-Room, Hot-Closet

An old-fashioned Drying-room is a loft or the like of large size, with or without windows in the walls, but almost invariably with a louvred ventilator or lantern at the ceiling. The linen is hung on horses, which are run up to the ceiling by weights or otherwise ; and by means of hot-water coils at the floor, or one or more stoves, the temperature is so kept up as to evaporate the moisture with great rapidity. Such an apartment ought to be near the Wash-house and Laundry, and may be very conveniently placed over either or both.

A recent improvement upon this is the Hot-closet, which is a walled chamber immediately attached to the Laundry, about 6 or 8 feet square for ordinary cases. It contains a number of horses or upright frames sliding side by side, which have to be drawn out to their full length to be loaded with the wet linen, and then pushed back into the closet; and there is a series of interposed coils of hot-water pipes within, by which the temperature is kept at the requisite point for rapid evaporation. The steam escapes by a proper flue; and air is chiefly admitted, or even wholly, by the crevices of the shutters or flanges attached to the horses to close up the front. The hot-water circulation generally requires a special furnace underneath or at one side; to which there ought of course to be attached a small receptacle for fuel.

In small establishments where there is no Hot-closet, the operation of drying indoors is sometimes provided for by constituting the Laundry a Drying-room of the kind first described; but this is not a good plan. There are also Drying-rooms which depend upon thorough draught only, without heat, an obviously simple plan at the least.

Soiled-Linen Closet

This is a necessary item in every house, of a size proportioned to the requirements.

It is probably best placed adjoining the Washhouse, or near it, but not in any position where pilfering is to be feared in case the door be left unlocked. In small houses a place on the Bedroom floor is frequently preferred on this account. Let such a closet be ventilated if not lighted. A very useful arrangement is to have it of good size, and lighted, and to fit it up with a number of bins for the classification of the articles. A bin or box should also be provided in the Wash-house itself for the work in hand.

Linen-Room, etc.

This is a small apartment placed near the Bedrooms, where the bed and table-linen of the establishment is kept in stock; personal linen being carried directly to the Bedrooms and Dressing-rooms, and the table-linen actually in use being placed in charge of the butler or other equivalent servant. Its fittings consist of a dresser under the light for folding, with drawers and presses according to the size of the establishment, containing sliding trays and shelves; and chests of drawers underneath.

A Linen-room ought to be so situated that the access of the servants shall be ready on all sides, but without its being too prominently placed. It ought to be very dry and well ventilated; if there be heating apparatus in the house, it may be heated thereby; if not, there may be a fireplace.

A Closet for spare bedding and upholstery is sometimes provided; requiring no description, except that it may be fitted up with either presses or broad shelves according to its size. It ought to be well ventilated.

Additional Images:

7 Replies to “Domestic Offices in English Homes circa 1865 – Butler’s Pantry, Housekeeper’s Room, Servants’ Hall, Wash House and more.”

  1. Here’s a house with one or maybe two servants, which is the house my parents moved into in 1966 with most of the Victorian fittings [including gas lighting] intact. It belonged to, indeed was built by, a fairly well off tradesman, a builder with a couple of dozen employees. It was built 1897 but I don’t think the styles had changed significantly.
    The kitchen was the main servants’ room and was their sitting room too, it had a rack of bells to summon them. Bells no longer there, but the rack is, and the mechanical wiring! The range sat in the huge recessed fireplace with a bread-rising oven [or it may have been an iron warmer] on one side, and the ‘copper’ for hot water on the other. Pipes rose from the copper too, which went up to an airing cupboard. Beyond the kitchen was the scullery, with butler’s sink, and where the mangle lived. The coal house opened off this.
    The front door opened to a corridor with the two parlours opening off it, the passage running straight to the kitchen, and the fittings for a green baize door between parlours and back of house. From the working side of the green baize door was the staircase on one side, with a passage to a window and the cupboard under the stairs beside it, a superfluous piece of space, but which may have housed dressers and so on, and been a kind of butlery… impossible to guess. Opposite that was a large walk in pantry with zinc gauze over the north facing window and stone floor. We could keep milk cold in there for days, it wasn’t much warmer than a fridge. One went out the back door beside that to access the lavatory [which I still remember having beautifully ornate ironwork, that was horribly rusty and had to be replaced…]
    Upstairs there was a tiny end bedroom that was over the scullery and coal house which was a servant’s bedroom – or possibly for a man and his wife? and another back bedroom which may have been intended as a nursery. There were two front bedrooms, and the master bedroom had a dressingroom opening off it – we found the site of the door when doing some DIY – which was converted into a bathroom in 1931 when a door was pierced to the landing and the other door bricked up. .
    I don’t know if that’s any interest, but though the wonderful house you describe wasn’t for just anyone, even the fairly well-to-do tradesman expected to have servants and all the appurtenances of graceful living…

  2. Thank you for this lovely description. I think space and the concept of space is so important to our characters. Their behavior is shaped by their world. As I reader, I want to feel as familiar (or unfamiliar) in the characters’ environment as they do. It gives such an intimacy to the story. It makes me want to linger in their world.

  3. That’s such an important point, the daughter of a manse, which may be really quite small [our previous house a Queen Anne manse with 2 front rooms and a long narrow kitchen and massive pantry with built in flour bins and marble dough rolling table all across the end, 4 rooms upstairs and toilet across the yard] is going to have a totally different perception to the daughter of an Earl to whom the domestic quarters may be a mystery [depending on whether she was brought up to be able to supervise the servants by invading them from time to time, or brought up as a useless ornament] and who would be horrified at the idea of maybe sharing a room with sister[s] and not having her personal maid in a dressing room next to her. Would she, if staying with a poorer cousin, behave out of character for feeling cabin’d crib’d and confin’d and give a potential suitor a disgust for her until the misunderstandings were sorted out? And the daughter of the manse at a house party in a mansion has every chance of getting lost – and maybe entering the wrong room. Does this give a male occupant of it the wrong idea of her? does she disturb an illicitly loving couple who would like to make sure she doesn’t talk? the very act of placing someone out of their usual context is a plot spinner…

  4. Didn’t Elizabeth Bennett get lost or wanders off on two occasions and finds Darcy alone? Not sure about the book, but it was in the BBC version. I like the idea of getting lost and seeing something she shouldn’t. Could be a romance or a mystery!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.