A Tough Life

(Info from PBS Manor House.)


It’s pretty clear that I’m a fan of Downton Abbey. Recently, I stumbled upon a link from PBS’s Manor House describing the typical day in an Edwardian era great house. The gist of what a servant’s life would be like, in particular, a ladies maid goes kind of like this:

6:30am – Wake up, help get breakfast things together, clean ground floor rooms, set fireplaces.
8:15 – Servants breakfast, bring breakfast masters/mistresses of the house, dress and do hair for them.
9:15 – Morning prayer
10:00 – Mend clothes, clean rooms, sort laundry
11:00 – Servant’s tea, daily orders from butler/housekeeper (I liken this to something like a staff meeting)
12:00pm – Servants lunch, then help prep for the family’s lunch
1:00 – help clear lunch, check on fires, re-dress masters/mistresses
3:00 – If tasks are done, then a couple hours free time. If not, continue cleaning and sewing.
6:00 – Servant’s dinner, then help with the family dinner. While family has dinner, clean up and prepare bedrooms for the night, lay out night clothes
9:00 – Wait until the masters/mistresses are done with dinner/evening entertaining. Wait on them as they prepare for bed.
10:30 – Bedtime for servants

It’s a pretty tough life. Certainly much tougher than the average modern person in most developed nations now. But I was most surprised about the afternoon and evening free-time. PBS says that the afternoon free time is rare in large houses. But if it never happened then they wouldn’t have documented it, right? They also seemed to have a few hours in the evening while waiting as well.

Sometimes, when people write or talk about how tough something is, I end up thinking “oh, it’s not so bad” after I see the facts and hard numbers involved. I don’t know if it is because people like to exaggerate, or if it is because I have a very different notion of what a ‘tough life’ is. It doesn’t seem to bad to me, to live in a house full of people, to have a job to do, and to be useful. There are things that could be worse. As long as the people were cool, and I realize that THAT doesn’t always happen either. Which has not changed, from the Edwardian era to 2015.


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