Keeping Their Place: Domestic Service in the Country House

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Media: BOOK - paperback, 274 pages
Author: P. Sambrook
Year: 2009
ISBN: 9780750935609
Other: b&w photos, bibliog, indexes
Publisher: The History Press

In 1851 there were over a million domestic servants in Britain, many employed in country houses. Today, this is a vanished world. In 'Keeping their Place' Pamela Sambrook presents extracts from the letters, diaries and autobiographies of both servants and their employers to give us a lively and colourful insight into one of the greatest institutions of the past.

This book captures the texture of servants' lives in their own words: the relief at eventually finding a job, the drudgery of the daily round of duties, the riotous pleasures of after-hours parties, the pain at parting from a well-regarded employer, the rewards, the abuse and the occasional rebellion.

There are moments of great poignancy as well as hilarity: a steward's dawning realisation that the housekeeper he befriended is a thief; a young footman chasing a melon as it rolls through a castle's corridors into the moat; the smart manservant weeping at the station as he bids farewell to his mother; a hall boy's pet lamb which took to butting the maidservants as they sat at the servants' hall table. This was an era when footmen were paid extra for being six foot or over, and female servants had to wear black bonnets to church.

Illustrated by pages from letters and contemporary photographs, 'Keeping their Place' is a fascinating account of the domestic servant's life. It is both a book to dip into for sheer pleasure and an important historical record which will captivate anyone with an interest in social history.

1. 'I am perfectly master of my work': The recruitment of servants
2. 'I know two sixpences make a shilling': Conditions of employment
3. 'Cinderella couldn't have had it worse': The duties of menservants
4. 'We have mad four cheses pritey larg': The duties of women servants
5. 'The water in the jug had a thin layer of ice': Servants' accommodation and clothing
6. 'Rice on Sundays': Servants' food and drink
7. 'His sheets taken for a lark': Servants' recreations
8. 'We have gone through a great deal together': Servants and employers
9. 'And a nice bit of fun she is made of': Relationships with servants and family
10. If I must die in the workplace, I must': Health, old age and death
Sources and Select Bibliography
General Index
Name Index
Place Names Index

'Here we have history as recorded by those who made it and their stories make fascinating reading. They unlock the baize door so we can see a vanished world at work and play' - Contemporary Review

'Here are real people describing the minutiae of their own lives' - Your Family Tree Magazine

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Keeping Their Place: Domestic Service in the Country House


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