Thursday, August 23, 2007

Question from Colleen - Servants in a great house

What are the typical servants that would be found in a great house? Like one owned by an earl?

2 comments:

PhD Historian said...

You did not say in what era, so I will assume the Tudor era since this is a Tudor website. The list is very,very long. Most wealthy households had large numbers of servants with each individual assigned to one or more specific tasks. There were, for example, boys to turn spits in the kitchen, maids to clean up in the kitchen (some for pots and pans, some for floors, some for other cleaning duties), boys or maids to stoke the fires in the kitchen, people who cleaned game (butchers), one or more bread bakers, one or more confectioners, multiple regular cooks, perhaps a beer and ale brewer, someone to manage the wine stores, some to oversee the larder, a provisioner, and so on. And that's just the kitchen. Upstairs, there were usually multiple tutors for any children, wet nurses if needed, cradle rockers, nursery laundry women, nursemaids, governesses perhaps. And that's just the nursery. Each noble household could easily have more than 100 servants, even servants to look after the higher ranking servants. They had chaplains (more than one), musicians, carpenters, perhaps stone masons and a glazier. Large and very wealthy households might have 200-300 servants in total. And each wealthy Englishman usually owned multiple houses with multiple households. Some staff traveled from house to house with their employer, some did not. You might enjoy reading Joan Glasheen's book, "The Secret People of the Palaces: The Royal Household from the Plantagenets to Queen Victoria." It's one of the few books about wealthy households staffs and servants that is not boringly academic.

Colleen said...

GREAT info! (I was hoping you'd answer my question, phd... :) This site is a wealth of information and when my book is published, you will all get thank-yous :)