Below Stairs The Servant Hierarchy 19th Century
It is important to note that the degree to which the Master and Mistress, their ranks and wealth and the size of their residence played the largest factor in how many servants a home would need. It was not be unheard for one home to have 3 servants, while another had 50 inside and 50 outside servants.
In the hierarchy you have Upper Staff, who report to the Master or Mistress. There are the Lower Staff who report to an Upper Servant. There are Senior Staff such as a Nurse, Governess, Coachman, Head Gardner who answered to the Master, Mistress or Head Butler.
Served, but were not considered Servants
Footman (1st and 2nd)
Under Butler (see Footman)
Maids-of-all-work (“between maids“)
An official charged with the management of the living quarters of a sovereign or member of the nobility. The highest steward to a member of the nobility or royal court. May collect rents and revenues.
Responsible for managing the farms, collecting rents and undertaking all those activities associated with making the estate profitable. This would be a highly-educated gentleman who was regarded not as a servant but a professional employee with a status higher than the family lawyer.
The chief male domestic servant in a household. A House Steward is employed only in larger households where the accounts are too extensive for the Housekeeper to manage. The House Steward has a sitting-room for his duties of household accounting. He may also act as a Land Steward. Those households having Land Stewards give them their own separate dwelling. The House Steward engages men and women servants, with the exception of the family, ladies’ maids, nurses and valet. He pays their wages and dismisses them. He orders household goods, pays the household bills and keeps the household books. He usually submits the household books to his master once a month for review. He does not wear livery. He is not considered a servant. Reports to the Master of the house.
These servants answer to the Master and Mistress. They are hired for the proficiency of their trained profession and will not climb the normal servant ranks. They are considered working-class servants.
A woman trained for the rearing and education of the children in large houses. (Jane Eyre)
Responsible for the raising of babies, infants and children too young for educating
(aka Head Groom or Stable Master)His duties vary depending on the number of footmen employed, and whether or not there is a second-coachman on staff. In families with more than one coachman, the head coachman drives a pair of horses and the second coachman drives one horse. Nightwork is the duty of the second coachman. The head coachman supervises those under him (second coachman and grooms), and sees that the horses are properly fed and taken care of. He also has charge of the the stables and is responsible for ordering supplies. He assists the groom in cleaning the carriages and harness. In some families, coachmen have their meals with the servants. In others, they have their own rooms in the stables.
– stable boy
Thee head gardener was management and therefor upper staff, yet his position outside the house prohibited him from occupying a position in the house’s upper servant’s. Responsibilities for all outside greenery, gardens, picturesque garden walks, greenhouses, lawns etc.
- grounds keeper
Responsible for maintaining the bird population of the estate so that the Master and guests would have game birds, such as pheasant, to hunt. Also responsible for firearms, ammunition, and supplies needed to lend to guests. Not directly responsible for the family’s personal arsenal.
Upper Servant Staff
The number of the male domestics in a family varies according to the wealth and position of the master, from the owner of the ducal mansion, with a retinue of attendants, at the head of which is the chamberlain and house-steward, to the occupier of the humbler house, where a single footman, or even the odd man-of-all-work, is the only male retainer. The majority of gentlemen’s establishments probably comprise a servant out of livery, or butler, a footman, and coachman, or coachman and groom, where the horses exceed two or three.
Butlers were head of a strict service hierarchy and therein held a position of power and respect. They were more managerial than “hands on”€”more so than serving, they officiated in service. For example, although the butler was at the door to greet and announce the arrival of a formal guest, the door was actually opened by a footman, who would receive the guest’s hat and coat. Even though the butler helped his employer into his coat, this had been handed to him by a footman. However, even the highest-ranking butler would “pitch in” when necessary, such as during a staff shortage, to ensure that the household ran smoothly, although some evidence suggests this was so even during normal times.
The household itself was generally divided into areas of responsibility. The butler was in charge of the dining room, the wine cellar, pantry, and sometimes the entire main floor. Butlers engaged and directed all junior staff and each reported directly to him. The housekeeper was in charge of the house as a whole and its appearance. In a household without an official head housekeeper, female servants and kitchen staff were also directly under the butler’s management, while in smaller households, the butler usually doubled as valet. Employers and their children and guests addressed the butler by last name alone; fellow servants, retainers, and trades persons as “Mr. [Surname]”.
- under butler
(Not to be confused with with a butler) A valet or gentleman’s gentleman is a gentleman’s male servant, the closest male equivalent to a lady’s maid. The valet performs personal services such as maintaining his employer’s clothes, running his bath and perhaps (especially in the past) shaving his employer. In a great house, the master of the house had his own valet, and in the very grandest great houses, other adult members of the employing family (e.g. master’s sons) would also have their own valets. In most houses, the butler was the highest male servant manager and waited on his master. Reports to the Master of the house.
Always referred to as “Mrs.” by the other servants, whether she was married or not, the housekeeper was second in command of the household, and was the immediate representative of her mistress. In households where domestics employed number over twenty-five, the housekeeper’s sole duty is to engage, manage and dismiss the female servants, with the exception of lady’s maid, nurse and cook, whom the mistress engages. In smaller households, the housekeeper manages the stores, both ordering and dispersing them. She tends to the house linen, both repairing it and replacing it as necessary. She supervises the china-closet, the stillroom department, and superintends the arrangement of bedrooms for visitors and their servants. Her daily routine includes: overlooks the stillroom, sees what china and linen is given out for breakfast, presides over the housekeeper’s room breakfast, gives out the stores for the day, assist in washing china, makes rounds of the bedrooms and replaces supplies such as candles, writing paper and soap, makes sure the rooms are clean and in order, presides over the servant’s hall dinner, arranges dessert for dinner, makes tea in the afternoon, and makes the coffee for dinner. She also makes preserves and bottles fruit. She keeps the household accounts, and does most of the needlework. In smaller households, the cook often assumes the duties of the housekeeper. Reported to the Mistress of the house.
- laundry maid
– parlor maids
– still-room maids
– maids-of-all-work (“between maids”)
A lady’s maid attends to her mistress’s appearance. She arranges her hair and assists in dressing her. She packs and unpacks the mistress when traveling. She may also make her mistress’s dresses. Depending on the size of the household, she may assume some of the housekeeper’s duties. In a typical day, she: brings up hot water as necessary, brings up tea before breakfast, prepares clothes for dressing, assists the mistress in dressing, puts the room in order, puts out necessities for walking, riding or driving, assists in taking off her outdoor attire, puts evening dress in order, assists in dressing her for dinner, sits up for her, assists in undressing her, puts away her jewels, keeps her wardrobe in repair and washes the lace and fine linens. She also attends to any pets the mistress may have.
(professed cook) In large households, only the cooking proper is the duty of the cook. All ingredients are prepared for her use by the kitchen maids. (A man cook takes a higher position and even less of the plain cooking.) A first-class cook attends to the family breakfast after having her own. She makes out the menu for luncheon and dinner, which is sometimes reviewed and altered by the mistress. In town, she orders from the tradespeople who serve the house. She prepares the soup for the following day, prepares the pastry, jellies, creams and entrees for the day, all in the morning. The afternoon is usually her free time, unless there is a dinner party or guests. She then prepares dinner, and once dinner is served, her duties are over for the day. It is also her duty to lock the doors and windows of the basement, to let the kitchen fire burn low, and to turn off the gas in the kitchen and passages before retiring. In smaller households, the cook assumes the duties of the head kitchen-maid and even scullery maid. Reported to the Mistress of the house.
- plain cook (aka under cook)
– kitchen maid
– scullery maid
Lower Servant Staff (male)
(First Footman was also known as ‘Head Footman’, ‘Under Butler’, ‘Deputy Butler’)
The ‘First Footman’ was directly below the butler. If more than one footman was employed, they were distinguished as “First Footman”, “Second Footman”, etc., and they were typically placed in rank according to their height, size and good looks. Most footmen were over six-feet tall, and additional inches could add additional income. Often footmen were matched in size to maintain conformity in their joint appearance, and they were trained to act in unison, or in perfect harmony.
The footman’s position was indeed multifarious, and included a wide variety of duties that ranged from accompanying the mistress in her carriage as she paid calls or went shopping, to polishing the household copper and plate; or from waiting at table, to cleaning knives, cutlery, shoes and boots.
Other duties of the ‘First Footman’ (who was frequently referred to as “James” or “John”, no matter what his real name might have been), would have included acting as the Lady’s personal footman. That is, among his other duties, he would have prepared her early morning or breakfast tray; cleaned her shoes; brushed any mud off her dress hems and riding habits; paid small charges of her traveling expenses such as toll gates and handsome cabs (he could reclaim these expenses from the House Steward); and if she owned a dog, he would be the one to take it for a walk. He would also accompany her when she went out in the carriage, sitting on the box with the coachman (then in later days, with the chauffer), and would open and close for her the carriage door, as well as the door to any stores she entered, unless there was already a doorman. He waited for her return, carried any packages for her, and once he helped her back into the carriage, he covered her knees with a blanket or fur rug. When the mistress went calling and no one was at home, she waited in the carriage while the footman left her visiting card at the front door.
The Second Footman acted as valet to the eldest son, and sometimes to the master, himself. He was responsible for laying the luncheon table; he cleaned all the mirrors in the household; he carried coal and wood, and similar tasks, unless there was a Third Footman, in which case jobs of heavier labour would fall to him while he gained experience in pursuit of advancement in rank.
Other general duties of the footman included trimming lamps; running all errands; carrying coal; lighting the house at dusk; cleaning silver and gold; answering the drawing room and/or parlour bells; announcing visitors; waiting at dinner; attending the gentlemen in the smoking room following dinner; and attending in the front hall as dinner guests were leaving.
Because of their public exposure at dinner and to guests, footmen were expected to be the most presentable of the male servants. In addition to there being an “ideal height” requirement for footmen, they were also assessed on their appearance in “full livery” (Uniform), which for outdoors consisted of an ornate tail coat, knee breeches, stockings, white gloves, buckled shoes and powered hair with cocked hat. For indoors their livery was sometimes a bit less formal. Instead of a tail coat and buckled shoes, they usually wore a dress coat and pumps. Later in the century it was more common to see a uniform o f white tie and tails with brass buttons that were stamped with the family crest.
Cleaned the stables
The Hall Boy was the lowest ranked male servant on the staff of a great house. It was often a young boy. His name derived from the main venue of his job, the Servants’ Hall.
He may also have slept in one of the halls below stairs, making him literally, a hall boy.
Hall boys were often part of the between staff, usually reporting to the butler but performing some duties for the housekeeper as well. Like his female counterpart, the scullery maid, he would have been expected to work up to 16 hours per day, seven days per week. His duties were often among the most disagreeable in the house, such as emptying chamber pots for the higher-ranking servants, and (in the absence of a boot boy) cleaning the boots.
The general laborers under the head gardener. They’d do everything
from planting trees to cutting grass.
This servant does not live in the house, but usually a gate house. It did not require skilled labor, only the guarding of the gate. It was a low servant position.
Lower Servant Staff (female)
These servants answered to servants from the Upper Staff
Responsible for cleaning and maintaining the sitting rooms, drawing rooms, etc. of the house.
Responsible for the cleaning and maintaining of all bedchambers.
Responsible for all laundry – washing and ironing. She would have additional laundry maids proportional to the house’s needs.
Worked in the Still-Room in a large Victorian household, answerable to both the housekeeper and the cook, where she would concoct the kitchen cleaners, soaps, candles and cosmetics for the lady of the house. It also housed the jams pickles etc. that the cook would make.
( aka “between maids”) These maids worked in either the house or the kitchen – wherever they were needed for the day.
(aka Plain Cook) Prepared meals for the staff. Assisted Cook for large banquets.
Assisted in the kitchen
Scullery maids worked in the kitchen, assisting the kitchen maids and the cook.
They were in charge of scrubbing pots and pans, and cleaning dishes and utensils after each meal of the day, as well as afternoon and evening tea.
These young girls fell at the very bottom of the ladder in both status and respect, yet they slaved away each day, while the upper servants mocked or ridiculed them and members of the household literally paid them no attention at all.