Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Complete Servant

I came across a fascinating book called The Complete Servant published in 1825 and written by Samuel and Sarah Adams. It was written mainly for the nouveau riche who, in the opinion of this couple, would have no idea how to set up a large house and organise their staff. The book has everything such a person could need, from how to proportion income,what wages each member of staff should be paid and how many servants you could afford.

£100 or guineas. A widow or other unmarried lady, may keep a young maid servant, at a low salary; say from 5 to 10 guineas a year.
£150 to £180. A gentleman and lady without children, may afford to keep a better servant maid, at about 10 or 12 guineas.
£500 to £600. A gentleman and lady with children. Three females and one man; viz. - a cook, housemaid and a nursery maid, or other female servant; with a livery servant, as groom and footman. A gardener occasionally.
£3000 to £4000. A gentleman and lady with children. Eight female and eight men servants; viz. - a cook, lady's maid, two housemaids, nurse, nursery maid, kitchen maid, and laundry maid; with a butler, valet, coachman, two grooms, a footman, and two gardeners.

This should give you some idea of how far money stretched in those days. 25% of this income was to be apportioned to servants, which included horses carriages and liveries.
The wages were minimal, the housekeeper received 24 guineas a year plus keep, a lady's maid 20 guineas, the nursery maid 10 guineas, upper housemaid 15 guineas, scullion 9 guineas, but as was always the case men did much better. A French cook, male, 80 guineas, Butler, 50 guineas, Coachman 28 guineas, footman 24 guineas.
When a gardener today costs £12 an hour and someone to clean costs almost as much only two income families or the wealthy can afford to employ anyone to help them in the house. Which means, in my house anyway, housework is a low priority and only gets done when I'm having visitors.
My latest book, A Debt of Honour is available from and also from Amazon both here and in America. also has this book as a download.
Fenlla Miller


Jan Jones said...

Fascinating post, Fenella. I'm with you all the way on the housework!

Anonymous said...

How interesting, Fenella, and wonderful information for historical novelists!

Melinda Hammond

Anonymous said...

Jane said ...

I love this kind of information, Fenella. It's interesting that women servants, who were far more necessary than men for the smooth efficient running of a household, got paid so much less.
I try to think of housework as a form of exercise and thinking time - sometimes that actually works!