Servants: The True Story of Life below Stairs. BBC 2 9pm.
Posted by celticman on Fri, 28 Sep 2012
Dr Pamela Cox talks us through what it was like to be a servant during the industrial revolution. The good servant had to be invisible, omnipotent, omniscient and know his or her place. The master was always right, even when he was wrong. It wasn’t just the aristocracy that had servants. The growth in industry led to an affluent middle class. To avoid the drudgery of housework and to retain any degree of social status they too had to employ servants. The lower middle class household had to make do with a ‘maid of all work’. A fifteen hour day of cooking, cleaning and whatever else could be thought of to make their life miserable, seven days a week, was the norm. Sweated labour was not just the providence of those new found factories. It was live in, all found. Uniforms were provided. Some benevolent employers even had artist impressions of the servants, or even went to the expense of photographic prints. These could be placed beside pictures of their favourite dog or horse. Mrs Beaton’s Book of Household Management was bound to turn up. A bible of how to scrimp and save and make do it appealed to the Victorian idea of self-sufficiency, but the real cost of a men or women’s health, or well-being, were never considered. Life for the servant wasn’t just below stairs. They were also squeezed into the attic, and into tunnels beneath grand houses, only to magically appear when needed.