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  • Writer's pictureChantel Grayson

HOUSE SERVANTS, THEIR RANKS, THEIR WAGES

Dear reader,


The information provided in this post pertains to servants of a house, a house that had a noble family or a businessman at the helm. As today, these roles could be modified and tailored to fit the needs of the home and family, but in order to make the information as simple as possible I will focus on the positions you may be accustomed to seeing or reading about.


For organizational purposes, I will be listing the roles in order of earnings (from the highest to the lowest). [(1 English Pound in the 19th century x $4.87)(inflation for 2020)] You will notice that the wages, even after inflation, are extremely low. The wealth gap was more vast than today but also, the Victorian working class lived a lot simply. Servants didn’t take extended vacations or live and dine outside of the home in which they worked. They might have visited the village for a leisurely meal, but they didn’t need to keep up with the latest clothing fashions, splurge on new technologies or furnish an apartment. Being “on-call” meant they didn’t leave without permission from a superior and being isolated in a country house meant there was very little “hitting the town.”


If you would like to see these positions in a hierarchy as far as management, please see this chart (feel free to share, download, copy or save):



A quick sketch of my notes
Illustration by Chantel Grayson


If you are interested in the rooms they managed, feel free to see my article: The Rooms Found in a Victorian Home.



Photo by Chantel Grayson_Charles Dickens Museum



Estate Steward (man): The steward wasn’t considered a servant, but an employee similar to the family lawyer or banker. I have included him in this list because his duties benefit the house, master and servants directly. The position of a steward was held by someone who was viewed as intelligent and highly educated as he corresponded with the family lawyers, estate appraisers, contractors, hired servants, placed ads in search for servants, interviewed servants, collected money from tenants and dealt with the selling/purchasing of land. If this employee did not live in the house, he visited routinely. And if he did live on the estate, he would sometimes have his own private house. If his employer's portfolio was small, one steward might be able to manage all of these duties. If not, he could have agents that worked for him.


Average £280 pound a year / $1,364.00 (19th Century) or $35,800.00 (2020)

*lodgings sometimes included


Land Steward (man): A land steward saw to the tenants of the estate. He collected rent, handed out evictions, saw to their complaints and reported back to the master of the house or the estate steward.


Average £175 pound a year / $852.00 (19th Century) or $22,370.00 (2020)

*lodgings sometimes included


House Steward (man): Saw to the hiring, firing and managing of staff. The house steward may place an advertisement on behalf of his employer, conduct the interview, hire said person and ensure they were paid their wages. In smaller homes, this position could be assumed by the butler (see below).


Average £75 pound a year / $365.00 (19th Century) or $9,580.00 (2020)

*lodgings sometimes included


SERVANTS


Head Gardener (man): This was a very important role in a big house considering gardens were the first thing visitors saw upon their arrival and therefore impressive. The head gardener was knowledgeable regarding horticulture, water features and knew about gardening trends. He also worked in the kitchen gardens, growing fruits and vegetables and remedies for the household. If a house had an orangery, he would be in charge of that as well. The gardener position was considered “upper management” but considering it was an outdoors role, he was not within the hierarchy of the servants who worked indoors. He and his family often lived in a house on the estate. Oversaw the Gardener/Groundskeepers.


Average £110 pound a year / $536.00 (19th Century) or $14,072.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Chef (man): Not to be confused with the Cook who is lower on the list, the Chef was usually a man who had had impressive references and formal training. Preferably, French cuisine. If a house could afford him, they would have him as a permanent member of their staff, especially if they entertained frequently. The more renowned the Chef, the higher his pay. Oversaw the kitchen staff.


Average £80 pound a year / $390 (19th Century) or $10,240.00 (2020)

Royal chefs were known to make £300 a year/$1,461 (19th Century) or $38,357.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Gamekeeper (man): With the rise in marksmanship and rifle competitions, one of the favorite pastimes of the Englishman was hunting. The Gamekeeper made sure there was a healthy amount of pheasants, rabbits, grouse, etc. for the guests and the master’s hunting parties. They also tallied the kills and stored the meat for the use of the kitchen staff.


Average £70 pound a year / $341.00 (19th Century) or $8,950.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Butler (man): The butler was the highest ranking servant in a house, overseeing the male staff including the coachman, first footman, second footman/ footmen, the porter and the page respectively. He was the head of the kitchen and dining room and his duties included waiting on the family during meals, training the footmen, polishing and guarding the silver, making wine selections for dinner, keeping inventory of the wine, locking up the house, announcing visitors, delivering letters to the family of the house and winding the clocks. In smaller homes, the butler would act as the house steward--interviewing, hiring, dismissing and paying staff. In even smaller homes, he may act as the master of the house’s valet.


Average £60 pound a year / $292.00 (19th Century) or $7,700.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Housekeeper (woman): The housekeeper oversaw the women staff members--head housemaid, housemaids, laundry maid and domestic servants, respectively. She was responsible for the house finances such as ordering food and supplies, she inspected food and linen deliveries to ensure the orders were correct, she ordered supplies for the servants, balanced receipts and ensured the house stayed on budget. It wasn’t uncommon for her and the mistress of the house to meet regularly to go over the housekeeper’s ledger regarding the home finances. She was called “Mrs.” regardless of her marital status. She also carried a ring of keys for every room in the house.


Average £55 pound a year / $268.00 (19th Century) or $7,040.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Cook (woman): The cook could have been a man or a woman, but considering most renowned chefs were men, I will leave the cook as a woman. She oversaw the kitchen staff--kitchen maid, dairy maid and scullery maid, respectively. She would prepare meals, tea and pastries for the house, oversee the larder and pass along her order requests to the housekeeper. In smaller homes, she would double as a maidcook/cookmaid, a woman who cooked meals and cleaned. In middle class homes, or city homes that belonged to a bachelor, she would clean in the mornings, prepare his midday meal, take his laundry for wash and leave for the day.


Average £45 pound a year / $219.00 (19th Century) or $5,750.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Valet (man): I had struggled with the placement of the valet, initially wanting to put him higher than the butler, regardless of pay, for the following reasons: Having a valet was considered a luxury (so much so, in smaller homes the butler could assume the duties of a valet, but not the other way around), the valet was directly hired by the master or mistress of the house (not the steward or butler) and his role was to wait on his master directly. The valet dressed his master, kept up with the latest fashions, mended his master’s clothes, traveled with him, performed secretarial duties and acted as a companion. Throughout my readings, I have found some cases where the valet was paid the same as the butler, but looking at my information collectively and gathering an average, he ranks lower.


Average £45 pound a year / $219.00 (19th Century) or $5,750.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Lady’s Maid/Ladies Maid (woman): The lady’s maid would begin her day in the kitchens, preparing her lady’s breakfast. In the Victorian era, it was common practice for married women to have breakfast in bed, delivered by the lady’s maid. While her mistress ate her tea and toast, the lady’s maid would lay out her clothing for the day and help her get dressed. She would do her hair, dress her in jewelry and see to her laundry. The lady’s maid would know how to sew, in order to mend the gowns of her mistress or alter them for pregnancy or weight-related purposes. She would order cosmetics, polish and put away her jewelry and accompany her mistress on trips. Her role was so important, she was rarely shared with the mature daughters of the house. Like a valet, she was a direct hire of the mistress and not a hire of the butler or steward.


Average £45 pound a year / $219.00 (19th Century) or $5,750.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Coachman/Head Groom/Stable Master (man): I combined these terms based on their job duties and average pay, but I will refer to this position as the coachman. He was just as important-looking as the interior male staff of a home, considering they were the primary method of transportation for the family. In the overall pyramid of hierarchy, he would be the head of his own department and not considered “inside” staff. The coachman needed to have knowledge regarding the different types of traveling rigs, how to fix a dislodged wheel, traveling routes and horse maintenance. Oversaw the groom, postilion and stable boy. Later on, he would be replaced by a chauffeur.


Average £40 pound a year / $195.00 (19th Century) or $5,120.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Underbutler (man): Filled in for the butler when he was ill or away from the house. This was a duty that could be assumed by the first footman if need be.


Average £40 pound a year / $195.00 (19th Century) or $5,120.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


First Footman/Second Footman/Footman (man): When I tell you the footman’s duties were to stand there and look pretty, I am not over-stretching the truth. Throughout my research, I have gathered that the responsibilities of this position were astonishingly light compared to the roles of the women servants. In that, you would rarely see them hunched over the floor and scrubbing anything. They were mostly hired as a staple of one’s wealth. Their attractiveness, especially how well they looked in their master’s livery, only aided in their employment and their pay was higher depending on how tall they were. When choosing between two candidates who were wanting the first footman position, the role would most likely be given to the taller of the two. However, if the first and second footman were identical, like two “bookends” they were collectively paid more. The footman laid the tables, opened doors and assisted the family when they went on outings. They went shopping with family members (carrying their purchases and opening doors), helped set up lawn games, served during house parties, and sometimes chaperoned the women family members.


Average £35 pound a year / $170.00 (19th Century) or $4,460.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Governess (woman)/Tutor (man): Throughout my research, much about this position, specifically the governess, was oscillating and indecisive. The Governess would commune with the family but enter through the servant’s entrance. She would be a servant working for wages, but she might also come from a noble family. She was sometimes married or unmarried (having to earn wages for herself or household). She either visited the house or lived inside. She either dined with the servants, or sat at the dinning table if the family ever invited her. Her duty was to tutor the young girls of the house in all school subjects and etiquette. Around the ages of 8 to 12, boys would be sent off to boarding school but girls would remain home and under the care of the governess.


Male tutors were provided for boys who did not attend boarding school for health, financial or other reasons. He would be paid more than a governess and generally treated with more definitive respect, often always sitting at the dining table with the family to have intelligent conversations. Male tutors remained close with their student as he grew up.


Average £25 pound a year for a Governess / $122.00 (19th Century) or $3,200.00 (2020)

*lodgings sometimes included


Head Nurse/Upper Nurse/Nanny (woman): I found it strange that girls as young as 12 could be nurses in a grand house but in reading a book on the Victorian working class, this was common even for the poor (girls as young as 8 would watch infants for the women who went to work in the shops or factories--the youngest babysitters club, perhaps). In addition to caring for the babies and children, the head nurse also cared for the house mistress. The head nurse slept in the nursery and ate with the children and wasn’t allowed to leave them unattended. She brought the children downstairs for an hour of play with their parents or to show them off if there were ever a house party and the child was dressed in frills or fluent in the playing of an instrument. She mended the children’s clothing and pushed the pram whenever she took the children out for walks. Over the under nurse. Separate from the housekeeper’s chain of command.


Average £25 pound a year / $122.00 (19th Century) or $3,200.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Chambermaid/Head Housemaid (woman): Chambermaids were responsible for cleaning the bedchambers. Of course, this duty could be absorbed by a housemaid if the family did not wish to pay for this specific servant (as with any other position), but I have found multiple accounts of chambermaids and thought it best to include them. Especially considering there was a chance they could have been paid more. This was because a chambermaid was responsible for the cleaning of the family’s private bedrooms and the making of their beds. This meant that they could have had more interaction with the family than other maids, eventually graduating to a lady’s maid if they were close to one of the younger daughters of a household.


Average £20 pound a year / $97.00 (19th Century) or $2,550.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Parlor Maid (woman): Another specialty maid position, but one that oversaw the parlor and more important rooms of the house such as the drawing room, withdrawing room, receiving room, etc. They had to clean the more delicate pieces of furniture, artworks and antiques. This duty could be absorbed by a housemaid if the family did not pay for this specific servant, but I’d like to assume that having maids assigned to particular rooms held them accountable for misplaced objects, for replacing furniture to its original state after an event or party, or items that required a specific knowledge for cleaning.


Average £20 pound a year / $97.00 (19th Century) or $2,550.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Housemaid/Maid (woman): The maids, simply put, were the “maids” of the house. They cleaned, cleaned and cleaned some more. They were also responsible for emptying the chamber pots even if there was a chambermaid on staff. They could be girls who held these positions at ages as young as 12. Like all maids, their days began before the family rose and ended long after they went to bed.


Average £18 pound a year / $88.00 (19th Century) or $2,310.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Kitchen Maid/Cook Maid (woman): Assisted in the kitchen with food preparations, cleaning the kitchens and sometimes accompanied the Cook or Chef on market errands.


Average £15 pound a year / $73.00 (19th Century) or $1,917.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Dairy Maid (woman): Responsible for the churning of butter and making/preparing creams for meals. Her role became obsolete with the inventions of modern farming equipment but she was very valuable to an estate who wanted to sell butter and milk at markets or had a chef that was innovative and experimentive.


Average £15 pound a year / $73.00 (19th Century) or $1,917.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Under Nurse/Nurse Maid/Nanny (woman): The undernurse was responsible for the changing of the children as well as mending their clothing, making their beds, cleaning their fireplaces and bringing their meals. She was also under the supervision of the head nurse/upper nurse.


Average £15 pound a year / $73.00 (19th Century) or $1,917.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Laundry Maid/ Wash Maid (woman): Before there was outsourcing, many households would hire a live-in laundry maid or her family to wash their sheets and clothing. These maids would boil large tubs of water and ring out clothing with their hands. Due to the intricacy of gowns and dresses, there was usually a laundry maid that could sew. She would remove collars and cuffs and ruffles from a dress (areas that are more likely to gather dirt), wash them, goffer them (similar to a curling iron) with tongs to make them ruffly and fluffy again and sew them back into the dress. One would be able to tell if a maid was from the laundry because the skin of her hands would be leathered from the boiling water and her face blotchy from the steam.


Average £15 pound a year / $73.00 (19th Century) or $1,917.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Groom (man): Beneath the coachman/head groom and in charge of tending to the horses. If there were ever visitors or guests, he would see to their horses as well. The groom would saddle horses for hunting parties, ensure the right horses were paired with riders of the appropriate skill level, assist with the maintenance of jumping courses and sometimes, teach members of the family how to ride. With the introduction of the chauffeur, the head groom/stable master might have been replaced, but the family might have kept the lower paying groom on staff for their riding, hunting or horse-related interests. In that case, he would remain over the stable boy but not under the command of the chauffeur.


Average £15 pound a year / $73.00 (19th Century) or $1,917.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Scullery Maid/Maid of All Work/ Between Maid/General Domestic/Weekend Help/Saturday Girl (woman): I have grouped these roles together because not only was their average pay the same, but the work was very similar. In short, they did whatever they were told to do by whomever told them to do it. This usually meant they cleaned areas others did not. They also helped in the kitchens. Many were hired for the busy weekends or borrowed from another house for an event or party. They may only stay during the weekend or not at all, coming and going when needed.


Average £12 pound a year / $58.00 (19th Century) or $1,520.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Postilion (man): I had never heard of this position until I read about him and I was quickly intrigued. The postilion was a young man who rode on top of the leftmost horse that guided a coach or post chaise (as opposed to the coachman who directed the horses from the seat of the coach). He was often light in weight, as he was primarily called upon if one needed to reach their destination more quickly. The postilion was previously known as someone who rode the mail horse (hence the name: post horse) but was later hired by grand houses as a more affordable alternative to a coachman. Very rarely did a grand house have both a coachman and a postilion but sometimes, a coachman was once a postilion.


Average £12 pound a year / $58.00 (19th Century) or $1,520.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Groundskeeper/Gardner (man): Trimmed hedges, planted trees and picked fruit. Worked under the head gardener or head groundskeeper.


Average £12 pound a year / $58.00 (19th Century) or $1,523.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Gatekeeper (man):The gatekeeper was rarely classified as a servant, in that his position wasn’t one that required an education or strict training. In fact, I have seen him referred to as a laborer or an employee. His role was to guard the entrance to the main house (opening the gate or closing it behind guests). He would also guide visitors to the door if they needed his torch at night. He and his family usually lived in the apartments above the gatehouse.


Average £10 pound a year / $49.00 (19th Century) or $1,290.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Page/Hall Boy/House Boy/Tea Boy/Boot Boy (man): Gentleman would leave their shoes outside their door for the page to collect, polish and return by the following morning. The page was young in age, sometimes as young as 10 and slept in the hall (hence the name: hall boy). He would eventually graduate into a footman.


Average £9 pound a year / $44.00 (19th Century) or $1,155.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


Stable Boy (man): Under the coachman and groom. In charge of cleaning the stables and feeding the horses. Can begin as young as 10. Would one day graduate into a groom or may leave the house in order to become a postilion or hansom driver.


Average £8 pound a year / $39.00 (19th Century) or $1,024.00 (2020)

*lodgings included


***


I hope you enjoyed this post or that you may find some use for it in your writings or studies. Please keep in mind, I have taken the average wages from multiple sources as well as their job titles, descriptions and duties. These roles could be more streamlined or blurred depending on the financial status of the family or their needs.


In a future post, I will cover the jobs and wages of the working and lower class, those who were considered laborers, journeymen or artisans. But feel free to download, save or share my chart to keep for your reference.


Also, if you are interested in learning about the individual rooms and spaces these Victorians managed, feel free to see my article: The Rooms Found in a Victorian Home.


Thank you,

Chantel Grayson




Sources

Book: Victorian Working Class

Book: How to Be a Victorian


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