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How the other half lived

Discussion in 'Occupations' started by Bob Spiers, May 30, 2020.

  1. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Superstar

    Whilst investigating a 16 year old boy ancestor in Worcestershire in 1881 I found him as a Servant in the Great Malvern area where the Head was shown as a ‘Clergyman & Schoolmaster’. What was remarkable was the ratio of Servants to actual family. In 1881 there were 6 children ranging from 7 down to 4 months but it was the job title of the Servants that caught my attention, especially when finding my 16 year old was a ‘Page’…a Page in a Clergyman/Schoolmaster house?

    They had 10 Servants and here are their duties in the order listed .

    Parlour Maid – Cook Domestic – Kitchen Maid Domestic -House Maid Domestic (x 2) – Boots (!) – Page (!) – Matron on (looks like Serv or Sew – see below) Nurse (x 2)

    I show an extract of the ‘Matron on …’ to see if others can make out what her duties were. Note the ‘on’ bit has been further annotated but still cannot make out what it means.


    But the main reason for posting is to highlight having 10 Servants, one of whom was my young ancestor as a ‘Page’ and another (of the same age) as a ‘Boots’.

    Edit: Further research of Great Malvern reveals the Head was likely the Head Master of a Boys Boarding School of ages ranging from 14 to 18 and the following (Census) page(s) lists the names of 28 Boarding Scholars. So perhaps, just perhaps, the Servants were part of the School, rather than the Household (or both). What do others think?
  2. At home in NZ

    At home in NZ LostCousins Star

    It’s difficult to decipher the writing without being able to see the whole page in order to get the 'feel' of the writer’s style.

    It wasn’t unusual for the clergy to be teachers, they were usually well educated.

    I’m inclined to think the household was the headmaster’s home as well as the lodgings for the nurses and matron who were possibly employed to tend to the school children.
    A household of 6 children would have taken some looking after in those days, therefore in view of the lack of labour saving devices the number of servants doesn’t really surprise me.
    I am reasonably sure I have seen similar households.
  3. jorghes

    jorghes LostCousins Superstar

    Would “Boots” refer to a boot boy - that is the servant in charge of the upkeep of boots and other items like it, and often a general dogsbody?

    Before emigrating, my great grandfather worked as a footman. He actually studied and become a Minister of Religion and came to Australia as a missionary.
  4. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Superstar

    Yes indeed Jorghes, and my father's older brother (Uncle Harry) although born Birmingham 1901 migrated to London (never found out the circumstance that caused the migration for one a mere teenager) but learned he found work in a London Hotel, as a "Boots". As a lad myself, I often heard his tales of lines and lines of shoes and boots (placed outside the door of hotel rooms) which he (and others) had to silently retrieve in the 'wee' hours, ensure they were correctly tagged with the room number, and get them cleaned and polished and back in place by dawn.

    I found his early hotel work (he moved up the ladder as a 'bell-boy' and ended up waiting on tables) strange as I only knew him as someone who worked in Birmingham's Jewellery quarter doing fine tortoise-shell work and later a watch and clock repairer. But everyone has to start somewhere I suppose.

    Edit: Incidentally my original query pondered why a 'Boots' would be required in a Boarding School...but likely (as you infer) as a 'dogsbody'
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2020
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