Saturday, 30 August 2014

The Housekeeper's Room

This is the last of my posts about Tredegar House. Though obviously not as grand as the upstairs rooms, I found the housekeeper's room quite pleasant.

Working for a very eccentric person like Evan Morgan may have had its trials. Having worked for a working class bully I suggest working for an upper class satanic gay animal loving party-er would possibly be preferable. Morgan might have broken a lot of social rules, but I'm guessing he would have likely understood the code for servants. During his inter-war time servants were harder to find given that factory work paid better and gave more personal freedom. 

And of course in all times the housekeeper was one of the top tier of the servant hierarchy, holding the keys to the provisions cupboard and responsible for keeping it stocked. This is a list of the provisions used at Tredegar House in the three months, November 1834 through January 1835. It's unbelievable how much they went through:

Meat (pounds/lbs)
Beef - 9,546 
Mutton - 4,277
Veal - 808
Lamb - 116
Pork - 3,608

Butter - 1,056 (lbs)
Cream - 424 (quarts)
Cheese - 419 (lbs)

Beer - 28 hogsheads (6,860 litres or 1,812 U.S. gallons)
Ale - 28 hogsheads

[My guess is that in the early 1800's these beverages were still consumed in preference to water which was often unsafe.]

Wine (bottles)
Port - 176
Sherry - 355
Madeira - 194
Claret - 292
Other ports - 206

Fowls - 482
Turkeys - 80
Geese - 21
Ducks - 40

Eggs - 204 dozen
Sugar - white - 779 lbs
           - moist - 250 lbs
Tea - 104 lbs
Coffee - 64 lbs
Wheat - 242 bushels (complicated to convert due to historical changes / imperial vs US, but I'm going with 6,534 kg or 2,970 lbs)
Coal - 207 tons

That's for three months. Can you even get your head around this amount of consumption? I can't, even taking into account this will have included twenty or more servants.

From The Complete Servant, Sarah & Samuel Adams (the book on the desk):

The situation of a housekeeper, in almost every family, is of great importance. She superintends nearly the whole of the domestic establishment, has generally the control and direction of the servants, particularly of the female servants, has the care of the household furniture and linen, of all the grocery, dried and other fruits, spices, condiments, soap, candles, and stores of all kinds, for culinary and other domestic uses. She makes all the pickles, preserves, and sometimes the best pastry. She generally distills and prepares all the compound and simple waters, and spirits, essential and other oils, perfumery, cosmetics, and similar articles that are prepared at home, for domestic purposes. In short, she is the locum tenens [Latin, place holder], the Lady Bountiful, and the active representative of the mistress of the family; and is expected to do, or to see done, everything that appertains to the good and orderly management of the household.

She ought to be a steady middle-aged woman, of great experience in her profession, and a tolerable knowledge of the world. In her conduct she should be moral, exemplary, and assiduous, as the harmony, comfort, and economy of the family will great depend on her example; and she must know, that no occurrence can be too trifling for her attention, that may lead to these results and whereby waste and unnecessary expense may be avoided.

The spice cabinet. These days one doesn't appreciate how expensive spices were/are. Until one calculates the price per pound or kg. Then it makes complete sense to lock them up!

When the entire management of the servants is deputed to her, her situation becomes the more arduous and important. If servants have hardships to undergo, she will let them see that she feels for the necessity of urging them. To cherish the desire of pleasing in them, she will convince them that they may succeed in their endeavors to please her. Human nature is the same in all stations. Convince the servants that you have a considerate regard for their comforts, and they will be found to be grateful, and to reward your attention by their own assiduity: besides, nothing is so endearing as being courteous to our inferiors.

Female servants who would pursue an honest course, have numberless difficulties to contend with, and should,therefore, be treated kindly. The housekeeper in a great family, has ample means of doing good; and she will, doubtless, recollect that it is a part of her duty of protect and encourage virtue, as the best preventive from vice.

In families where there is a house-steward, the marketing will be done, and the tradesmen's bills will be collected, examined, and discharged, by him; but in many famlies, the business of marketing, and of keeping the accounts, devovles on the housekeeper. It is therefore, incumbent on her to be well informed of the prices and qualities of all articles of household consumption in general use; and of the best times..."

I know, it was just getting good, but that's the end of the page I photographed.

Even the housekeeper had her little excesses...


Beryl said...

What a huge lovely room. Nice fireplace. Great list of all the food they used in that three month period. said...

Hello Shelly,
A lovely well written post, about the running of the great homes.
The food list is amazing in Tredegar house.. gosh..they must have had many a party there.

Thank you for sharing.

Thanks also for leaving your kind comment..
I am hoping to get a quote for a trellis..but it might be too expensive... HappySunday Val

Anonymous said...

I had a bit of a gasp at the quote, '... nothing is so endearing as being courteous to our inferiors.'

A courteous person would never dream of articulating such arrogance in this digital age. However, at the time perhaps the term 'inferior' did not mean 'less worthy' but rather 'less advantaged'.

Shelley said...

Val - I gather that there are trellis's for light weight plants and those for heavier ones. The latter, of course, cost more.

Ilegirl - Yes, that is an out-of-time phrase isn't it? It might mean lower down on the job ladder, but the arrogance you describe was part of the culture back then. I'm not sure it's not just under the carpet these days in Britain, but I may be speaking of only a select few - though I've met plenty of people with this peaking through their personalities.

Shelley said...

Beryl - Yes, I'm quite spoilt about having fireplaces now. Rooms without them look vacant to me now.

sanda said...

The housekeepers room is quite cozy. I can't read your description without thinking of Mrs Hughes of Downton Abbey. She fits the description perfectly. Like you I'm aghast At the list of supplies.

Shelley said...

Sanda - Oh yes! I was thinking of Mrs Hughes as I typed all that out! Bunch of proper gluttons they all were, weren't they!?

D A Wolf said...

Stately, elegant, but very comfortable. Makes one want to settle in for awhile.