Servants by Lucy Lethbridge

download (3)I have not read this book but I listened to an interview last week with the author, Lucy Lethbridge, and have added Servants to my list of must reads.

She has clearly capitalised on our love of Downton Abbey and has written a book about ‘downstairs’ in Edwardian society. Over 1,000,000 families had at least one servant and at some of the large aristocratic houses such as Blenheim Palace and Chatsworth had a minimum of 200. At the turn of the 20th century over one quarter of the female workforce was working below stairs or as it was also called ‘in service’. Obviously Downton Abbey paints a rather rosy picture of life downstairs with a good relationship between upstairs and down however it fails to tell the real story of extremely long hours and, in many cases, a life of relentless scrubbing and polishing causing blistered hands with a hierarchy amongst the servants that was nearly as bad as the class system. By 1950 death duties crippled these large houses and the invention of the dishwasher was the final death blow to domestics!

Lucy manages to tell the story with many anecdotes balanced with historical facts. I loved the story of the Duke of Marlborough (Blenheim Palace) who, right up to 1970, had the kitchen prepare a choice of 17 dishes for dinner each and every night! Blimey I struggle with one…