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Rules for “Downstairs” Servants of Olden Times Seem Totally Crazy Today

Once upon a time a large household would have taken many hands to run. Labor-saving devices were few and everything had to be done by hand. In large houses and mansions every clock that was wound, every scrap of silver polished, every rug beaten out, and every meal that was cooked was accomplished by the servants. This meant that a small staff simply wasn’t possible for these households. But, there was more to it than that of course.

The larger a home’s staff the more prestigious it was for the lady and master of the house. Status was wrapped up in the running of the daily household activities and this meant that the stiff class structure found in Europe and to a lesser degree in the U.S. was strictly maintained at all times. Servants had a lot of rules which governed when they could speak, where they could walk, and how much time they spent on their daily tasks. These rules seem downright bizarre by today’s standards!

They Were Completely Devoted to the Family

Nothing less than complete devotion was expected from a servant. They were expected to put the needs of the household above their own. It was a rarity when a servant asked for time off to visit friends or attend family events.

Via/ Flickr

They were also expected to go above and beyond for their masters in any times of worry or crisis, spending nights (when they should have been sleeping) with a worried member of the household family. This is the reason why the wealthy were so scandalized when a servant would up and quit: it showed just how disloyal they were to the family.

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