Downton Abbey or Upstairs Downstairs – everyone has a favourite. Lord Grantham and Sir Hallam Holland, and their families, give us a picture of households in Victorian times. But how accurate is that picture? Dr Judy Hill gives us two talks that explore Victorian life at home.
First talk: Victorian Life Upstairs and Downstairs
At the beginning of the 19th century there was a vast increase in the number of domestic servants. By the end of the 19th century, 1.5 million people were employed as servants. What were the reasons for such large scale employment of domestic servants? How were they recruited and trained? What were their duties and in what conditions did they work?
Judy aims to answer these questions. She also examines the increasing specialisation of domestic service and the separation of servants from the family when the term “life below stairs” becomes recognised. Judy draws on contemporary sources to look at some Victorian households in detail, giving us a clear picture of how the Victorian household operated.
Second talk: Misdemeanours and Misdoings –‘the Victorian servant problem’
The Victorian problem of unruly servants was debated in middle-class periodicals and household manuals but was it a reality? For the Victorian householder, domestic servants were often troublesome and household manuals complained at great length that impertinent servants no longer knew their place. In fact, servants appeared to be guilty of every imaginable crime and misdemeanour.
Judy’s illustrated talk addresses ‘the servant problem’ and examines the lives of some servants and housekeepers to understand the dilemma of the servant’s ‘place’ in the Victorian household.
With Dr Judy Hill
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