Life in 18th Century Britain

Life below stairs

Many large 18th and 19th Century houses had doors covered with a green cloth like felt, known as 'baize'. This was a visible boundary to the servants' areas. Large houses often had many baize doors that servants used in order to carry meals, clean rooms, or attend to their employers. 

The first image on this page is of the kitchen at Bolling Hall in Yorkshire, showing what it might have looked like over 300 years ago. Notice the windows and objects in the room that we are less likely to have in our kitchens today.

Objects linked to domestic service:

  • This recipe for an 'Eye Water' is from Bolling Hall's Household book of 1669-1687. The book was a record kept by Elizabeth, Widow of Francis Lindley of Hull to record all income from the Bolling Estate. Elizabeth used it to pay for her children’s expenses, like riding lessons, ribbons and gloves.

    (The writing of the time is quite difficult to read so here is a 
    transcription of the recipe , plus another for an 'Ague'.)  

  • These burnishing pads and corkscrews  were used by a valet or personal manservant to polish button and metal clasps on his masters' clothing, footwear and uniforms. This kind of clothing was also worn by servants like footmen and coachmen. Corkscrews were quite new in the 18th Century -the first one was patented by Samuel Henshall in 1795. 

    The corkscrew would be used by the butler who was in charge of the cellar and the only servant trusted with a key. It was his responsibility to care for the wine, to keep records of what had been drunk and order more.

  • This tobacco box is decorated with an image of an African slave. It was produced in the late 1700s to support the abolition of the Slave Trade. African slaves were then popular as footmen and pages in grand houses and in large cities many other slaves and freed slaves worked as servants.

    Ironically the box is designed to hold tobacco – a product of the plantations on which the majority of enslaved Africans worked in the Americas and the Caribbean

View other relevant My Learning resources or see the teachers' notes page for discussion and activity ideas. 

Scroll down for a list of links and resources on this topic.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Bolling Hall Museum | 
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