Wisdom Wednesday - Household work, Victorian-style - part 2

(From my gran's 1894 publication of 'Mrs Beeton's Cookery Book and Household Guide' - see this post for more information.)

Last week, we saw what Mrs Beeton had to say to the mistress of the household. Now we can see what advice she has for the servants...

Household Work


ACCORDING to their duties and position in a household so are the responsibilities of servants, but in every situation there are responsibilities. A cook has to a great extent the health of the family in her hands. Ill-cooked food is not only wasteful and distasteful, it is positively injurious ; pots and pans not properly cleaned have often caused illness, if not death. Want of cleanliness in a kitchen is not only bad for the cook herself, but for those who have to share the room. A housemaid has a great deal to do with the comfort, if not health, of the household. Fresh cleanly rooms, well-made beds, dust conspicuous by its absence are healthful and pleasant.
A nurse has the highest responsibilities of all servants, having the care of those who are helpless ; and in no part of the house is cleanliness more necessary than in the nursery, for it is absolutely necessary to the health of children.

A general servant has of neccessity some of the responsibilities and the work of all three piled upon her shoulders ; but it does not always follow that her work is harder than that of any of the other three. Change of work is said to be, to a certain extent, a rest, and we know many good general servants who say they absolutely could not settle to only one branch of domestic work.

Certain rules apply to all servants. Cleanliness in person and work is a grand qualification. Neatness saves labour ; and there is no better motto for work than "Clear as you go." Early rising is absolutely essential ; and there are no household tasks so well done as those that are accomplished in the morning. We give here the routine work of an imaginary small house, where there would be one or two servants only to wait upon and serve a family of four or six persons.

Monday.-What washing is done at home.
Tuesday.-Sweeping and cleaning of servants' bed-room or one or two other rooms, and stairs cleaned down to lower floor.
Wednesday.-The sweeping and cleaning of best bed-room, and windows.
Thursday.-Cleaning and turning out of cupboards, and cleaning of passages and remaining stairs.
Friday.-Sweeping and cleaning of drawing-room, and cleaning of silver.
Saturday.-Sweeping and cleaning of dining-room and kitchen, tins, coppers, &c.

Besides these daily tasks mentioned, must be reckoned the bed-making, the dusting, the cooking and washing-up, and all the hundred and one things that have to he accomplished in the smallest of households, these generally coming in the following order: the shutters and windows must first be opened, then the kitchen range must be brushed and cleaned, the fire lighted and the kettle put on. Next comes the sitting-room in daily use to be got ready for breakfast; the rug must be rolled up, the table cover shaken and folded, the room swept (using tea-leaves), the grate cleaned if in winter and the fire lighted, then the room must be dusted and the cloth laid for breakfast. Next in order comes the hall ; which must be swept, the doorsteps cleaned, and the brass handles of the door polished. Boots and knives must also be cleaned before the breakfast is cooked. Directly the servants' breakfast is over, beds should be stripped and bed-room windows opened. Then will come the clearing away of the breakfast things and the washing-up ; then the slops should be taken from the bed-rooms, the beds made and the rooms tidied and dusted ; and between the time that this work is finished and the meal partaken of in the middle of the day, whether luncheon or dinner, is upon the table, that will have to be cooked, and the cleaning of whatever rooms arranged for on that day accomplished. Where there are two servants, one of whom is a housemaid, she will have to be dressed by the mid-day meal ; but where there is only a general servant she is not expected to change her gown till after she has washed up and tidied her kitchen.

Then comes the getting of the tea or dinner, the clearing away and washing-up of this, and there will still be left the emptying of the slops in the bed-rooms, the turning down of the beds, the filling of the jugs and the taking up of hot water for the night.

[Why Wisdom Wednesday? This phrase has been included in the title in order to take part in Daily Blogging Prompts at Geneabloggers]

Category: Mrs Beeton's Cookery Books

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