Meet the new servants!
Like so many Victorian pursuits, dining in society was a showcase event. The elegant setting, the training of the domestic staff, the fine china and exquisite silver would all be for naught without an accomplished cook to impress guests and make dining at the family’s estate an anticipated event. The aristocracy delighted in extravagant meals, with twelve-course dinners not being uncommon.
The Useful Man or handyman was a jack-of-all-trades domestic worker who performed whatever menial tasks needed doing in a great Victorian house. He rose well before the family, and his duties were varied and often backbreaking.
In a word, the housemaid was responsible for cleanliness. Changing bed linens, emptying chamber pots, cleaning fireplaces, and much more. In a superior house, the head housemaid kept watch over the lower housemaids and took on less arduous bedroom duties (in the absence of a chambermaid), such as changing and repairing linens, dusting, and tending to flower arrangements.
The Hall Boy is a typically an older child or younger teenage male domestic worker in a superior house responsible for menial tasks such as carrying coal, attending to the front door, cleaning up, and running messages. He is often an apprentice footman and is expected to work in excess of twelve hours a day. The employment of a hall boy demonstrates a family’s investment in a superior domestic staff, which enhances the family’s standing.