Villagers and Staff


The following article was written by Lil Ayre,of Barton under Needwood, for her local W.I.
The original was kindly lent to me by her sister, Bette Collier.
From a Barton under Needwood member
I started in service in 1940 aged 14 years as a Parlourmaid in a large country house owned by three spinster ladies in their seventies. Usually this work was done by a footman but as the war was on, this was not war work.
The house was fully staffed with Housekeeper, Butler, Cook, Kitchenmaid, Scullerymaid, three housemaids and yardboy, whose duty it was to carry in all the coals and wood for the open fires as there wasn't any central heating.
All the coal was fetched from the local colliery, a ton a day in the winter, costing about 24 shillings a ton.
The housekeeper was responsible for the smooth running of the house and keeping all the staff in order.
My duties started at 7 am by lighting the dining room, front hall and butler's pantry fires, taking out buckets full of ashes, cleaning the steel fenders and scrubbing the pantry floor, after which I cleaned the ladies' shoes, making sure to shine the insteps as well as the tops. After this, ironing the newspapers for the front hall.
Breakfast was next, served in the servant's hall on a large scrubbed top table and seats like church pews, very sparse. Housemaids and kitchen staff ate together, cook, butler and housekeeper were in the housekeeper's room.
The ladies breakfasted at nine.
After this the table was laid for lunch and the real work of the day began, cleaning silver or brass till lunchtime. This was cleaned with Goddard's plate powder and ammonia rubbed on with the fingers and polished with a soft leather. All the silver stored away was cleaned weekly, it seemed never ending sometimes. The brass was cleaned with brass paste which seemed to stick in all the crevices of the candlesticks etc.
In the mornings we wore pale blue dresses, long white apron, plain caps, black house shoes and black stockings. After lunch we changed to black dresses, frilly aprons and caps.
All the china, glass and silver from the dining room was washed up in the butler's pantry by me in a wooden washing up bowl in a lead lined sink. Steel knives were cleaned in a large knife machine, about a dozen at a time, by turning a large handle. All these chores were done daily.
The housemaids worked very hard as there were no electric sweepers, not even a Eubank. The carpets were sprinkled with water and it was a case of hands and knees and a brush and dustpan. The maids made the polish which was bees wax and linseed oil mixed together. Methylated spirit was added to the water for window cleaning.After the yardboy had carried all the coal and wood for the upstairs fires, the girls had to scrub the stairs with soda and soft soap, an awful job in the winter. We all had chapped and red hands and used to cover them in vaseline or Glymiel jelly at night and sleep in cotton gloves.
The servants' rooms were very bare, no heat or built in wash basins, lino on the floors and no rugs. Water for washing themselves had to be fetched from the lower landing in a tall enamel jug as they were at the top of the house.
The ladies employed a chauffeur, groom, 3 gardeners, a farm bailiff and farmboy. The gardens provided all the fresh fruit and veg, peaches, grapes, melons, nectarines, strawberries etc for a very busy kitchen. The milk was brought into the kitchen each day from the farm, poured into pancheons for the cream to settle to be made into butter and the skimmed milk was sold to the villagers for a penny a quart. At this time there were 12 pennies to a shilling which is now 5p. The cook also sold meat dripping from the large joints of meat, it was her pin money.
The ladies maid looked after all the ladies personal needs, help with baths etc, the rest of the time was spent sewing and mending, a lot to do in a large household.
The cook and kitchen staff were always very busy. The gardener brought all the fruit and veg into the kitchen according to the season. In the summer, there were all the jams and preserves to see to, the girls preparing the fruit etc and the cook doing all the easy things. The scullerymaid was always up to the elbows either with sinks full of veg peeling or greasy dishes, soda for washing up and lead lined sinks, no Fairy Liquid. The stockpot was a must in the kitchen, full of bones, veg, egg shells and whatever the cook threw in it. There were a lot of copper saucepans, jelly moulds, fish pans etc which had to be cleaned all the time because of the heat and steam in the kitchen.
The scullery maid set the beetle traps at night and poured boiling water on them in the mornings, they could never get rid of them. If one of the cats managed to get in the front of the house and leave a calling card, the butler would dash about with some burning lavender on a dustpan, no airsprays.
The staff apart from the butler, ladiesmaid and myself rarely saw the ladies except on pay day once a month. I was paid 28/- a month and 2d a week not to break anything as we dealt with all the best china from the dining room and were responsible for washing it up. The head housemaid was paid 18 a year, one half day a week and every other Sunday afternoon off after you had been to church 2 to 3 o'clock.
The laundry, fetched and brought back by horse and cart each week, was done by two old ladies who lived in the laundry house on the estate, a terrific amount of laundry that all came back beautifully starched etc. No electric washing machines, the coppers were coal fired.
I will close by saying I have happy memories of the people I worked with and it was nice to see how the other half lived.



Joseph Thornley Wood and his wife, Harriett Georgiana Peach
standing outside their cottage in Caldwell.
Many thanks to Mary Sharpe, his granddaughter,
for permission to use the photograph.



The clockmender, Joseph Thornley Wood, I believe lived in
Priory Farm Cottage. Thank you to his great grand daughter,
Mary Sharpe, of Heanor, for identifying him.



Grandad and Grandma Wood, the blacksmith's cottage, Caldwell.
Joseph Thornley Wood was also the village blacksmith.
We believe this is a picture of the same Mr Wood when he was older.



'Billy Coxon, the Sparrow Catcher
Lived in one of the cottages, at the top of the village'



'Mr Sewell, waiting with the dog-cart for Miss Blanche Milligan, who drove it once or twice a week.'

Henry Des Voeux's monogram can be seen above the door.







An advertising postcard inscribed
'Grown by Mr. Jos. Swinnerton, Caudwell,
Burton-on-Trent, in 1905
Weight over 56 tons per acre'
This advert for Mr Swinnerton's
Shire horse stallion, "Black Prince",
is from the Burton Mail 1889


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