You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Jane Austen and Servants’ category.

“There! you see!” cried Mary, in an ecstacy; “just as I said! Heir to Sir Walter Elliot! I was sure that would come out, if it was so. Depend upon it, that is a circumstance which his servants take care to publish, wherever he goes. But, Anne, only conceive how extraordinary! I wish I had looked at him more. I wish we had been aware in time who it was, that he might have been introduced to us. What a pity that we should not have been introduced to each other! Do you think he had the Elliot countenance? I hardly looked at him, I was looking at the horses; but I think he had something of the Elliot countenance. I wonder the arms did not strike me! Oh! the great-coat was hanging over the pannel, and hid the arms, so it did; otherwise, I am sure, I should have observed them, and the livery too; if the servant had not been in mourning, one should have known him by the livery.”

Persuasion, Chapter 12.

Last week I bored you all silly by my explanations of livery, the significance of livery colours and how they were worn in Jane Austen’s era by  certain servants of the rich. Today I’d like to consider livery and coaches, for it is an integral part of the livery story and we ought to discuss it for the sake of completeness.

The passage from Persuasion quoted above is so gloriously funny-I love the way this glimpse of William Walter sets Mary Musgrove on to long descriptions of  the Elliot Countenance –( shade of Mrs Austen and the Austen nose, perhaps?)but it draws our attention to how livery was used, and how significant it was. Because Mr Elliot’s servant is in mourning for Mr Elliot’s dead wife,  -he is wearing black, not the usual livery of a coachman-  Mary Musgrove is unable to recognise the orange cuffs and capes of the Elliot livery.  She was also frustrated in making a positive identification of her father’s errant heir by the fact that his Arms, painted onto the side panel of his curricle, are hidden from view by a great-coat.

If you were wealthy enough to afford a carriage and all its attendant expenses, and, of course, you were possessed of Arms, then you could have these painted on your coach to announce to the world just who was the owner of the vehicle.  Jane Austen’s father, George Austen, at one point owned a carriage when they lived at Steventon, and this was decorated with teh Austen crest. In Jane Austen : A Family Record by Deirdre le Faye, we find these comments:

It seems that by now Mr Austen’s income was reasonably good, because entries in his bank account suggest that in the summer of 1784 he brought a chariot- a small carriage drawn by two horses and carrying three passengers- for the benefit of his wife and daughters.

(Page 50)

Anna Austen, the daughter of  Jane’s eldest brother, James Austen, wrote about local rumours that spread about the carriage -which was either new or newly repainted-at the time of her uncle, Henry Austen’s marriage to Eliza de Feuillide in December 1797, and this is also quoted in Le Faye’s book:

About the time of  Mr Henry Austen’s marriage with his first Wife his father set up a carriage which not unnaturally, joe on its panels( pic) the family crest; namely a Stag on a Crown Mural. The latter circumstance was accounted for, in his own way, by a neighbouring Squire, who reported that “Mr Austen had put a coronet on his carriage because of his son’s being married to a French Countess”.

THis is one of George Austen’s bookplates, and it is decorated with the Austen crest,  quite as Anna Austen described it. This would have appeared on his coach, on the side door panel. The squire mentioned by Anna Austen- a Digweed?- obvious was not aware that Mr Austen was entitle to bear his own arms and crest. The glory of the Austen’s coach was short lived: in 1798 it was put away in storage for new taxes imposed on carriage owners made it far too expensive for George Austen to continue to maintain.

If we look at some images of carriage from the time, it will become clear as to where the Arms would have been on show. These images are all taken from my copy of William Felton’s Treaties on Carriagescomprehending coaches, chariots, phaetons, curricles, whiskeys, &c. : together with their proper harness (1794). Fenton was a London coachmaker and his book, in two volumes, gives us a mass of intricate detail as to how  carriages  in the late 18th century were made, complete with all their fittings.

The first we shall consider is a chariot, in this case a neat town chariot.

You can see, and do remember you can enlarge all these images by clicking on them, in order to examine the details, that the coat of arms of the owner and his crest are placed centrally on the door and side panel of the coach. You can appreciate  that the arms and crest of the owner are clearly visible and would be very noticeable to any passer-by.

And here, below, is  an image of an elegant Chariot, very elaborately decorated, but again with the arms of the owner clearly visible on the door panel.

Mr Elliot is riding from Lyme to Bath in a curricle, that smart gentleman-about-town’s vehicle so beloved of Charles Musgrove, who was eager to compare it with his own,

They had nearly done breakfast, when the sound of a carriage (almost the first they had heard since entering Lyme) drew half the party to the window. It was a gentleman’s carriage, a curricle, but only coming round from the stable-yard to the front door — somebody must be going away. It was driven by a servant in mourning.

Here is  Felton’s impression of a Proper Curricle:

The Arms of the owner are shown on the side panel.  These would of course be hidden from view if covered by a coat slung over the side as in Mr Elliott’s case at Lyme.

Here is Felton’s page illustrating the different ways in which Arms could be used to decorate a coach:

They range from the simple to the hideous in my very humble opinion.Here is his price list for adding such ornament to a vehicle :

So, that is why Mary Musgrove’s attempts to identify the owner of the curricle were stymied: in this case neither the arms nor the livery  of the servant could help her because neither were on show.

I ought to tell you, however that, had Mr Elliot been in a larger coach, and  had  he and his servant not been in mourning for his unlamented wife, there was another way to discern the identity of the owner. Hammer clothes, which covered the coachman’s seat and which could be very decorative items, were also another way to identify the family’s livery, as they were often made in livery colours and could be embroidered with representations of the family’s coat of arms. Here is Felton’s description of them:

Hammer-cloths are among the principal ornaments in a carriage; they are a cloth covering to the coachman’s seat, made to various patterns agreeable to the occupier’s fancy. The fullness of the plaiting of the cloth , its depth and the quality of the trimmings thereon proportions the expense (sic-jfw) to almost any amount…

And here are some very elaborate examples:

John Cussans , in The Handbook of Heraldry, tells us  that

The Colours of Hammercloths are regulated by the same laws as liveries.

Page 314.

Now, I have no reference for this but I doubt that a colourful hammer cloth covered in gold or silver lace and made in the heraldic colours of a family’s livery would be on show  at a time of full mourning. If the servant who normally would have worn  livery was dressed in black due to the custom of mourning, then I feel sure that a hammer cloth would also be subdued in hue. So if one had been on display it would still not have helped Mary Musgrove locate the owners identity in the inn- yard at Lyme. But as Mr Elliot was in a curricle and not a larger coach, no hammer cloth was to be seen. Poor Mary, therefore could only rely on her  interpretation of The Elliot Countenance, and the information supplied to them by the waiter.

Liveried servants were the preserve of the rich, and were a status symbol. Their very presence in a household serving at the dining table,  answering the door etc, or more importantly, being visible outside the household- going on their masters’ errands in the street, or adorning a coach-  indicated wealth and status on the part of the employer. We have learnt about the heraldic and historic background to liveries in our last three posts.Today we shall look at these special uniforms as they developed throughout the 18th/early 19th centuries.

The uniforms were expensive, and  in the late 18th/early 19th centuries, they certainly stood out, for they were becoming archaic in style, harking back to a past era. Liveries of the early to mid 18th century still retained a relation to military uniforms and court drew, but that all changed as the century wore on:

At the start of the century the footman’s livery was still relatively close to its origins in military and court dress, evocative of the gentleman retainer.  As the century progressed fashions changed while livery ossified. ..By the 1790s..the kind of silver lace decorations that adorned a velvet livery coat stolen in London in 1795 was almost entirely confined, among civilians at least, to footmen. Livery had become a sartorial fossil albeit one that…was becoming increasingly elaborate and ostentatious in the second half of the century, a trend that may of some way to explain its fossilisation.

(John Styles, The Dress of the People, page 300-301.)

You can see this progression, from fashionable to arctic, in these illustrations, again, all taken from John Styles’ book.

Above is a painting by John Collet from 1763,  illustrating a scene from Townley’s 1759 play High Life below Stairs. Both male servants wear restrained liveries…

Above is a mezzotint from 1772 showing another  below-stairs scene in a grand household: the livery worn by the male servant, shown trying to impress the maid seated at the table, is  now much more elaborate, his waistcoat adorned with much gold lace, as are the facings on his coat, which also sports gold buttons.

And finally we come to our favourite, (well my favourite) debunker of pomposity , Thomas Rowlandson in 1799. Here were have two Country Characters being rather forcibly  “impressed’ by a fancy London footman in his full regalia, gold lace trimmed, note, topped with his powdered wig and bag.

This hair powder was an additional expense for the employer. As we have seen, footmen, in full regalia, wore powdered wigs. A tax on hair powder was levied between 1797 and 1869. This tax was introduced by Pitt  and it was originally envisaged that the tax would raise £200,000 per annum for the Treasury.  Virtually every man at that time either wore a wig which was powdered, or added powder to his own hair. Charles Fox, in opposition to Pitt, thought that the idea was delusional. He understood, quite rightly, that only half a dozen leaders of fashion needed to decide to change the mode of dressing their hair and the object of the tax would be frustrated. The effect of the introduction of the tax was quite dramatic, and was as Fox predicted: most people simply gave up wearing powder in their hair/wigs. Very soon only die-hards and liveried servants wore hair powder. Thus adding to the ever archaic appearance of servants in livery.

It might amuse you to know that  the political opposition ceased to wear hair powder immediately on the introduction of the tax, and took to calling those who still wore the powder “guinea pigs“( in reference to the fee payable to the Treasury). In 1796 the yield for the tax was £210,136 but from then on the number of registered tax payers fell dramatically. By 1855 only liveried servants wore the powder. In that year only 997 servants were registered to be taxed on their powder( 951 in England, and 46 in Scotland). The yield by that time was £100 per year and it was discontinued as being unproductive, and too expensive to collect.

(See : A History of Taxation and Taxes in England by Stephen Dowell).

Not only did the use of powered wigs in livery uniforms add to the archaic effect, it also, among  the ranks of the noveau riche, with their newly commissioned coats of arms, newly purchased houses in town and newly bought country estates, produced the desired effect of  being from ancient lineage and of old money.

In addition to the cost of the livery and the tax on hair power, from 1777 male servants were subject to a special tax. An annual tax of one guinea per male servant was levied by the government. This tax was originally intended to help finance the war against the American’s struggle for independence, but, not surprisingly, the tax was retained after that war had ended. In fact, it may surprise you to learn that it was not repealed until 1937.

So, you can see just how expensive it was for an employer to set up a household with liveried servants.The extra expense of the uniform and the additional taxes paid on them mad ether expensive walking status symbols. And before I end this small series on livery, I have to share with you a set of photographs of some outstanding and extravagant  livery,which explain all the elements I have tried to explain in the last four posts.

This set of livery was commissioned by the 3rd Earl of Ashburnham of Ashburnham Place, Sussex, in 1829 for his installation as Knight of the Garter at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Here are his footmen, in all their splendour, adorned  with their powdered wigs, and wearing a costume(what else can you call it, seeing how theatrical it is?!) based on the colours used  in his Arms- Gules(red)  and Vert (green); and in addition, the gold lace or trimming is replaced by a woven braid made of a repeating pattern of a depiction of  the Arms themselves.

You can see all the heraldic elements are very noticeably in place: he has taken the heraldic themes and run with them, to be brutally honest.

Even the braid festooned from the epaulettes has been woven in his heraldic colours. There is no mistaking that these servants are very definitely in his service, for they are walking advertisement for his ancient and costly lineage.

Yesterday we talked about coats of arms, heraldic colours and how important they were for determining the colours of liveries. Today, let’s look at the practical application of all we learnt.  We know that the colours on a family’s coat of arms (or, more simply,  Arms) were to be used as the colours of their livery uniforms, for…

A gentleman may wear garments of any colour his fancy may dictate but he is not permitted such license with regard to the uniforms of his servants: the colours of these depend entirely upon the tinctures upon his Escutcheon.

(J. Cussans, The Handbook of Heraldry (1869) page 314.)

But how did this work? Cussans tell us…

In both ( the Escutcheon and the livery-jfw) the dominant colour should be the same: the subsidiary colour of the livery ( or as a tailor would call it, the trimmings – that is, the collar, cuffs,  lining and buttons) should be the colour of  the principal charge. 

So, Cussans now gives us some examples:

For example, a gentleman bears arms Azure( Blue-jfw) a Fess Or ( Gold-jfw); in this case the coats of the servants should be blue faced with yellow. But, supposing the tinctures were reversed and that the Field were “or”  and the Fess “azure”,  how then? Would the coat be yellow and the facings blue? No, custom has decided that we must not dress our servants in golden coats. Instead of yellow we should employ drab.

So, in George Austen’s case, had he ever possessed the resources to dress a footman in livery, we can see, from the Austen family coat of arms below,

his livery would  have taken the form of  a drab coat with red facings. This is  because,,on his coat of arms the field( the principal part) is  coloured Or (gold) and as we must not dress our servants in golden coats, the coat would be made in a coat of drab coloured cloth. Note that Drab was not just a single color, but rather a range of colors in the grey-brown family. It is originally thought to refer to the natural color of linen cloth. The Chevron on the arms  is gules(red) and so the facings of the Austen livery coat- the collar, cuffs etc would be red, for that is not the dominant but the secondary colour.

Cussans give us some more examples:

Argent ; a Lion rampant azure. Coat light drab; Facings, blue.


Gules; an Eagle displayed or, within a Bourdure argent Coat, claret or chocolate; Facings, yellow; buttons and Hat-band, silver.


Or; a Fess cheque argent and azure, bewteen a Mullet in chief gules, and a Crescent of the the third in base. Coat, dark drab; Facings, blue; Buttons and Hat -band, silver; and to represent the Mullet, the edges of the coat might be bound with red, or the rim of the hat looped up with red cord.

(Cussans, as above, page 315)

To get back to one of Jane Austen’s characters, we know that Sir Walter Elliot has orange cuffs on his livery:

”Then I take it for granted,” observed Sir Walter, “that his face is about as orange as the cuffs and capes of my livery.”

Persuasion, Chapter 3

Therefore, applying the rules we now know,  this would indicate that the stain ( colour), Tenné ,which is similar to the untutored eye to the colour orange, was included in a secondary way on the Elliot coat of arms. Patric Baty tell us here that this Heraldic colour or tincture had a specific attribute; ambition. I suppose this is very fitting for the socially ambitious Sir Walter, as evidenced by his desperate attempts to be received by Lady Dalrymple in Bath.  I’m sure Jane Austen would be aware of what she was insinuating when she gave his livery orange cuffs and capes.

The details of the livery were also decided by heraldic rules.

Buttons should always be of the dominant metal in the Arms and charged with the master’s Badge- not his crest. The latter belongs exclusively  to the bearers of the Arms; servants have no right whatever to them. 

(Cussans, as above, page 316)

Therefore, George Austen’s servants would wear gold coloured buttons and not silver. Here are some examples of Livery Buttons, from the early to mid 19th century:

It might interest you to note that there were special rules for widow’s servants liveries:

The uniform Livery of widows is white with black facings.

(Cussans, as above, page 315)

Im sure that Lady Russell’s liveried servants at Kellynch lodge would have worn this livery.

There are also special rules regarding the wearing of cockades by servants in their hats:

It is usually held that the privilege ( of a wearing cockades-jfw) is confined to the servants of officers in the Soverign’s service, or those who by courtesy may be regarded as such; the theory being that the servant is a private soldier, who, when not wearing his uniform retains this badge as a mark of his profession.  Doctors’ servants, though  frequently to be seen wearing Cockades, have no right to them whatsoever, unless their master’s names are to be found in the Army or Navy List.

The Cockade worn by the servants of military officers is composed of black leather, arranged in the form of a corrugated cone and surmounted by a cresting like a fan half opened ( fig 327, above). The servants of naval officers, deputy-lieutenants and gentlemen holding distinct offices under the Soverign bear a plain Cockade as at fig.328. In both cases the ribbon in the centre may be either black or of the Livery colours.

Epaulettes could also be part of the livery uniform: but they were only worn by servants of gentlemen who were entitled to have their servants wear Cockades.

The male servant in the double portrait above,  one Daniel Taylor, wears a livery coat of blue with yellow facings, silver buttons and epaulettes of gold. That would indicate that his master was a gentleman, in military service, whose arms had the dominant colour of Azure,(blue) with a secondary colour or Or ( gold) and with some use of Argent ( silver),and this would accord with the fact that his master was  John Frederick Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset (24 March 1745–19 July 1799), a rather dissolute character, but who never the less served teh Crown as an ambassador  and was as Lord Lieutenant of Kent.


This is a fascinating portrait  for it shows Daniel and another female servant, Elinor Low. She does not wear a specific uniform, note. It was painted in 1783 by Arnold Almond and is included in John Styles book, The Dress of the People.

Next, in this series, why servants dressed in liveries were seriously expensive status symbols ;)

In our last post we discussed the life of Susannah Sackree, the nurse to Edward Knight’s children at his Godmersham home. We ought properly take this opportunity to consider what her role in the Knight household most probably entailed….so let’s take a look at the role of the Children’s Nurse in the early 19th century home.

The type of household that could expect to employ a children’s nurse, as opposed to the lesser incarnation of the Nursery-Maid, was one that had an income of at least £2-3000 per annum according to the Hints to the Formation of an Household given in The Complete Servant (1825) by Samuel and Sarah Adams.

The establishment would consist of at least:

Eight Female and eight Men–Servants; viz.- A Cook, Lady’s-Maid, two House-Maids, Nurse, Nursery-Maid, Kitchen-Maid, and Laundry –Maid; with a Butler, Valet, Coachman, Two Grooms A Footman and Two Gardeners.

According to the same source, a Children’s Nurse could expect to be paid between £10-25 per annum. And also had the right to expect to receive perquisites at the christenings of the children in her charge.

The Head Nurse should be expected to be, according to the same book, which was written by two experienced ex-servants,

…of a lively and cheerful disposition, perfectly good tempered, and clean and neat in her habits and person. She ought also to have been accustomed to the care and management of young children as all the junior branches of the family are entrusted to her care and superintendence, confiding in her skill, experience and attention. She usually takes the sole charge of the infant from it’s birth, when the parent suckles it; to assist her in the management of this and the other children in the nursery, she has under nurses assigned to her who are entirely under her control.

The Adams’ give detailed instructions for the day-to-day running of the nursery:

The youngest nurse , or nursery–maid, usually rises about six o’clock to light the fire, and so the household work of the nursery before the children are up, perhaps about seven o’clock, at which time the head nurse is dressed, and ready to bathe and wash them all over with a sponge and warm water; after which they are rubbed quite dry and dressed. This process, when there are several children usually occupies the nurse an hour and a half, when their breakfast is got ready and the children are placed at their meal in the most peaceful and orderly manner. After breakfast, if the weather be favourable, the children are taken out by the assistant nurse or nursery maid for air and exercise, and hour perhaps two, but not so long as to fatigue either of them. On their return, their hands and feet are washed, if damp or dirty, after which they attend to their lessons till dinner time. After dinner if it be fine weather, the children are again taken aboard for air and exercise and on their return again, after having their hands and feet washed, if necessary, they are in due time ,about eight o’clock, dressed and put to bed. The Head Nurse finds ample employment during the whole day in paying due attention to her infant charge in giving directions and in seeing that the whole business of the nursery is properly executed.

The Under-Nurse would attend to the older children in the family, whereas the Head Nurse was always expected to care for the babies:

The Under-Nurse is chiefly engaged in attending to the senior children,and is entirely under the control of the head nurse.She assists in getting them up in the morning, washing and dressing them; attends them at their meals and takes them out for air and exercise, and performs or assists in the performance of all the duties of the nursery, while the head nurse is chiefly engaged with the infant child.

Mrs Taylor, one of my favourite dispensers of advice, in her book,  Practical Hints to Young Females on the Duties of a Wife, A Mother and a Mistress of a Family (1816)

give this advice regarding the ordering of the nursery, which would hold good today:

It is an error very prevalent but much to be deplored, that the nursery of all places should be destitute of neatness. Order, cleanliness and regularity have the happiest influence on the human mind and contribute more to keep the temper placid and the head clear, than many people are aware of. “Let every thing be done decently and in order” is a precept that should be extended from our religious concerns to all the affairs of life; and where this invaluable principle is associated with the habits of childhood, it may reasonably be expected to pervade the subsequent conduct, and contribute largely to individual and domestic happiness. Children who are always accustomed to replace their toys when done with; to make no unnecessary dirt of litter; to be punctual in their observance of time and place; will even from the force of habit, practise the same regularity in the more important concerns, on which the prosperity of future families may depend

Interestingly, Mrs Taylor has this to say about the behaviour of employers to their good and faithful servants:

…let those who are possessed of such a treasure as a good servant, duly estimate their privilege, and be neither too rigid in their requirements, nor too sparing in their rewards. It is poor encouragement to a servant, if she is invariably blamed for what is wrong and never praised for what is right; and some respect should be paid to the feelings of human nature, which will not endure continual chiding, however deserving of it: both praises and rewards should be suitably dispensed; and if, when there is occasion to complain, appeals to reason were more frequent than they generally are, such reproof might have a gradual tendency to improve the character. The old domestic attached to a family, whose best days have been spent in faithful services is a lovely character, and entitled to every indulgence; and when an honest and tractable disposition is observed in the young, self-interest alone would dictate an endeavour to rear a servant of this description, by care and kindness by mingling patience and forbearance with instruction or reproof.

In Susannah Sackree , the Knights had a faithful and well-loved servant who gave service over a period of nearly 60 years. From the affectionate way in which she was written about by members of the family, she was truly, in the words of Mrs Taylor and Lady Catherine, a treasure.

The silhouette, showing Susannah Sackree most probably in the process of knitting socks for one of her many infant charges, if I rightly make out the presence of three knitting needles in her hands, is currently for sale at Hallidays Antiques for the quite modest sum,I suppose as Austen related items go, of £3750

The provenance is impeccable:

This silhouette came into the Rice Family on the marriage of Elizabeth Austen (1800-1884) the second daughter of Edward Austen (later Edward Knight) of Godmersham Park, Kent to Edward Rice of Dane Court, Dover, Kent in 1818 and has remained in the Rice family’s possession ever since.

This is a portrait of Susannah Sackree that currently hangs in the Jane Austen House Museum. Sackree was the much loved nursemaid to the children of Edward Knight and his wife, Elizabeth. She was  engaged by them for the birth of their first child, Fanny, in 1793. She stayed in the family’s employ  at Godmersham in Kent until she died in 1851. She had completed nearly 60 years faithful service by this time.

Lord Brabourne, Fanny Knight’s son and the first editor of Jane Austen’s letters, wrote about Sackree in The Letters of Jane Austen, because she is frequently mentioned by Jane Austen in letters sent to and from Godmersham, and generally , this is done in an affectionate manner:

The “Sackree” of whom such frequent mention is made in the letters from Godmersham was the old nurse of my grandfather’s children, an excellent woman and a great favourite. I remember some of her stories to this day, especially one of a country girl who, on being engaged by the housekeeper of a certain family, inquired if she might “sleep round.” “Sleep round?” was the reply. “Yes, of course; you may sleep round or square, whichever you please, for what I care!” However, after the lapse of a few days, the girl having been kept up for some work or other till ten o’clock, did not appear in the morning. After some delay, the housekeeper, fancying she must be ill, went up to her room about nine o’clock, and finding her fast asleep and snoring soundly, promptly woke her up, and began to scold her for an idle baggage. On this, the girl with an injured air, began to remonstrate, “Why ma’am, you told me yourself I might sleep round, and as I wasn’t in bed till ten o’clock last night, I a’nt a coming down till ten this morning.” Mrs. Sackree went by the familiar name of “Caky,” the origin of which I have been unable to trace, but which was perhaps given to her in the Godmersham nursery by the little ones, who were doing their best to pronounce her real name. She lived on at Godmersham, saw and played with many of the children of her nurslings, and died in March, 1851, in her ninetieth year. Mrs. Sayce was her niece, and my mother’s lady’s-maid, of whom I know no more than that she occupied that honourable position for twelve years, married a German in 1822, and died at Stuttgard in 1844. Sackree succeeded her as housekeeper when she left Godmersham.

Sackree once even managed to visit St James Palace, the scene of Sir William Lucas’s rise to the heady rank of Knight, as Jane Austen somewhat ruefully related to Cassandra Austen:

I told Sackree that you desired to be remembered to her, which pleased her; and she sends her duty, and wishes you to know that she has been into the great world. She went on to town after taking William to Eltham, and, as well as myself, saw the ladies go to Court on the 4th. She had the advantage indeed of me in being in the Palace.

(Letter to Cassandra Austen written from Godmersham, dated Wednesday June 15, 1808.)

Professor R .W. Chapman in his edition of Jane Austen’s letters speculates that Sackree may have gained entrance  into St James Palace due to the influence of Mrs Charles Fielding,who was W0man of the Bedchamber to Queen Charlotte and had apartments in St James Palace.Mrs Fielding was related by marriage to Elizabeth Knight’s family, the Bridges of Goodnestone, also in Kent.

A devout Christian, when she died Sackree was interred in the graveyard of the Godmersham estate’s parish church, the Church of St Lawrence the Martyr,and hee headstone was carved with passages that she requested:

“Flee from evil,and do the thing that is good

For the Lord loves the thing that is good”

“Keep Innocency and take heed the thing that is right; for that shall bring a man peace at the last”

“My dearest Friends I leave behind

Who were to me so good and kind

The Lord I hope will all them bless

And my poor soul will be at rest”

Here is a photograph of her prayer-book, which is also on show at the Jane Austen House Museum.

The Knight family had a tablet in remembrance of Sackree installed on the north buttress of the Chancel in St Lawrence’s,and it reads:


memory of


the faithful servant and friend

for nearly 60 years

of Edward Knight Esquire of Godmersham Park

and the beloved nurse of all his children

She died deeply lamented on the 2nd March

A.D. 1851

in the ninetieth year of her age.

Those readers of Jane Austen who still persist in thinking that she and her class failed to make mention of  their servants, due perhaps to some form of snobbish neglect, might care to reconsider that after reading all the affectionate mentions  of this obviously much-loved family servant.

This is the final part of my series of posts on a Christmas visit to Jane Austen’s House, her beloved Chawton Home. We have already seen inside, downstairs and upstairs and so now let have a look at the garden in winter and the outbuildings.

This is the view of the rear of the house. You can clearly see its basic “L’ shape , plus all the other additions made to the structure over the years.

The building that could be clearly seen from Jane Austen and Cassandra’s bedroom was the Bakehouse, a very important part of the Chawton Cottage domain.

Just outside the bake house was the well….which was needed to provide copious amounts of water

for the laundry,which was done in the Bakehouse too. This is the ‘copper’ :the bricks house a copper container. A fire would be lit underneath and the cottons boiled in the upper compartment, now covered with a wooden lid. I remember my grandmother -who had a similar room  in her domestic offices- having her laundry done in this way by a team of people .As a tiny child I was allowed to watch the complex operation of boiling, mangling and starching. Seems a million years ago now…..

The baking for the Austen household took place here too…..

And the proximity of the well and the copper made the Bakehouse the perfectly practical place for boiling water  for scalding the skins of slaughtered pigs. 18th century self sufficiency sounds delightful but having salted a pig once I can confirm it’s not something I’d like to do on a regular basis. Nor indeed is the time tyranny of always producing bread for a household something I’d like to revert to(I tried that once by hand for a few weeks and gave up:then I bought a bread maker!)

The other occupant of the Bakehouse is Mrs Austen’s donkey carriage which I have written about here in a previous post. Its interesting to note that Jane Austen in her final illness didn’t relish driving the cart, which would accommodate two not very large people. She had a saddle made for the donkey and prefered to use this as a sort of Georgian mobility scooter, and this enabled her to still walk with Cassandra around the lanes she loved so well, being a confessed “desperate walker”.

To the rear of the Bakehouse are new additions to the museum complex. New rooms where lectures and receptions can be held. The museum has been in need of these facilities for years and I am so glad that they now have a splendid space in which to raise funds and educate.

If we go under the great yew tree at the side of the house we then arrive at the garden proper…..

…past the entrance to the house and the Gothic window…..

To look out onto the garden, covered in snow… looking towards the lane that leads to Chawton House.

And the lovely Regency- style tree seat…a pleasant spot in summer but chilly now….

If we turn back toward the house, this time we shall enter by the door on the left……

…into the newly refurbished kitchen……

With its restored range

…where the Austen’s meals would have been prepared…..

And where the laundry would have been ironed…..

And the griddle where scores would have been made

Some early 19th century pearlware in the “Two Trees” pattern..waiting for some Twinings tea……

This is the view from the kitchen towards the Bakehouse and the old barn which is now the entrance to the museum and a wonderfully stocked shop,where certain purchases were made for next year’s AO Great Anniversary Giveaway (D.V.)

The kitchen was restored with the help and excellent advice of Peter Brears,whose new book about jellies I reviewed here last week. And there are some wonderful early 19th century jelly moulds on show in the kitchen on a small sideboard…

Including a lovely pineapple…….

Martha Lloyd’s recipe book is of course one of the treasures of the museum. Her recipes must have been prepared in this room. It’s all rather wonderful to think that her recipes and the room are now all  in working order and available for us to see, food being such an important part of Jane Austen’s novels and letters.

If we leave the cosy kitchen and the garden we look out onto the road that now leads to the Selbourne road, with the Greyfriars pub on the right….

And we come to the front of the house ,where the Austen’s blocked up one of the windows in order to give them more privacy. And where there are now two plaques: one commemorating Mr Carpenter who gave the house to the Jane Austen Memorial Trust.

And this rather beautiful tablet with its apt wording:

Jane Austen

lived here from 1809-1817

and hence all her works

Were sent to the world

Her admirers in this country

and in America have united

to erect this tablet.

Such art as hers

Can never grow old

And that ends my Christmas jaunt around Jane Austen’s House Museum for this time. I thought you might like to see it in its winter and Christmas finery,a change from the summer pictures we see all the time. I am planning to go back next year,so there will be some more conventional images for you to see then ;)

In our first introductory post in this series we considered the scope of the book, The Duties of a Lady’s Maid (1826). Before we go any further in this series, where we are going to examine the advice given in that book, we ought perhaps clarify exactly what we mean by a Lady’s Maid and her Duties.

The Complete Servant by Samuel and Sarah Adams (1825) is a wonderful resource,freely available as a reprint by Southover Press and on Google Books . It records  in great detail the role and duties of nearly every servant you coud possibly imagine existing in an early 19th century household(and many whom you could not imagine possibly existed!).

This book is one example of the genre of books designed to give advice not only to the servant but also to the growing number of the middling sort who needed to learn from books and not family experience exactly what their servants needed to be able to do to run the household smoothly (Mrs Cole in Emma should have taken note!) Of course some books were more helpful than others..John Armstrong’s book ,The Young Woman’s Guide to Happiness (circa 1815)

has this very brief summation of the duties of a lady’s maid:

No one ought to pretend to be properly qualified to fill the office of lady’s maid unless her education has been tolerably good; for being obliged to be near her lady, she is often required to read and to do some fine pieces of needlework. It is her duty to study her lady’s temper, to answer civilly and always to evince the most ready compliance with the orders she receives; she ought also on all occasions to defend her lady’s character to avoid repeating what may have been communicated in a moment of frankness and not to do anything  that has the least appearance of countenancing an intrigue.

and that is all it and to say on the subject despite being a tome of over 600 pages!

Samuel and Sarah Adams’ book reflects the fact that they had both worked in service and intended their book to be helpful and very practical for the use of  both servants and employer. Its fine detail left no one on either side of the divide-master or servant- in any doubt as to the extent and limits of their duties and responsibilities. This is what they had to say about the basic duties of the lady’s maid:

The business of a Lady’s Maid is extremely simple and but little varied. She is generally to be near the person of her lady and to be properly qualified to for her situation her education should be superior to that of the ordinary class of females, particularly in needlework and the useful and ornamental branches of female acquirements…

It will be her business to dress, re-dress, and undress her lady; and in this, she should learn to be particularly au fait and expeditious, ever studying, so far as it depends upon herself, to manifest good taste by suiting the ornaments of and decoration of her dress to the complexion habits age and general appearance of her person. Thus she will evince her own good sense, best serve her lady and gratify all those who are most interested in her welfare and happiness. She should alway be punctual in her attendance and assiduous in her attention.

Her first business, in the morning will be to see that the house-maid has made the fire and properly prepared her lady’s dressing room:- she then calls her mistress, informs her of the hour and having laid out all her clothes ,and carried her hot water to wash, she retires to her breakfast with the housekeeper and other principal servants. When her lady’s bell rings, she attends her in the dressing room- combs her hair for the morning, and waits on her till dressed; after which she folds and puts away her night-clothes, cleans her combs and brushes and adjusts her toilet table:- she then retires to her workroom to be ready if wanted and employes herself in making and altering dresses, millinery etc. About one o’clock the family generally take their lunch and the servants their dinner.-After this she is again summoned to attend her lady’s toilet whilst dressing to go abroad. When gone, she again adjusts her clothes and everything in the  room and lays out and prepares the several articles that may be required for her dinner or evening dress and afterwards employs herself at needlework in her own room or in her other avocations to dress for dinner, perhaps about five when she attends her for that purpose; and having done this it may happen that no further attendance on her mistress’ person will be required till she retires to bed: meanwhile she employes herself at needlework as in the morning or else in the various occupations of getting up the fine linen quazes, muslins cambrics laces etc and washing silk stockings taking the spots or stains out of silks etc etc

It is for  her to see that the housemaid or the chamber maid empties the slops, keep up the fires both in this and the bedroom (if wanted) and keeps the rooms in perfect order. Previous to her mistress retiring for the night she will have looked out her night clothes and aired them well; and she will not only now but at all times when she goes to dress carry up hot water for washing etc and when she is gone to bed she will carefully examine all her clothes and do all that is necessary to be done to them before she folds them away.

So these are the basic duties. I’m certain that the anonymous author of The Duties of a Lady’s Maid will add to this less than exhaustive list over the next few weeks…..

The question arises, exactly what sort of income would you need to employ one of these beings? In The Complete Servant we are given details of the household income that could afford to employ such a servant for the lady of the house. The income that could support the employment of a lady’s maid was quite high: it began at  £2000 and rose to £3000 per annum. Mr Bennet is in that bracket-just-,but many female characters in Jane Austen’s works most  certianly are not:  the Dashwood ladies,the Bates’s ,Jane Fairfax and of course, Jane Austen herself.

Income per annum £200o-3000.  Eight female and eight male servants. viz- A cook, Lady’s Maid, two House Maids, Nurse, Nursery Maid, Kitchen maid, Laundry maid, with a Butler,Valet, Coachman, two Grooms, a Footman, and two Gardeners.

Whereas the estimate given in another publication, Practical Domestic Ecomomy (1825)

tends to err towards the top end of that income bracket. It does not consider an income of £2000 per annum as sufficient to support the luxury of a lady’s maid. The first income it considers sufficient to support the luxury of adding a lady’s maid to the household is £3000 per annum:

Appropriate to an Income of £3000 per annum. The Family consisting of a Gentleman, his lady and Three Children; with an Establishment of Eight Make and Eight Female servants: in all Twenty -one persons-A Coach or Chariot, a Curricle and Six Horses…..

Eight Female servants viz:


Lady’s Maid




Second Ditto

Laundry Maid

Kitchen Maid.

Next in this series we shall be considering the conduct book elements of the publication and comparing them with the advice on conduct to be found in books written for and by male servants.

One of my correspondents was searching though the Antiquarian Section of the Library here on this site recently and asked if it was possible to write a series of posts where extracts from the books are presented and commented upon. Your word, my dear reader, is my command.  And therefore each week (D.V) or so I hope to take extracts from one book and comment on it. The first book my correspondent suggested we study is The Duties of a Lady’s Maid (1825),as we have not really considered Jane Austen and servants for quite some time.

Lady’s maids are rarely mentioned  by Jane Austen in her works, probably on the assumption that her contemporary audience took it for granted that her wealthier characters would automatically employ one. But they are not totally invisible. Where they are mentioned is interesting:Darcy assumes that Elizabeth Bennet is travelling with her maid when she is overcome with grief at the news that Lydia has eloped while at the inn at Lambton in Pride and Prejudice. In Emma, our eponymous heroine has a maid,who is clearly a lady’s maid in its fullest sense, while the impoverished Bates family – mother and daughter employ only a maid of all work, a very different creature. The wealthy Mrs Jennings, with her ample portion, has a maid in Sense and Sensibility with whom she gossips when no other congenial soul is close at hand. Also in Sense and Sensibility poor Eliza has a treacherous lady’s maid who betrayed  her plan to elope to Scotland with the brave and sensitive Colonel Brandon, prior to her disastrous wedding to the Colonel’s  cruel brother. In Mansfield Park Lady Bertram’s maid, Mrs Chapman,was dispatched to assist Fanny in dressing her for her ball, but of course having sent her to Fanny  with her usual characteristic negligence, Lady Bertram ensured that she arrived too late to be of any practical use. Oh,well, at least some semblance of caring thought was there… Also in Mansfield Park Mrs Rushworth senior’s maidservant who had exposure in her power, sold her story with the aid of her employer to the newspapers helping to bring shame and disgrace on the wayward Mrs Rushworth Junior (nothing changes in this world does it?)In Northanger Abbey both the elegant Miss Tilney and the fashoin obsessed Mrs Allen( naturally)have maids.

This is an interesting and rather rare book, its full title is The Duties of a Lady’s Maid with Directions for Conduct and Numerous Receipts for the Toilette . It was published by James Bulcock of 163 the Strand in London in  1825. I think it will be interesting to read it,  little by little, and to compare it with other texts relating to the duties of lady’s maids, such as The Complete Servant by Samuel and Sarah Adams also published in 1825, and with such examples  of maid’s duties and conduct as appear in Jane Austen’s six complete novels.

The first half of the book,which contains 328 pages in all, is a conduct book with detailed instructions to the prospective ladies maid as to how to  live her life as a servant:how her religion should direct her, how the qualities of honesty and probity ,diligence and economy are essential traits. How to maintain a correct amount of familiarity with her Superiors, keep family secrets and restrain her vanity in dress. It also contains chapters on which amusements are appropriate for a lady’s maid to pursue, how to speak correctly and avoid vulgarity in her manner of speech, how to deal with her current and prospective employers when considering a change of place and how to communicate the news of any little love affairs  she may conduct(which, of course, only related to offers of marriage made to the maid, not to any lesser liaisons)

The second part of the book gives detailed instructions and practical information that a girl aiming to be the best possible lady’s maid in the universe might find essential. The subjects covered include taste in the colours of dress,(colour blind maids clearly need not apply), the use of artificial flowers,taste in the forms of dress,the dangers of stays and corsets, how to use padding and bandages to improve the figure, the most advantageous way to display the forehead, taste in headresses, taste in dressing the hair,practical directions for hairdressing,  Cosmetics( with receipts), Paints, Rouge, The Use ands Abuse of soap,Dressmaking and Fancy Needlework,Care of the Wardrobe, the Method of taking out Stains and finally, some essential information….the correct Method of Clear Starching

Apart from the frontispiece there are no illustrations in the book; the lady’s maid who depended upon this volume was required therefor to posses a high degree of literacy and imagination if she is to successfully recreate some of the instructions in this book.

Next time we shall look at the actual duties required of a lady’s maid, and how her religion might help her in performing her tasks.

If you are not a Wordpress member, just add your email here to subscribe to this site.

An Invitation to Visit our Sister Site: A Jane Austen Gazetteer

Visit our sister site: A Jane Austen Gazetteer

Click on the image above to visit our Sister Site: A Jane Austen Gazetteer

An Invitation to Visit our Sister Site: Jane Austen’s Letters

Visit our sister site: Jane Austen's Letters

Click on the image above to visit our Sister Site: Jane Austen's Letters

Join Austen Only on Twitter

Recently Tweeted

Austenonly on Pinterest

Follow Me on Pinterest


Copyright Notice

Copyright: This site and all images and information complied within are copyright unless otherwise stated/attributed.No permission is given/implied for any use of this site, the information and images contained therein, for any commercial use whatsoever. No material may be copied in any form without first obtaining written permission of the author, save that extracts of posts may be used on other non-commcerial sites on the internet, provided that full and clear credit is given to with appropriate and specific direction to the original content( that is, a link must be provided to the original post/image with full attribution ). The existence of the RSS or ATOM feeds in no way authorises wholesale or part transmission of posts or parts of posts to another site without prior permission being given and attribution stated. Any sites using RSS or ATOM feeds in this way without obtaining prior written permission of the author of this blog will be subject to legal action.

Currently Reading

Jane Austen’s Guide to Modern Life’s Dilemmas by Rebecca Smith

Jane Austen’s Guide to Modern Life’s Dilemmasby Rebecca Smith

Recently Read

James Wyatt, Architect to George III by John Martin Robinson

James Wyatt, Architect to George III by John Martin Robinson

Uvedale Price (1747-1829): Decoding the Picturesque” by Charles Watkins and Ben Cowell

Uvedale Price (1747-1829): Decoding the Picturesque” by Charles Watkins and Ben Cowell

"The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy” by Hannah Glasse, published by Prospect Books.

"The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy” by Hannah Glasse, published by Prospect Books.

The Letters of Mrs Lefroy: Jane Austen’s Beloved Friend, edited by Helen Lefroy and Gavin Turner

The Letters of Mrs Lefroy: Jane Austen’s Beloved Friend, edited by Helen Lefroy and Gavin Turner

Understanding Jane Austen: Key Concepts in the Six Novels

Understanding Jane Austen: Key Concepts in the Six Novels

The London Square by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan

The London Square” by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan

"What Matters in Jane Austen?:Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved" by John Mullan

"What Matters in Jane Austen?:Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved" by John Mullan

May, Lou and Cass: Jane Austen's Nieces in Ireland by Sophia Hillan

May, Lou and Cass: Jane Austen's Nieces in Ireland by Sophia Hillan

An Introduction to the Tokens at the Foundling Museum” by Janette Bright and Gillian Clarke

An Introduction to the Tokens at the Foundling Museum” by Janette Bright and Gillian Clarke

Vauxhall Gardens: A History by David Coke and Alan Borg

Vauxhall Gardens: A History by David Coke and Alan Borg

Facing Beauty: Painted Women and Cosmetic Art by Aileen Ribeiro

Facing Beauty: Painted Women and Cosmetic Art by Aileen Ribeiro

Johan Zoffany by Mary Webster

Johan Zoffany by Mary Webster

Bergere,Poke and Cottage: Understanding Early Nineteenth Century Headwear  by Serena Dyer

Bergere,Poke and Cottage: Understanding Early Nineteenth Century Headwear” by Serena Dyer

The First Actresses: Nell Gwyn to Sarah Siddons by Gill Perry with Joseph Roach and Shearer West

The First Actresses: Nell Gwyn to Sarah Siddons by Gill Perry with Joseph Roach and Shearer West

Jane Austen's Letters (4th Edition) edited by Deirdre Le Faye

Jane Austen's Letters (4th Edition) edited by Deirdre Le Faye

Ice Cream by Ivan Day

Ice Cream by Ivan Day

Rooms With a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century by Sabine Rewald

Rooms With a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century by Sabine Rewald

Pastel Portraits of 18th Century Europe by Katharine Baetjer and Marjorie Shelly

Pastel Portraits of 18th Century Europe by Katharine Baetjer and Marjorie Shelly

The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock

The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock

The Eighteenth Century Church in Britain by Terry Friedman

The Eighteenth Century Church in Britain by Terry Friedman

Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion 1795-1815 by Christina Barreto and Martin Lancaster

Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion 1795-1815 by Christina Barreto and Martin Lancaster

Regarding Thomas Rowlandson: His Life, Art and Acquaintance by Matthew and James Payne

Regarding Thomas Rowlandson: His Life, Art and Acquaintance by Matthew and James Payne

The Omnipotent Magician:Lancelot "Capability" Brown by Jane Brown

The Omnipotent Magician:Lancelot "Capability" Brown by Jane Brown

The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, Second Edition.

The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, Second Edition.

Thomas Rowlandson: Pleasures and Pursuits in Georgian England, edited by Patricia Phagan

Thomas Rowlandson: Pleasures and Pursuits in Georgian England, edited by Patricia Phagan

Ralph Allen, Builder of Bath by Diana Winsor

Ralph Allen, Builder of Bath by Diana Winsor

Fashioning Fashion European Dress in Detail 1700-1915

Fashioning Fashion European Dress in Detail 1700-1915

Jellies and their Moulds by Peter Brears

Jellies and their Moulds by Peter Brears

Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance

Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance

Sir Thomas Lawrence by Michael Levey

Sir Thomas Lawrence by Michael Levey

The Georgian Buildings of Bath by Walter Ison

The Georgian Buildings of Bath by Walter Ison

The Catalogue to the Chatsworth Attic Sale

The Catalogue to the Chatsworth Attic Sale

State Beds and Throne Canopies:Care and Conservation by Val Davies

State Beds and Throne Canopies:Care and Conservation by Val Davies

 The English Parsonage in the Early Nineteenth Century by Timothy Brittain-Catlin

The English Parsonage in the Early Nineteenth Century by Timothy Brittain-Catlin

The Secret History of Georgian London: How the Wages of Sin Shaped the Capital by Dan Cruickshank

The Secret History of Georgian London: How the Wages of Sin Shaped the Capital by Dan Cruickshank

London's Country Houses by Caroline Knight

London's Country Houses by Caroline Knight

Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill by Michael Snodin

Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill by Michael Snodin

Quilts 1700-2010: Hidden Histories, Untold Stories by Sue Prichard

Quilts 1700-2010: Hidden Histories, Untold Stories by Sue Prichard

Mrs Delany's Menus, Medicine and Manners by Katherine Cahill

Mrs Delany's Menus, Medicine and Manners by Katherine Cahill

Mrs Delany and her Circle by Mark Laird and Alicia Weisberg-Roberts

Mrs Delany and her Circle by Mark Laird and Alicia Weisberg-Roberts

The Brabourne Edition of Jane Austen's Letters at CUP (Vol 1)

The Brabourne Edition of Jane Austen's Letters at CUP (Vol 1)

The Brabourne Edition of Jane Austen's Letters at CUP (Vol 2)

Birds of Passage: Henrietta Clive's Travels in South India 1798-1801

Birds of Passage: Henrietta Clive's Travels in South India 1798-1801 edited by Nancy K Shields

Enterprising Women and Shipping in the 19th Century by Helen Doe

Enterprising Women and Shipping in the 19th Century by Helen Doe

Over a Red Hot Stove edited by Ivan Day

Over a Red Hot Stove edited by Ivan Day

Coke of Norfolk 1754-1843: A Biography

Coke of Norfolk 1754-1843: A Biography by Susanna Wade Martins

Georgian Jewellery 1714-1830

Georgian Jewellery 1714-1830 by Ginny Redington Dawes and Olivia Collings

Paul Sandby: Picturing Britain

Paul Sandby: Picturing Britain Edited by John Bonehill and Stephen Daniels

Silhouette: The Art of Shadow by Emma Rutherford

Silhouette: The Art of Shadow by Emma Rutherford

The Dress of the People by John Styles

The Dress of the People by John Styles

Behind Closed Doors by Amanda Vickery

Behind Closed Doors by Amanda Vickery

The Compleat Housewife by Eliza Smith, Chawton Edition

The Compleat Housewife by Eliza Smith, Chawton Edition

A New System of Domestic Cookery by Maria Rundell

A New System of Domestic Cookery by Maria Rundell

Austenonly Flickr

July 2018
« Nov    
Protected by Copyscape plagiarism checker - duplicate content and unique article detection software.
Creative Commons License
This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.
UK Blog Directory
wordpress counter
%d bloggers like this: