Labor Day and Chatsworth
To make a long and painful story short, it finally occurred to the Duke to offer Hardwick Hall to the government in lieu of duty. Even when the government agreed and handed it over to the National Trust it still took six years to complete the negotiations
This information is from THE HOUSE: Living at Chatsworth by The Duchess of Devonshire (Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford Cavendish), a charming very personal account of the life and history of one of the greatest of the Great Houses.
It was and is a formidable task to make The House run smoothly.
Here is the Duchess’s list of the staff in middle of the 20th century before the death duties complicated life: the butler, the Duke’s valet, the under butler, the groom of chambers, two footmen, steward’s room footman, housekeeper, the Duchess’s maid, head housemaid, two second housemaids, two third housemaids, two fourth housemaids, two fifth housemaids, two sixth housemaids, two sewing women, cook, first kitchen maid, second kitchen maid, vegetable maid, two or three scullery maids, two still room maids, dairy maid, six laundry maids, Duchess’s secretary. All of these people lived in the house. The upholster, sculleryman, two scrubbing women, laundry porter, steam boiler man, coal man, two porter’s lodge attendants, two nigh firemen, night porter and two window cleaners came in daily. (from Page 54)
One small cog in this giant machine is the laundry. The head laundry maid met weekly with the housekeeper to discuss what specialty linens were needed for the week, what equipment and linens were aging and needed replacement and to discuss her junior maids.
The laundry porter’s sole job was to carry heavy baskets wherever they needed to go. (An aside: this ranks right up there with the man at Burghley who walks the roof everyday. I bet they had one of those at Chatsworth too.)
Some of the tablecloths were fourteen yards long and took four people to fold them. Napkins were a yard square. Irons of several different sizes were heated on the fire and the large ones, weighing fourteen pounds, were used to give a gloss to the damask (Oh so that’s how you do that!)
The account of one laundry maid includes the following: “Monday: Up at 5AM to mangle sheets ready for ironing. After breakfast wash personal items for Lady Anne, Lord Charles and Miss Saunders. In the afternoon started ironing, went on until 7 or 8 o’clock. Tuesday: Iron all day. Wednesday: Iron all day including personal items.” (page 62) . These women did not need the gym to develop muscles in their upper arms.
For this she was paid (in 1920’s) 30 pounds A YEAR plus 18s a week board and wages. She had one week and one weekend holiday per annum.
Happy Labor Day. In appreciation and celebration I am going to iron tonight while I watch The Closer and Saving Grace. How about you?