The important role of the Victorian Butler in Victorian Britain
Large numbers of servants played a crucial part in the functioning of the upper and middle class homes during the Victorian period. At the same time a large body of servants engaged by families were regarded as a status symbol and sign of wealth.
The Butler was a key member in large Victorian household and if there was no Steward he was the most senior male servant. He was one of highest paid servants and becoming a Butler was the pinnacle of a man’s career in service. As a senior “upper servant” he was directly answerable to the master of the house in charge of all male servants including the footmen and valets. Like the housekeeper he needed to be reliable, discreet and trustworthy.
The household itself was generally divided into areas of responsibility and the butler was in charge of the dining room, the wine cellar, pantry and sometimes the entire main floor. The butler’s role in a household was an ancient one and his title derives from the French bouteillier meaning a servant who looked after bottles and casks but by the Victorian period his role had grown and in many households the butler was an awesome figure, respected and sometimes feared. At the same time some Butlers were criticized and dismissed for their dishonesty and insobriety - all will be revealed!
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About the speaker: Judy has lectured in adult education, for the WEA, various historical societies in the UK and overseas, and taught history at the University of Surrey. In 2007 she was awarded her PhD researching poverty and unrest in Surrey 1815-1834. She has published several articles on emigration to Canada, the agricultural riots of 1830 to 1832 and 19thcentury cholera in Britain. Judy is now a freelance lecturer and researcher.
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