Fringe Box



Life Was Hard In Victorian Times For The ‘Downstairs’ Staff

Published on: 14 Jun, 2016
Updated on: 14 Jun, 2016

From Fairlands WI

WI logoUnlike as seen in TV drama series such as Downton Abbey, there were huge numbers of servants skivvying for the rich families in their great houses.

The television companies could not have employed enough extras to portray what life was really like in Victorian times.

When a servant started work in a large household they often had to pay for their uniforms. That took two years of wages, so they were in fact slaves rather than servants.

Their lives were conducted largely out of sight of the families. They hurried up and down the back stairs and through underground tunnels to supply the needs of their employers.

The “upstairs” staff considered themselves superior but they did not fare much better. Until the First World War, servants often ended up in the workhouse after working for their whole lives in service.

After the war, service did not seem such a good choice of career. Households were diminished and nursing and shop work became much more respectable. Men who had returned from the front had seen new horizons and wanted a better life for themselves.

Dr Judy Hill was the speaker at the June meeting of Fairlands WI and hearing about the travails of our ancestors made its members count their blessings.

On June 12 the WI providing a cup of tea and a slice of cake at the Queen’s 90th Birthday Party. The picnic took at Fairlands Community Centre.

Sandra Morgan who is a founder member, has reported back to the WI from Worplesdon Parish Council. The roundabout at the Holly Lane junction was discussed. The weeds have been cleared recently and a membrane and gravel covering put in place.

Apparently the plan was to plant shrubs in September, but it was thought would only result in more weeds taking over. Perhaps it would be best to leave it plain, although the unsightly wall around it remains a bone of contention. Sandra is hosting a bring and share lunch in August in her garden.

Some members recently went to Smithbrook Kilns near Cranleigh on an enjoyable excursion, and an outing to a knitting and craft exhibition at Alexandra Palace being organised by the Spike WI group and an invitation had been extended to Fairlands members to join them.

On July 13 there will be a demonstration by member Jill Stedman.  She will show how to arrange a table centrepiece. The competition will be for a posy or flower arrangement of any size.

Fairlands WI meets on the second Wednesday of each month at Fairlands Community Centre starting at 8pm. Visitors to meetings pay a nominal sum of £2. If you are interested in finding out more about us, call Jenny Page, president, on 01483 538426 or Angela Linington, secretary, on 01483 233967.

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