Bonus Episode 34 - The INSIDES of The Great English Country Houses

Dec 22 / Charlie Baxter

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What's this episode about?

In this episode Charlie and Ben continue to talk about the history of The Great English Country Houses. This time they head inside the house and discuss the roles of certain members of staff and what the interior of the houses was like. Remember that these country houses that often feature in popular British TV dramas are important as the present culture of Britain was affected by the way of life in these large houses. Enjoy this second episode of a miniseries that will further your understanding of British culture.

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Transcript of Bonus Episode 034 - Transcript

Charlie:
Hello, listener. Charlie here to give you the next episode in the mini series of the great English country houses. This is part of a history heavy mini series that I wanted to create for you in the hope of rediscovering the significance of these stately homes and what came with them, such as the class based system that is still part of the British culture that we know of today. Now, the older I get, the more interested in history I am. But I remember how quickly I used to switch off when people started to talk about the years things happened and the past that seemingly didn't affect me in the now. But my aim was to make these episodes as accessible as possible for those of you who are less bothered about the past. So if you keep in mind how this way of life that we're about to talk about really has shaped the culture that we know of today in the UK, then I reckon it will be a bit more engaging for you because personally throughout this mini series I've had a bit of a realisation about how the structures in place throughout the last few centuries really do connect to the present day. So while I can't assume you haven't realised this yet, I would like to reinforce the point that I think this stuff is worth listening to if you want to better understand British culture today, so you are about to join the conversation I am having with Ben Marks, the friend and historian that lives Down Under about the inside or the general happenings that went on inside the great English country houses. Oh, and if you haven't listened to the first episode in the mini series, then do check that one out, which was called something along the lines of the origins of the great English country houses. Right? That's enough of an intro. Enjoy. Am I right in saying, Ben, that a typical household could have up to a dozen or more staff, including the butler, housekeeper, chef or cook, and at least one kitchen maid, Or, and at least two or three housemaids? Yeah? I mean, there's probably more than that, right?

Ben:
The average British sort of country house had between 15 and 20 internal staff. I mean, that was probably about average. There were some houses, some of the biggest houses. You know, there was one called Petworth House in Surrey that you can still visit today I believe had 300 internal staff.

Charlie:
Very near where I grew up.

Ben:
Is that right? Oh, where did you grow up?

Charlie:
Guildford in Surrey.

Ben:
Oh, was that nice and posh?

Charlie:
The village that I lived in, it was delightful. One of the best kept villages of England in 2009.

Ben:
Now, that is a proper English thing, if I've ever heard one. Have you ever seen Hot Fuzz? [Yeah] Fuzz. The whole thing in that is basically that they're going for the Best Kept Village award, aren't they? Yeah. Yeah. And there's a whole conspiracy to make sure that they win it.

Charlie:
Yeah.And there were murders in Horsley as well.

Ben:
That was based on your town. [Yeah]. All right, so we're just going to talk about a bit of staff in these households, the servants, as it were. So essentially what we had was in these great houses was we had an upstairs and we had a downstairs, and that's become a colloquial term and it was a colloquial term at the time. There was even a TV show called Upstairs Downstairs. Obviously the wealthy aristocratic family lived upstairs and the servant class and all of the staff lived downstairs.

Charlie:
And when you say downstairs, Below deck, below the, like, ground floor. In the basement?

Ben:
In essence, they would work in the lowest levels of the house, which were often underground.

Charlie:
But then they would live right up top, right?

Ben:
Exactly. When we say upstairs, downstairs, I suppose we're talking about the daytime because at night the servants often lived in the attics.

Charlie:
Yeah. So it's kind of like a switch.

Ben:
Yeah. And they lived in the attics because this was the area of the house that was the most poky, I suppose and...

Charlie:
I don't know. I don't know if I use that word - Pokey.

Ben:
Oh, that might be an Aussie word, actually. It just means a bit sort of small and not very nice. [Okay]. They would basically relegate them to the smallest area of the house and the least comfortable area of the house. It was often freezing in winter and boiling hot in summer because they were just below the roof boards in the in the ceiling and the attics.

Charlie:
That's where my sister used to sleep. [Yeah]. Actually, I had the downstairs bedroom, which was really cool. And my sister was in the attic. It was boiling.

Ben:
Oh yeah. I had a friend growing up in exactly the same situation. We'd go around to his house after school and he had the attic divided into two rooms. One was his sort of study and recreational room. The other was his bedroom. And I remember sitting up there and I just said, We've got to go.

Speaker4:
We got to go!

Ben:
It's just too. And sometimes he'd say.

Charlie:
Not like can you crack a window?

Ben:
No, no, we got to go. This was beyond cracking a window. Honestly, I don't know if he ever brought girls back there, but if they brought them back there in the summer, I don't think there was going to be a second sleepover. [Oh, dear]. That's sort of how the house was structured in terms of where everybody lived and worked. So the servants actually worked downstairs. So all of the the servants rooms that they worked in were below stairs, so to speak.

Charlie:
Was there an aim for that, like why they stayed there?

Ben:
Yep. So basically this was in order to keep the servants out of sight, out of mind. The idea was that the servants would be invisible. They entered the house through a back door, often below ground, and they had systems of getting around the house where they weren't seen by the family or any of their equivalent ranked visitors. So they would have very small twisting staircases behind the walls, which they used to go between the levels.

Charlie:
This isn't where like secret rooms from bookcases comes from, do you think?

Ben:
You know, it might be that they had secret servant entrances. That is highly possible.

Charlie:
But you said something about the Petworth house one.

Ben:
Yes. So I was going to give Petworth House as an example of this philosophy. This was a very important philosophy at the time that the servants were out of sight, out of mind. They were invisible. The maids would brush grand staircases in the houses when the family were in the drawing room, and they would make sure they cleaned the rooms when the family was elsewhere. They were out for the day or on a hunt. They would do all of these things when they when they couldn't be seen or heard.

Charlie:
Sorry to interrupt, but I guess if you think about it, when somebody comes over, you don't want to be seen cleaning. You want to be seen as if your your a place is just immaculate all the time and you barely lift a finger.

Ben:
That's right. I suppose it was for that. It was like it was magic. It was like, [yeah], of course everyone in that in those upper classes were well aware that servants were there. So I think it was a little bit more insidious than that. It was much more of a you're not even good enough to be in the same room as me kind of thing. This was a very strong class distinction.

Speaker2:
Yeah, and the one in Petworth house?

Ben:
The Petworth house was basically one of the larger houses and it had over 300 internal staff.

Charlie:
Oh, my...Internal?

Ben:
Internal.

Charlie:
So not even the farmers? [No] or like, the people work out on the grounds?

Ben:
Not the groundsmen. Just 300 internal staff.

Charlie:
Oh, my God.

Ben:
This is my understanding and this is at the peak of its of its powers, so to speak. It's a humongous property.

Charlie:
And so where would they... You said...

Ben:
So basically the way that it was designed, the architect had designed it so that the servants actually lived in their own quarters out the back of the house. They would access the house through a secret tunnel that was built underground that linked their servants quarters to the house. And then there was a system of secret staircases and and passageways that they could move around behind the walls, almost like the wiring or central heating you would find in a house today. They were treated like central heating and wiring.

Charlie:
Some movies have these little what I thought were like panic room escapes. Maybe they were like escapes from somebody coming in to invade or whatever, but maybe that came from them wanting to, you know, put their... Traffic their servants to and fro.

Ben:
Oh, it was absolutely all to do with the philosophy that the servants should never be seen. In fact, in this House, I... My understanding of Petworth house was that if a servant was ever, by law of the master of the house, the I'm sure he was a maybe a duke, the servants, if they were ever seen by a member of the family or an outside visitor, they had to turn and face the wall, close their eyes and stand pressed against the wall as if they didn't exist.

Charlie:
That's really funny, because that's exactly what my dad made me do.

Ben:
Well, your dad is a duke and you were his servant.

Charlie:
Yeah, that's true.

Ben:
They... That was basically the philosophy. The servants worked in appalling conditions. You know, their rooms were purely utilitarian, whereas the rest of the house was enormous and opulent. I mean, if they were dividing the spaces up so that it was more workable, they had plenty of space to give away for the servants to work in, that's for sure.

Charlie:
But do you reckon there would ever be an earl or even a baron that has the heart to... Not maybe it's not even has the heart, but they have the the luxury to spare that nice room for a servant. Wouldn't that be a power play to be like, Look, I can give a servant this kind of room.

Ben:
Well, you would think so, but it just wasn't the way that those classes operated. I mean, they really... The distinctions that they were afforded and they held on to them tightly. You know, there was probably a feeling that the whole system was somewhat tenuous, I suppose. This is a guess of mine, but there was probably a strong belief amongst everybody that this really intense system of rank and authority was basically what held everything together, the fabric of society. So it had to be abided by. You know, everyone was abiding by the customs of the time. I don't even think the the ruling family always had a say in the way that they were supposed to talk to servants and so forth. It was just an established way of things.

Charlie:
And that's it.

Ben:
And that's that's just the way society was. And it was taught to everybody from the earliest age. Now, that hierarchy was very strong, not just in the family upstairs, but in the servants hall. There were many different positions and that hierarchy played into the lives of the servants very intensely.

Charlie:
So they would feel this servant is above me, this servant is below me.

Ben:
They wouldn't feel that, they would be. [Yeah]. There was a very well known ranking system. So for example, the butler, the head of the servants.

Charlie:
And did I read somewhere that the butler was originally a different job and then he accumulated more tasks?

Ben:
Yep. So basically what happened with the butler is it's an interesting little fact. I'll tell you first that there was a room that used to exist in a house called a buttery.

Charlie:
Buttery,

Ben:
A buttery. Now, now, this is not where you stored your butter and jam and so forth. This is where you stored your butts. [Butts?] Yeah, not your butt butt the way that we talk about it. But a a butt is a keg. That's what they called a keg back then. So they would be casks of beer, casks of wine, kegs of rum and so forth. Basically all the alcohol.

Charlie:
I forget about the, the magnitude of these kind of houses, the fact that they have to not only put on a huge display of wealth every time another family comes over, but they're basically self-sustained. Right?

Ben:
Exactly. So these houses were designed to be self, completely self sufficient. They didn't need any outside help. They could do everything that they needed to do from within the house. So the buttery was the room where they basically prepared and kept all of the alcohol and the drinks.

Charlie:
So they basically had to have the cellar of a pub in their house.

Ben:
Exactly. Yeah. Because they were having these huge lavish parties all the time and dinner parties and things like that. So they always had to have stock of everything. Now, the butler originally was the man in charge of the Buttery. That's where his name comes from. And his job was to maintain and serve the household stocks of beverages. Now in time, the butler, being the main staff member below stairs, as the staff expanded, he took on more and more responsibilities and was in charge of more and more staff. And by the 1700s and 1800s, he'd become the chief of all the below stairs life, organising, rostering and just basically delegating to all the other servants.

Charlie:
I can imagine that being like a moment in their life where they look to their father and they say, 'Are you proud of me now? I'm in charge of everything below the stairs'.

Ben:
Yeah. This was about the highest position of honour that somebody who wasn't in the upper classes could attain, really. [Yeah]. And still, even then, you know, I mean, these people weren't on much money. But the butler did enjoy a good life, I would say. [You reckon?] Relative to the other servants, I mean, they all... Is endured a good word? But they all endured a somewhat difficult life almost, you know, I mean they got paid so poorly it was almost tantamount to some form of slavery, the hours they did and the money they received.

Charlie:
Yeah, well, it says a lot given that they moved on from this to working in factories for really poor pay. Like...

Ben:
Yeah, exactly. I mean, they, they moved into what we would still consider terrible pay, basically.

Charlie:
They were like that is way better than this.

Ben:
Basically to go through the ranks down there, we had the butler who was in charge of everything, and if you've watched Downton Abbey or any movie in that period, he's the man who stands at the door when guests arrive. He's the man... His fundamental job, apart from being in charge of all the staff, is to be in charge of the dining hall. So every day, along with the footmen, he would make sure that that dining hall was immaculate. All the plants are in the right places. All the plates and cups and cutlery were perfectly lined up on the table and they even used... It was so fine of a job to do that that they used specific measuring sticks that had little notches on them in order to get the plates and bowls and cutlery all at different distances from the edge of the table so that they were all in exactly the same spot.

Charlie:
Yeah, I can I think I've seen that kind of thing come up before, and I can imagine that. I would find that quite satisfying, that part of the job.

Ben:
Yeah. I mean, there is something... If you're a bit of a neat freak as I am and I now know that you are, it's very satisfying to get everything in order. But that was the butler's main role. He would stand there at dinnertime and he would be in charge of serving the food and drinks. And as you've probably seen in these shows, he and the footmen would literally hold the plates out and with the serving implements on the plates and the family and the guests would then serve themselves off that plate. So there were certain customs, for example, the footmen who were under the butler, and they would help him with his tasks. You had first footman, second footman, third footman, and, you know, even more in the most wealthy houses. They would never serve the food. That was not the custom. They would hold the plate, but the people sitting at the table would serve their own food off that plate, and they would stand there while they served their food. So there were some very strict laws of etiquette at the dining table.

Charlie:
Right. So a modern day waiter would be very rude in that day.

Ben:
That's right. Exactly. But I mean, there was etiquette even for the family. I mean, the family would have to go up and get changed every night into their dining clothes, so they would have their day suits and clothes. So, for example, if you watch Downton Abbey, I like to use it because it's a great reference point. You'll look at Robert, the Earl of Grantham. He'll be walking around in a specific type of suit all day, which is a more casual suit, and then when it's dinner, he goes up and he gets changed into his fine dining gear, which was usually a black jacket with a white dinner vest and a white tie.

Charlie:
Hence the name Dinner jacket, I imagine.

Ben:
Yeah. There you go. That's exactly right. So the finest livery is is that the word? The finest clothing that they had was reserved for dinner time. Now we can use that as a springboard onto another job. Whenever the members of the family went up to get changed, the women would be changed in their room by their ladies maids, and the men would be changed by their valets.

Charlie:
A valet.

Ben:
A valet is the English word equivalent to valet, I suppose. I am sure it's evolved into a different term these days to do something to do with cars right, is a valet? But a valet was in charge of all of the Lord's clothing and any male member of that family, their clothing, their repairs, getting their clothing ready, washing their clothes, cleaning their boots, making sure that they were ready and presentable.

Charlie:
And that is pronounced valet, not valet?

Ben:
It's pronounced valet with a T. And the ladies maids were the equivalent for the female members of the family. And oftentimes these people would know all the intimate details of the members of the family, and they... Part of their job was to be secretive and to retain that information to themselves, keep that to themselves, and not spread that information around. They were in a very trusted position.

Charlie:
Goodness me. Yeah, I would imagine they would get a lot of gossip.

Ben:
Oh, yeah, Yeah. They were an incredibly trusted position and I imagine that they did pass on a lot of that information below stairs, and that's where a lot of gossip would have originated in those households. But these were very trusted positions. They were intimate positions. They were always in the chambers of these family members. [Yeah]. And they saw them at their worst and saw them at their, their best. And they were probably the, apart from the other family members, the closest people to those family members in their lives, really.

Charlie:
Right. Okay. So we've got the butler.

Ben:
Yep. He's the head of the household.

Charlie:
Then what comes next?

Ben:
Then we've got the housekeeper. She is the head of the women.

Charlie:
Head of the women servants?

Ben:
The female servants. Yes. She had other duties too, so she ordered the supplies and dealt with the tradespeople and she famously would carry around a set of keys. So she had access to all of the areas of the house. She was like walking around like one of the jailers in a modern day jail with all these keys jangling.

Charlie:
Or a janitor of a school.

Ben:
Janitor. Yeah, something like that. Actually, that's probably more equivalent. And she was in charge of lock and key, so she kept all the the expensive silverware and the expensive china and all of the alcohol behind lock and key, sometimes be in her room or in... That's, that's called the housekeeper's room. Or it would be in the butler's room.

Charlie:
What, she would keep the keys in the butler's room?

Ben:
She would keep the fine silverware, you know, the fine silverware, such as the knives and forks and the fine china and everything and the alcohol behind a locked door, a pantry of of sorts.

Charlie:
And that's in the butler's room?

Ben:
Yes. And in her room, too. Sometimes.

Charlie:
I think her and butler get it on.

Ben:
Oh, yeah, yeah.

Charlie:
Do you reckon They probably do because they're the same...

Ben:
Well...

Charlie:
Level?

Ben:
Well there was a strong division, not just in terms of hierarchy in that and those houses, but in terms of sex. So the women had to live in their own quarters and the men had to live in their own quarters. And you weren't allowed to have sex with someone unless you were married to them. But the housemaid and the butler were in a unique position where they weren't answerable to anybody except the head of the house, and they had their own separate rooms. So I'm sure they [yeah] I'm sure that happened more often than we would imagine.

Charlie:
Or not, if you're imagining it a lot.

Ben:
That's true. Yeah.

Charlie:
Okay. So we've got the butler, the housekeeper.

Ben:
The housekeeper, and she was in charge of the ladies maids and the maids. So the ladies maids tended to the ladies and the maids basically went around and cleaned rooms and dusted staircases and did a whole bunch of cleaning duties. [uh-huh]. Then she was also in charge of the cook who was always a woman. And then she had a cooks maid and then a scullery maid. The scullery maid was the one who did all the washing up in the scullery.

Charlie:
And the scullery is a smaller version of a kitchen that [well] focuses on cleaning the dishes. Right?

Ben:
Cleaning dishes and prepping some food some of the time. Now, there was... It was very well known in these years that disease came from water. There was a possibility of getting disease from water. So they would keep the scullery at a lower level than the kitchen. So all the water from the kitchen and the scullery would be constantly on the floor in this lowered area. And so the scullery maids would have to stand all day on little stools while they washed up so their feet weren't constantly in water, although their feet, of course, would be wet all day.

Charlie:
Yeah, that's gross. I was saying earlier, that's a bit different to the modern day complaint when you don't have an ergonomic office chair.

Ben:
Yeah, well, I just recently got an ergonomic office mouse.

Charlie:
Wow. Not an actual rodent.

Ben:
No, no. The thing that we click with, but it's like the best way to describe it is it's like you're holding a banana. Well, it's not round, it's not a joystick. It's like. But in that angle that you would hold a banana, like the clicky buttons are on the side.

Charlie:
Are you? Meaning I'm just going to cheat and show Ben my hand position.

Ben:
That's exactly right.

Charlie:
That's it. [Yeah]. Because I would hold a banana with a closed grip.

Ben:
Well, I try and hold my mouse with a closed grip. I just don't have big enough hands.

Charlie:
Ben does have extraordinarily small hands.

Ben:
That is just not true. That is not even remotely true.

Charlie:
All right. They were aware of the problems that... that water provided with them, like mould and stuff. I guess they didn't know about cholera because that was later on, right? When they found out.

Ben:
You have asked me a question that I don't know an answer to [Oh] but I'm sure...

Charlie:
That means the end of the episode. I've actually found the year. It was 1854 that they found out about the germ responsible for cholera. I think I remember it being in the wells in London. They they linked it to all of the wells that they were drinking from.

Ben:
Okay. You know, this is a similar story to how they... the monks in Belgium discovered beer.

Charlie:
Okay.

Ben:
So what happened was, my understanding was that it was around 1300 or 1200 or something like that. The monks in the monastery were getting sick from drinking the water, but then they realised that they could drink the water that the apples and fruit had fallen in that had fermented over time. And so they would drink that water and they wouldn't get sick. So they started leaving fruit in the water and allowing it to ferment. And this was the origins of that process where they started to to create beer. So obviously the beer back then is not the beer that we drink today. I mean, it's come a long way. That's where it started.

Charlie:
Yeah. I remember hearing when I lived in Germany that they used to give their young even like the age of three, they're on beer. Because back in the early 1900s it was safer to drink because it had been boiled.

Ben:
Yeah, that's right, Charlie. I would just go through with the audience here just a little bit about what these people in service used to get paid.

Charlie:
Yes. What bunce were they on.

Ben:
What Bunces? Bunsen burner. Nice little earner. For anyone who's wondering, that was a nice little office reference.

Charlie:
Yes, I highly recommend anyone and everyone to watch the office. The UK UK version.

Ben:
The American one's great.

Charlie:
The American one is great.

Ben:
But the UK is the orig.... And if you want to hear that 'Bunsen burner, nice little earner', you can hear that for yourself on the on the UK Office.

Charlie:
Exactly. I still need to get you into Anchorman.

Ben:
I love Anchorman.

Charlie:
Sorry. Alan Partridge. [Alan Partridge]. Why did I say Anchorman? You said America, didn't you? Alan Partridge. You need to get into him.

Ben:
Yeah, I do need to watch that. I would love Alan Partridge, I think. [Anyway]. All right, well, let's just get into some of the... the... what they were paid. Now I'm going to give you the rates, and they're not good, I'll tell you that. Now, you got to remember that there was a huge divide between rich and poor during this period. And also these people were given free rent and board, but they were working, some of them the lowest echelons of the hierarchy, the the hall boys and so forth were working sometimes up to 18 hours a day. So it wasn't great. But they they did get free rent and board and they weren't paid very much money. So let's start at the top. Now, the highest ranking official servant was the butler, and he would make 40 to £60 per year. Now, if we put that in today's money and we'll use American dollars because that's universal, that would mean that he'd be on 4300 to $6400 per year.

Charlie:
Okay. Can you even survive on that?

Ben:
Well, they were fed and they were housed.

Charlie:
Okay, yeah that's true.

Ben:
And they were given all of their clothes.

Charlie:
So no rent. You don't need to pay any rent.

Ben:
And they were given four meals a day. They were clothed.

Charlie:
So that's that's disposable income.

Ben:
That's completely disposable income. I don't know if you work out. [It's terrible]. It's terrible. It's terrible. And the hours were awful. And I mean, the butler was making the most money and he had the least hours. The housek...

Charlie:
He had the least hours?

Ben:
He would have had maybe not the completely the least, but he definitely didn't have as long hours as some of the lower the lowest staff members. Yeah. And certainly his jobs weren't as physically demanding.

Charlie:
No, I can't... I mean, he'd just be standing there measuring things.

Ben:
Yeah. I mean, some of those hall boys were just hauling buckets of water and buckets of coal up and down the stairs all day. I mean, imagine these houses that have 50 fireplaces, They're carrying coal up to 50 fireplaces.

Charlie:
Oh, yeah, of course. 50 fireplaces.

Ben:
And all up and down those swirling, twirling inter-wall stairs.

Charlie:
Wow. What would you go for? Would Butler be your preferred...? I mean, is it obvious?

Ben:
Butler is the one everyone wants, I... I assume. You're in charge. I mean, first first footman is good. He's... He's the apprentice to the butler, really. He helps out in the dining room. He does all of those sort of duties, and he he's the next in line for the butlership, if that's what you can call it. [Right]. We also had the housekeeper who was the head female, and she... Her salary was 5 to £10 less than the butler. So she was on the modern day equivalent of 3700 to 5400 per year.

Charlie:
Right. And that's where it starts, the inequality in male to female pay.

Ben:
Well, we're going to talk about this later. Not the inequality between male and female, but we'll talk about why these households were unable to continue operating with these wages when the world started to change. [Yeah]. We also had the cook and chef who was part of the upper the upper echelons of that household hierarchy. They are in charge of the kitchen and preparing all the family's meals. And they were on £30, which is $3200 a year.

Charlie:
I would imagine that they are quite proud of their kitchen.

Ben:
Yeah, yeah, the kitchen is their domain. They are technically... She was... Cook was always under the housekeeper, but it was ceremonial to a degree because the cook would basically be the the queen of her space, the queen of the kitchen.

Charlie:
And she wouldn't go anywhere else.

Ben:
No. And she had basically she had authority over that domain.

Charlie:
Yeah. I feel like I've seen that in TV.

Ben:
Yeah. Yeah. She would tell people to get out of the kitchen.

Charlie:
Yeah, exactly.

Ben:
So even though she was directly under the housekeeper, she was sort of not directly under the housekeeper, if you know what I mean. It might have been more ceremonial [Yeah] than practical.

Charlie:
And it might also be I'm making your food as well, so respect me, boy.

Ben:
Yeah, exactly. That's right. And then you had the ladies maids and valets were on 20 to £30, which is a modern day equivalent of 2100 to $3200 per year.

Charlie:
So that's not a huge discrepancy.

Charlie:
We have come to the end of part one. So feel free to take a break from your listening practice, but if you're happy to keep going, then we're now moving on to part two of this episode. Thanks so much for being a premium or Academy member and enjoy the rest of the show.

Ben:
No, but this is just the upper level. I mean, I won't go through all these people, but like, let's just say the first footman was on the modern day equivalent of 500 to 1500 a year. Let's go down, right to the bottom, because we're going through, there's a lot of positions here. There's parlour maids, house maids, nurse, under-cook, kitchen maid, scullery maid, laundry maid.

Charlie:
You know, I think I would be a scullery maid. Honestly, I find it rather therapeutic washing up, even with trench foot.

Ben:
Yeah, you'd get trench foot. That is exactly. You took the words out of my mouth. So the scullery maid, she was on £13 a year, which is $1,300 per year.

Charlie:
I'll take it [Yeah] That's mine.

Ben:
You're hired. Then we had gardeners. We had the governess who was in charge of, you know, looking after the kids. And we have got a lot of positions here, but there's some of the main ones.

Charlie:
I'm going down to the bottom because I assume that's where the cheap the work. So gamekeeper. Hagrid. He's on three grand to five grand.

Ben:
He gets paid. He gets paid all right. The lowest paid were the...

Charlie:
Woah! Head gardener gets 12 grand a year. [Wow]. More than the butler.

Ben:
Okay, that's pretty impressive. I didn't know that. That's amazing.

Charlie:
So the head gardener, that's where it's at.

Ben:
Yeah. Sounds like the ideal job. You're out and about. Yeah. [Yeah]. Well, when you finally go back to England, you know what you can do. Did we tell everybody that by the early 20th century, as an industry, domestic service or being in service, as it was called, was the largest single employer in Britain?

Charlie:
We did, but that was another episode. So yeah, we said it again.

Ben:
Yeah. And it was 1.4 million people at the height.

Charlie:
And I wonder what the population was then.

Ben:
Look it up.

Charlie:
What year was this?

Ben:
So this is in the beginning of the early 20th century. So let's go to the end of the 1900s, it's probably when it was in its peak.

Charlie:
End of the 1900s.

Ben:
Yeah, 1890, 19th century, 1890.

Charlie:
The population of Britain boomed during the 19th century. In 1801, it was about 9 million, but by 1901 it had risen to about 41 million. So take wherever you... Wherever we think. Somewhere around maybe 30 million? So 1 million of them, a 30th of the whole of the country were in service.

Ben:
Yeah. 1.4 I believe.

Charlie:
Okay.

Ben:
1.4. So yeah, that's... It was the biggest industry in Britain. [Yeah. That's huge]. Yeah. Now, so I mean that's the household staff and as I say, there are some, there are some houses that just had 300 inside staff and you can imagine them all bustling around together down the hallways and it must have been mental.

Charlie:
Yeah, I just don't know how you can have 300 staff.

Ben:
Yeah, well, it was a big house, Petworth House, Surrey. It was humongous. I mean, it looks like a one of the gigantic palaces. I mean, if you think about these houses, they had to be maintained constantly. I mean, you have to have a small army to maintain these houses.

Charlie:
Yeah, I mean, 300. That's a film about an army.

Ben:
Yeah. The upkeep of these houses must have been astronomical to pay all those staff. But then again, if you had a lot of land and you had a lot of tenants, it was passive income wasn't it? So you live whatever sort of lifestyle you wanted.

Charlie:
What, as in the...Oh yeah.

Ben:
Well the way that these, these landowners operated was that they had tenants on their land that they were given centuries ago. They would receive income from all the tenants on their land, and it was passive income.

Charlie:
But did they not have to, like, stay in the grounds and be that person of authority, like basically be the ambassador of that?

Ben:
They were the centre of culture. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But I mean really the tenants paid them for land that they owned which they inherited is basically... I... We said in the last just to go over it quickly, we said in the last episode that their initial role was a militaristic one. They were there to, they were given the land, they were bequeathed the land in order to serve a military function for the king. So they would gather their local vassals, create an army that could help defend the kingdom. In that context of the 1800s, they didn't do anything of the sort. [Right.] They really just owned the land which they inherited and people paid them money. They were an employer, certainly, they were a huge employer that was a part of their job. You know, if... When these houses started to go bankrupt, many people lost their jobs.

Charlie:
Right.

Ben:
A whole industry died.

Charlie:
Yeah.

Ben:
So they they served a a symbiotic relationship with the community.

Charlie:
Okay. I also heard they put on... Well it makes sense... They put on a lot of parties didn't they?

Ben:
Yeah. They were the centre of culture. [Yeah] That's right. I mean they didn't associate that much with the locals, but they did...

Charlie:
Yeah. Not like a Facebook ad. Come on in. Anyone welcome.

Ben:
But they were the centre of... Centre of culture.

Charlie:
Yeah. I wanted to mention how in West Wickham Park, one of the great houses... country houses, a guy created Hellfire Club. Have you heard of this?

Ben:
I have heard of that, yes.

Charlie:
This was something to do with hating on Catholicism. Oh, gosh.

Ben:
Catholicism.

Charlie:
Catholicism. No wonder.

Ben:
That's why... That's why I could never be a Catholic.

Charlie:
Yeah. So they hated Catholicism. I didn't say it right again.

Ben:
You say that's why I hated. And then I'll insert the word. Ready? Let's do it.

Charlie:
So they hated...

Ben:
Catholicism.

Charlie:
And they also loved Italian architecture and style. And this guy created Hellfire Club. And because he hated...

Ben:
Catholicism. I'm sorry I missed my cue there.

Charlie:
He decided to throw a party and invite, you know, nobles all around the kingdom, such as the Earl of Sandwich. He's back in play. And even Benjamin Franklin. [Yeah]. And they invited prostitutes down from London, and they dressed them up as nuns. And then they had their way with them for three or four days.

Ben:
Wow. [Yeah] that does sound like the British aristocracy.

Charlie:
Yeah, they would have had to have a lot of butts [Yeah, yeah, yeah] as well.

Ben:
Keep you butts in in the...

Charlie:
What?!

Ben:
That's a... That's... That's interesting. I mean, does the Hellfire Club still exist today?

Charlie:
I don't know. I don't know. Maybe it turned into Hell's Angels.

Ben:
Yeah. Didn't they have the Hellfire Club in the most recent Stranger Things?

Charlie:
I haven't seen that season yet.

Ben:
I thought the club was called Hellfire Club.

Charlie:
Yeah, it rings a bell.

Ben:
So, you know what? If we've still got a little bit of time, I can go through some of the rooms in these houses.

Charlie:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I wanted you to tell us about the Drawing room as well.

Ben:
Okay, well, the drawing room was one of a few now extinct rooms, basically. Rooms that were necessary in a time of great opulence and in a time when the house had to be self sufficient. The drawing room was a private chamber that people would withdraw to, to chat and to smoke cigars and drink scotch and so on, and hence the name drawing room because they withdrew to it. Now, the reason a drawing room existed then and doesn't really exist now is we... All of our rooms are basically cut off by a door and walls. But back then the houses, the great houses were designed with a thing called an enfilade. Now I think it's either called an enfilade or an enfilade. It's spelt E N F I L A D E. Now, I apologise for not knowing the pronunciation of that, but basically you would have seen it in any of these great houses. It was a long series of rooms, one after the other, that stretched from one end of the house to the other, and basically there was no hallway. You just walked from one room to the next to the next to the next, to the next. Have you seen that?

Charlie:
We have come to the end of part two now. So again, feel free to pause the episode to take a break from your listening practice and come back to the last part when you're ready. All right. So moving on to part three now. Enjoy.

Charlie:
Yeah. Yeah, I have. Yeah. It's reminding me of, like, when you go to a gallery, almost.

Ben:
Yeah, well, basically, that was a good cue. And so basically, over time, these would slowly be closed off. But before these were closed off, they had the drawing room as one of the only spaces that was separate. But then people enjoyed the drawing room, so they slowly started closing these rooms off. But in order to be able to move through the house, they had to take the furthest wall and create a hallway out of that by creating another wall.

Charlie:
Uh huh.

Ben:
It's very hard to explain on a podcast, but basically imagine they created a long hallway. Now, this hallway was known then as the gallery. That was just a name for it. I don't know the etymology of why they called it the gallery, but basically it was and what they would do to fill up all that blank space on the wall that had been created was fill it with all of their art. They used to have treasure troves of art that had been built up over centuries through one family handing it down to the next. And so they put it all along this wall, along the gallery wall. And that is why we now look at art in a gallery.

Charlie:
There we go. So, yeah. I'll give you a nice little nudge. I didn't I didn't think of that, actually. I was literally thinking of what you were talking about. It reminded me of all of the galleries that you go to. They're huge and they've got open...

Ben:
Yeah, well, I mean, I'm sure that that design had a lot to do with the way that these houses were laid out as well. I mean, those enfilades, if that's what they're called, enfilades.

Charlie:
Enfilades.

Ben:
Enfilade. Okay. Well these enfilades would have had a big influence on the way galleries were laid out, I suppose, because people were used to looking at art in that manner.

Charlie:
Nice. Yeah, I think there's quite a few other things that I wanted to ask you about.

Ben:
Could I quickly go through a couple of the other rooms?

Charlie:
Yeah, the closet. Talked about the buttery.

Ben:
Oh the closet's interesting. [Yeah. Okay]. Now, the closet was a small chamber next to your bedroom. It wasn't like a closet today where you just open it up and your clothes are hanging there. As with almost everything back then, they were entire rooms unto themselves.

Charlie:
Like a walk-in closet.

Ben:
Yeah, it was an entire room, actually. It was a small chamber, a room next to your bedroom, and it served the... Sort of the function of a study or a sitting room.

Charlie:
Okay. So not like a walk in wardrobe that we know of today.

Ben:
No, it was a private space to do personal things like pray, write, read, relax. Since one's only intimate and personal activities and deepest emotions and feelings are expressed within the closet, it became associated with secrecy and personal thoughts and feelings. That's why we call someone who has revealed their sexuality coming out of the closet.

Charlie:
There we go.

Ben:
That's the history and etymology of that little saying.

Charlie:
And coming out of the closet means declaring your homosexuality.

Ben:
Yes, that's right. Exactly. Yeah.

Charlie:
Coming out of the closet.

Ben:
And what else do... We have got a couple of other rooms that have disappeared. We have the pantry. Now, obviously, today we just think of a pantry as a cupboard you open up that has all your two minute noodles and all your your soups and your teas and instant coffee and everything in there.

Charlie:
That says a lot about you, Ben.

Ben:
Yeah, well, I think I keep a good pantry.

Charlie:
Two minute noodles?

Ben:
Two minute noodles. You can't go wrong with two minute noodles, especially... You know, it was good when it was just chicken when we were a kid, but that's pretty bland now. Now you've got to have the Malaysian spicy Singapore noodles and...

Charlie:
You know what? I think I've probably had four two minute noodles in my life.

Ben:
No way. Yeah. Was that not a big thing in Britain?

Charlie:
It was a thing. Lots of British people will talk about pot noodles.

Ben:
Course, your servants would never serve, you...

Charlie:
No, exactly. They would give me the real thing, darling.

Ben:
I mean, that's the sort of stuff they ate down in your scullery.

Charlie:
Yes, in another life.

Ben:
My servant's not going to bring me two minute noodles, are they?

Charlie:
No. I normally have a pop tart.

Ben:
Fine Italian caviar.

Charlie:
French, but no. So...

Ben:
Yeah. So the pantry, basically. It wasn't just like that. It was... Back then it was a it was a huge room that was full of all the, the food stores, basically. So we would have shelves full of baked bread and mixing bowls, kneading boards.

Charlie:
Sorry to go on about two minute noodles, but do you think they would have appreciated that then?

Ben:
That would have been a servants food for sure. [Yeah?] Oh, 100%. I can imagine the the fat lady in the kitchen whipping up all the lower servants... Maybe she would have kept some nice food for the upper servants like the butler and the and the house... Ladies, maids and the housekeeper. Some really nice food, maybe the leftovers that didn't get used in the family's meal. But then the lower people, you know, the hall boys and the scullery maids and the... and the house maids, I think they would have all been served a big, fat bowl of two minute noodles and soup.

Charlie:
Yeah. Yeah, [I can imagine]. You said the fat lady, which I would change to overweight in today's climate. But do you think she would have been? Because the old understanding I have is that to be fat meant you had wealth.

Ben:
Yeah. I mean, I'm just using my cartoon brain here and I've watched a lot of Downton Abbey and she happens to be quite overweight.

Charlie:
The chef.

Ben:
The cook yeah. Yeah. Downton Abbey. So that's my image in my head of the... Of the cook.

Charlie:
Yeah. I'm just bringing it up because I...

Ben:
You know, probably they wouldn't have been fat at all. Actually. They're doing a lot of walking around all day, standing in the kitchen kneading and, you know, they don't have any of those electric appliances we have today. [No] They were probably quite fit and slim actually.

Charlie:
And had tendonitis in the wrist.

Ben:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly. Yeah. So probably quite fit.

Charlie:
Yeah. So is that all the rooms.

Ben:
No, there's one more one we can talk about. [Yeah,go for it.] There was... Well there was the still room. Now that was the chamber where you literally distilled drinks, medicines and essential oils and all that sort of stuff. And like we said, because these houses had to be self sufficient, they had to have a room for each of these different things. It was like a pub with its own little cellar, you know. [Yeah] Everything that needed to be done and prepared had to have its own room. Yeah. All these rooms eventually... Once you could buy a lot of these things just cheaply down at the local store, a lot of these rooms just were not necessary anymore and disappeared.

Charlie:
I wonder what medicines they would have had back then.

Ben:
Well, they had a lot of tonics, didn't they? I know for a fact that cocaine was a tonic. [Oh, yeah]. Yeah. It gave you when you're feeling a bit blue or you were feeling a bit down in the dumps. I know this was a tonic in America, actually, I don't know if it was a tonic in.,, in England. I do know that there was...

Charlie:
That would be so bad if I'm feeling a bit depressed, have a bit of coke.

Ben:
When you have a little bit of heroin, go on, have a cheeky bit of heroin, stocky young lad. Go on, have some some methamphetamine. When people were feeling a bit sick or down in the dumps or you know, just a bit off, they would have a thing called Beecham's powder, which was a famous thing back then. But what it was, was aspirin 600 milligrams and 50 milligrams of caffeine.

Charlie:
Shake a headache.

Ben:
It was caffeine and aspirin, basically. There was a few other things in it, like sodium crystals and spice flavours and all this sort of stuff. But yeah, they just basically had had just shelves full of tonics that we don't really use anymore.

Charlie:
Yeah. So therefore, the room that stored all of these tonics evaporated.

Ben:
Evaporated. You could go down to your local, your doctor. And I don't know if they had a chemist or a pharmacy back then, but I'm sure your local store started selling various medicines as we.

Charlie:
Yeah. The apothecary, right?

Ben:
Yeah. Ah, the apothecary. I was just watching Schitt's Creek. He has an apothecary.

Charlie:
Yes. Right. Wow, that was a lot of history. Thank you so much, Ben. I really appreciate that. And I feel like we've even got another episode to do about the downfall of this lifestyle and economy.

Ben:
Yes, we do.

Charlie:
I've even got some fun facts that I haven't shared yet. I mean, I've done three of my five, but you can look forward to those two. So yeah, guys, look forward to another episode finishing this series on the great English country houses. Thanks again, Ben, for your time and for your energy. But yeah, we'll leave it there for today.

Ben:
Thank you. No worries. Thank you, Charlie.

Charlie:
All right. Bye bye, guys. There we go. The end of part three, meaning the end of the episode. Well done for getting through the entirety of it. Make sure you use all of the resources available to you in your membership. Thanks once again for supporting the show and I look forward to seeing you next time on the British English Podcast.

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Podcast host: Charlie:
This will be quite a bit harder for you to understand, as there are a number of accents in the conversation, some poorly delivered at times, as you will notice.

Podcast host: Charlie:
But the aim is to give you a variety of dialects in one conversation and some dialogue to give you native expressions in context. So enter, if you will, to Charlie's pub and his imaginary world.

Character: Mike:
Alright geezer, how's it going?

Character: Chris:
Yes, I'm well thanks. How about you? Have you had a good day?

Character: Mike:
Can't say good mate. No my old man he's been giving me a right old earful for what happened on site last week.

Character: Chris:
Oh that's a pity. Are you back on your dad's building project again?

Character: Mike:
Sad to say mate, but yeah, I am. Couldn't resist this one though. Cash in hand, you know.

Character: Chris:
Oh fair play, hard to resist those I imagine. Oh, here she is.

Character: Emily:
Oh, hi.

Character: Chris:
I was wondering if you're ever going to join us tonight.

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