Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey"

By Margaret Powell

Brilliantly evoking the long-vanished global of masters and servants portrayed in Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs, Margaret Powell's vintage memoir of her time in carrier, Below Stairs, is the impressive real tale of an indomitable lady who, although she served within the nice homes of britain, by no means stopped aiming excessive. Powell first arrived on the servants' front of 1 of these nice homes within the Twenties. As a kitchen maid – the bottom of the low – she entered a completely new international; one in every of stoves to be blacked, greens to be scrubbed, mistresses to be appeased, and bootlaces to be ironed. paintings all started at 5.30am and went on till after darkish. It used to be a miles cry from her formative years at the shorelines of Hove, the place cash and meals have been scarce, yet heat and laughter by no means have been. but from the gentleman with a penchant for stroking the housemaids' curlers, to raucous tea-dances with errand boys, to the heartbreaking tale of Agnes the pregnant under-parlormaid, fired for being seduced by means of her mistress's nephew, Margaret's stories of her time in provider are instructed with wit, heat, and a pointy eye for the prejudices of her scenario. Margaret Powell's precise tale of a lifestyles spent in provider is an engaging "downstairs" portrait of the glittering, long-gone worlds in the back of the closed doorways of Downton Abbey and one hundred sixty five Eaton Place.

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In that condominium the meals elevate was once positioned within the kitchen, and while pulled up went throughout the dining-room ground, hence noises within the kitchen should be heard. I’d been making a song merrily the entire night as I despatched up every one direction, and Sir Walter obviously couldn’t stand from now on of it simply because he got here to the raise and known as down, ‘Cook, will you sing “God retailer the King” and end the live performance? ’ yet woman Gibbons used to provoke we all with the significance of her identify. She used to assert, ‘When you converse of me don’t name me woman Gibbons, say “Her Ladyship”, and equally while you’re chatting with Sir Walter, don’t say “Yes, Sir”, say “Yes, Sir Walter, No, Sir Walter”. ’ in the future Olive got here down with a water jug on a salver, and she or he walked around the desk announcing, ‘Water, Sir Walter? Water, Sir Walter? ’ a lot to our entertainment. even if there have been simply 3 within the relations the paintings wasn’t all that simple. I nonetheless needed to wake up early to gentle the kitchen variety; Sir Walter couldn’t have his bathtub until eventually that variety were on it slow. Then I needed to get an early breakfast for the son, approximately part previous seven within the morning. He went to company. Then there has been our breakfast at 8 o’clock, and Sir Walter and woman Gibbons’ breakfast at 9. Then prior to she got here down at ten to offer the orders I needed to scrub out the kitchen and the scullery, and tidy the servants’ corridor and the larder, simply because she used to examine every little thing. The parlourmaid, terrible Olive, had lots to do, in particular within the wintry weather while the coal fires needed to be lit. She needed to hold scuttles of coal from the basement to the floor flooring for the dining-room, and to the 1st ground for the drawing-room. and so they had a hearth within the breakfast room in addition. those 3 fires needed to be lit each morning via 8, and basically part a package of wooden was once allowed for every. a few mornings terrible Olive may well do it on her head, yet different mornings whilst the wind used to be within the mistaken path she simply couldn’t get them to head. She used to maintain speeding up and down sporting cups of paraffin. And the tears ran down her face, mingling with the soot. The housemaid was once fortunate, simply because they have been so suggest they by no means had fires within the bedrooms. a strange factor occurred there which I’ve by no means noticeable earlier than or considering. They used warming-pans. Now warming-pans fairly went out lengthy prior to that point, yet girl Gibbons had . One used to hold within the corridor as an decoration, yet into the opposite one we used to rake the new coals from the variety each one evening and run them over the beds. I used to imagine we have been at an advantage, simply because on iciness nights I used to place bricks within the oven and we used to wrap them up in a bit flannel and positioned them in our beds. think me, i'm yes we used to have greater reap the benefits of these bricks than they did from their warming-pans. there has been just one attic room and Olive and that i shared it. i may have had the room at the ground lower than, yet I allow the housemaid have that simply because i needed to be as distant from ‘Them’ as I potentially can be. girl Gibbons idea it was once very strange that the prepare dinner should still percentage, simply because she continuously had a room of her personal, and the housemaid and parlourmaid shared.

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