Explore the world of domestic service in Britain from 1800 to 1950

Tuesday, 25 August 2015


Hello and welcome to my blog dedicated to Servants' Stories, my new book featuring 21 experiences of domestic service as told by the servants themselves. Spanning the period 1800-1950, the book covers a century and a half of immense change for domestic servants in terms of their status, workload and living conditions.

When I researched my previous book on servants, Tracing Your Servant Ancestors, most of the sources I came across told the story of domestic service from the employers' point of view. Servants' Stories was written in an attempt to redress the balance. I also wanted to give readers more than just scanty extracts which other books tend to do; instead, I wanted to allow the servants to tell their experiences in their own words, making the stories as complete as possible.

Advertisement for Brooke's Soap (1890)
The book is made up of stories from a number of different sources: published memoirs which are long out of print; published diaries; newspaper reports and articles; unpublished reminiscences in archives and family collections; unpublished oral history recordings in archives; and interviews I conducted with three ex-servants.

There's the heartbreaking tale of a 14 year old maid's despair and loneliness when she went into service for the first time during the Second World War; the feisty Edwardian servant who got revenge on her mistress with a box of beetles; the adventure of one girl who moved to London to work as a maid in the 1930s; and one Victorian woman's escape from an unhappy and abusive home life by going into domestic service. In addition to the 21 stories, I've researched and written chapters to give context to readers.

Maids in the 1930s

While researching the  book, I found countless fascinating stories in newspapers, contemporary periodicals and original sources. Due to restrictions on space, many did not make it into the book so I'd like to share them with you on this blog.

I hope the blog will become a useful resource for anyone interested in domestic servants and their lives. If there's anything servant-related you think I should write a post about, please let me know. Also, do get in touch if your ancestor was a servant and you have a story to tell about him or her.


  1. Your looks wonderful, taking up the personal as well as the political angles of this ever-neglected story. I've shared your blog on our Facebook page (MemoireLane.com) - thank you, i'm looking forward to reading more.

  2. Thank you, Alexandra. Glad you like the blog!

  3. I discovered your blog via Edwardian Promenade and have shared your blog on our Facebook page (Enough of this Tomfoolery) and here's a link to our blog of the same name:


    PS I will have to comment as "Unknown" because for some reason, the comment refuses to recognise the url.