Victorian Housemaids and their Fireplace Duties

Posted by on 3/22/2017 to News


A maid was appointed keeper of the flames in Victorian era, whose mansions could easily have 10 or more fireplaces. Rising well before dawn, the first fires attended to were in the family bedrooms. Working in complete silence so as not to disturb the sleeping occupants, the maid assured the family would awaken to a warm room. While in the bedrooms, each chamber pot was also emptied and cleaned with a rag soaked in vinegar.

The kitchen stove or fireplace must then be lit so it's ready when the cook arrives downstairs to prepare breakfast.

Next tended would be the fireplace in the family dining room, where it was cleaned of ashes, the fireplace walls were scoured, the hearth scrubbed, the mantel polished and the fire lit so the room was cozy when the family arrived to their breakfast. While the family ate, the fireplaces in the parlors were also cleaned then lit for the family and visitors to use throughout the day. 

While the family goes about its daily activities downstairs or outside of the home, the bedrooms were attended to. The windows were thrown open to provide fresh ventilation and air out the bed clothes and curtains. Beds were made, rugs were swept and the room was thoroughly tidied up.

While the family enjoyed dinner at 8pm, the maid prepared the family bedrooms by turning down the covers, filling hot water bottles to pre-warm the beds, closing the windows and lighting the bedroom fire. 

Between all this fire tending, the maid (or maids) did all the other household chores while also doing the dishes after each meal. Servants' supper was served at half past 9 and after the supper dishes were done then their leisure time was all their own before getting a few hours sleep in preparation for the next day.

Most of us no longer have the luxury of a full household staff, and happily for us there are gas and electric fires to keep us warm and cozy with no real effort. Besides, managing servants would be utterly exhausting...