Whilst the diary of Bridget Jones did nothing but irk me, the diary of 21 year old Edith Leckie, has me transfixed. Edith lived in Scotland during the Edwardian era and as a single woman, had but one focus, attending classes and lectures which would educate her in the finer points of the domestic arts.
The present owners of her family's townhouse unearthed her little black book from beneath the floorboards. Her background was solidly middle class, she would not be running a mansion of Downton proportions, but the sort of home that most of us run today.
Take a peek inside Edith's diary:
“Housekeeper: choice and calibre of house and furniture; manage and clean, arrange meals, buys in, keeps accounts, cooking. Good temper, early to bed and early to rise; see that she has rest and fresh air – ¼ hour rest in the middle of the day; a cup of strong beef tea a powerful stimulant.
Servants Points to consider:
- Allow 1/13th of income for wages: for general servant £8 to £20; Cook £18; Housemaid £14 to £22; Parlourmaid £16 to £25; Laundrymaid £12; Boot boy – 2/to 12/
- Can be dismissed at once for dishonesty, drunkenness, immorality, hopeless incompetence in the house
- Food allowance weekly: 1/2lb butter, 1lb sugar, 1/4lb tea, 1/4lb coffee, portion per day of bacon, cheese etc.
- Breakages to be reported at once or payment must be made.
- Servants’ bedrooms – light and airy; floor wooden; rug at side of bed; iron bedstead; with one mattress cost 17/to 1/ 11d; mattress and pillow covered with unbleached linen; quilt, washstand, iron with enamel from 7/6d.; chest of drawers with mirror on top. Cleaned once a week.
- Dress – morning, suitable for her work; Afternoons – serge 18/to 19/; Aprons – morning, linen; Afternoon – plain muslin apron; Cook : strong shoes; Parlour maid: quiet shoes; Underclothing: strong”
Debs at Queen Charlotte's Ball
“Points in the Choice of a House:
- Aspect NW has best light; SE is best position; SW best height. Dry and warm
- Soil – height, not reclaimed or rubbish heap
- Plans – show taps, water pipes, gas pipes, drainage
- Surroundings – always see/clear
- System of Ventilation and Warming
- Sanitary conveniences
- System of drainage – kitchen sucks, properly trapped
- Water supply – soft; cisterns, toilets, where water comes from
- Size and Positions of Windows
- The Floors
- State of Repairs
- Last Tenant’s Health
Decorations of Interiors Points to remember:
- Purpose of rooms
- Proportions and fitness of decorating articles
- The relation of rooms to other rooms
- Aspect of rooms and windows
• Different parts to be decorated – walls, ceilings, floors, openings Walls
- Space to be decorated – skirting, dado, space, cornice, corners, covered with whitewash
- “tinting”, “fresco”
- Tapestry, panelling, fresco, painting
- Light colours, small patterns to make room look larger
- Advantages and disadvantages of papering: cheap, easily put on, cannot easily be cleaned, readily fades, easily damaged and some papers contain…poison green and yellow
Ceiling: whitewashed, plaster with well designed paper (small design is best), stucco, panelled, coved Floors: wood (deal) in planks, wooden floors stained and polished Stairs: permanganate of potassium dissolved in water, rubbed on with fibre brushes, two or three coats, once a week a good polish with beeswax or turps; parquetry, blocks of wood in patterns; tiles – marble, slate, brick, stone Openings of rooms: doors, windows, fireplaces, recesses
- doors – painted, pine, panelled;
- windows – near cornice; advantages and disadvantages of large panes – give more light, expensive, look cold, sash windows best
- fireplaces: deal, stone; back and sides in fire brick; firebricks should leave room for air to get under fire; 12” from wood beams. Fire will last from 9 o’clock to 4 o’clock”
My friend's father was born in the house next door to me, growing up, his family had a cook, a housekeeper, a nanny and a servant girl.
I need a raise!