Just been trying to look up servants’ wages for the 1890s (something for the next Julia Warren mystery I am trying to finish); must say, it is a blessing to be able to consult books online – even if they are only excerpts, for I have little or no access to reference books at present otherwise.
The findings are intriguing – rather higher than I had expected (although now comes the tricky part – dividing the yearly salary into weekly parts… and I haven’t calculated all the different levels yet) – oh look, a handy little online calculator as well.
So that means… muzzerwuzzerwizzerwozzer (and other suitable mathematizing sounds) a butler could be receiving the princely amount of one pound something a week(his expenses would be at most clothes, for board and lodging was all included). Now let’s take a footman – an ordinary one, who opens doors and runs about after people as opposed to the six-footer who stands about looking magnificent. Our ordinary footman then, would find in his pocket, a little less than a quarter of the butler’s pound…again, board and lodging is included. There’s usually wine to be had, and by 1890s, a week’s holiday allotted per annum.
Moving down a bit further … the Tweeney, or between maid,nearly the lowest of the lower Five, yet still above the scullery maid, might earn between 10 to 15 pounds per annum. So if we take the minimum, that works out half again of the footman’s wage. Ten or twelve pence a month. How much was it to go to the theatre? A farthing? Tuppence? Sixpence for a half-way decent view? You’d have to save up for that… when you had the time and energy after a 5 to 10 working day; unless you went on your day off.
And these were the lucky ones ….
The 1890s saw thousands of Londoners homeless, sleeping in parks, on the Embankment or in the recesses of London Bridge (Frank Victor Dawes, Not in Front of the Servants, 1973). If disease and depression did not carry you off, then violent crime probably would. Receiving not only a roof over your head but clothes and food plus some pocket money might well have seemed like a blessing in comparison.
And on that cheery note, I continue to add up, divide and multiply the farthings, shillings and pence – still wondering what that Tweeney might have forked out for a good night out at the theatre. I hope it was worth it.
(Written in haste, this windy night, in the echoing memory of 1890…)
Speaking of entertainment available: