How the Prosperous Livid in 1885:
These houses are like those in Surrendale Place, with similar stucco and cast iron detailing, but on a much larger scale. The road is very wide, set out to attract a prosperous clientele who wanted space, clean air, gardens with rich soil, and a chance to show off their money. These houses, which have long been let off as flats, were designed as single dwellings for large families with servants, and perhaps unmarried relatives living with the family. The Booth map shows the street in Yellow for 'Wealthy', with three or more servants. These were the houses of prosperous people, while their clerks and managers lived in the smaller houses nearby.
In 'Kitchen Fugue', Sheila Kaye Smith wrote about her Late Victorian childhood in another, but similar road, built in 1885: -
'Besides the nursery staff we had a cook, a house-parlourmaid and a housemaid. I do not suppose that anyone today in my father's position would keep more than two maids, or indeed more than one. But in keeping three he was doing no more than most. In Arabella's house there also were three maids, and in every other house from number one upwards to the top of the hill. Forty-six houses - one hundred and thirty-eight maids in white caps and white aprons, print dresses in the morning and black dresses in the afternoon - one hundred and thirty- eight maids, sleeping in basement bed-rooms, eating in basement kitchens, carrying meals up basement stairs - up other stairs as well, for we had all our meals carried up to the nursery - carrying hot water to each bedroom four times a day, carrying coals for half a dozen scuttles, lighting and making up half a dozen fires, cleaning and blackleading half a dozen grates, sweeping carpets on their knees with dustpans and brushes, scrubbing floors,
polishing furniture and "brasses" with polish they had to make themselves, lighting the gas in every room and passage when darkness fell, besides all the business of cooking and waiting at meals and washing up afterwards. No, I do not think we were over staffed.
|The house had been built in 1885, and when my parents took possession of it as its first tenants it was regarded as the very latest expression of modernity and domestic enlightenment. It had, for one thing, a "housemaids cupboard" half way up the second flight of stairs, a sensational improvement on those houses where no water at all was laid on above the basement. We had a bathroom, too, and there was a cloakroom with hot and cold water taps on the ground floor. Nothing could be more up to date.'
|From ‘Kitchen Fugue', published in
1945 but written
about a period
sixty years earlier.