Servants' quarters
Servants' quarters are those parts of a building, traditionally in a private house, which contain the domestic
Domestic worker
A domestic worker is a man, woman or child who works within the employer's household. Domestic workers perform a variety of household services for an individual or a family, from providing care for children and elderly dependents to cleaning and household maintenance, known as housekeeping...

 offices and staff accommodation. From the late 17th century until the early 20th century they were a common feature in all large houses. Sometimes they are an integral part of a smaller house - in the basements and attics, especially in a town house, while in larger houses they are often a purpose-built adjacent wing or block. In architectural descriptions and guide books of stately homes the servants' quarters are frequently overlooked, yet they form an important piece of social history
Social history
Social history, often called the new social history, is a branch of History that includes history of ordinary people and their strategies of coping with life. In its "golden age" it was a major growth field in the 1960s and 1970s among scholars, and still is well represented in history departments...

, often as interesting as the principal part of the house itself.


Before the late 17th century, servants dined, slept and worked in the main part of the house with their employers, sleeping wherever space was available. The principal reception room of a house—often known as the great hall
Great hall
A great hall is the main room of a royal palace, nobleman's castle or a large manor house in the Middle Ages, and in the country houses of the 16th and early 17th centuries. At that time the word great simply meant big, and had not acquired its modern connotations of excellence...

—would have been completely communal regardless of hierarchy within the household. Before this period only the very grandest houses and the royal palaces
A palace is a grand residence, especially a royal residence or the home of a head of state or some other high-ranking dignitary, such as a bishop or archbishop. The word itself is derived from the Latin name Palātium, for Palatine Hill, one of the seven hills in Rome. In many parts of Europe, the...

 such as Hampton Court
Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace is a royal palace in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, Greater London; it has not been inhabited by the British royal family since the 18th century. The palace is located south west of Charing Cross and upstream of Central London on the River Thames...

, Audley End and Holdenby House
Holdenby House
Holdenby House is a historic country house in Northamptonshire, traditionally pronounced and sometimes spelt Holmby. The house is situated in the parish of Holdenby, six miles northwest of Northampton and close to Althorp....

, had distinct secondary areas. These areas, often courtyards known as the Kitchen of Base court, were not exclusively for the servants, and neither were they inconspicuous. At Hampton court the lesser courtyard forms part of the formal processional route under an ornate clock tower
Clock tower
A clock tower is a tower specifically built with one or more clock faces. Clock towers can be either freestanding or part of a church or municipal building such as a town hall. Some clock towers are not true clock towers having had their clock faces added to an already existing building...

 to the more grand areas of the palace. It should also be noted that servants in before the late 17th century had a greater social standing
Social stratification
In sociology the social stratification is a concept of class, involving the "classification of persons into groups based on shared socio-economic conditions ... a relational set of inequalities with economic, social, political and ideological dimensions."...

 than their 18th century counterparts. They included gentlewomen and various poorer relations of the owners, and there were also far more of them. In 1585 the Earl of Derby
Earl of Derby
Earl of Derby is a title in the Peerage of England. The title was first adopted by Robert de Ferrers, 1st Earl of Derby under a creation of 1139. It continued with the Ferrers family until the 6th Earl forfeited his property toward the end of the reign of Henry III and died in 1279...

 had a household of 115 people, while forty years later the Earl of Dorset
Earl of Dorset
Earl of Dorset is a title that has been created at least four times in the Peerage of England. It was created in 1411 for Thomas Beaufort, who was later created Duke of Exeter. The peerages became extinct on his death....

 was still maintaining a household of 111, all of whom were reported to be living in great state. By 1722 the more elevated Duke of Chandos
Duke of Chandos
The title Baron Chandos has been created twice in the Peerage of England. It was first created in 1337 when Roger de Chandos was summoned to parliament. It became extinct on his death....

 had a household of 90, 16 of whom were members of his private orchestra
An orchestra is a sizable instrumental ensemble that contains sections of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The term orchestra derives from the Greek ορχήστρα, the name for the area in front of an ancient Greek stage reserved for the Greek chorus...

 rather than domestic servants. The reduction in staff numbers went hand in hand with the reduction of ceremony. The formalities of presenting food to the entire gathered household in the hall with ceremonies of bowing, kissing and kneeling and cupbearers were disappearing and servants were becoming less obvious.

Roger Pratt is the architect credited with pioneering the removal of servants from dining in the great hall. In 1650 at Coleshill House Pratt designed the first purpose-built servants' hall in the basement. By the end of the century the arrangement was common; the only servants left in the hall were those waiting for a summons.

By the late 17th century the idea of giving servants their own designated areas had been adopted not only in the houses of the aristocracy, as at Coleshill, but also in those of the gentry
Gentry denotes "well-born and well-bred people" of high social class, especially in the past....

 such as Belton House
Belton House
Belton House is a Grade I listed country house in Belton near Grantham, Lincolnshire, England. The mansion is surrounded by formal gardens and a series of avenues leading to follies within a larger wooded park...

. This improved privacy and kept cooking smells, noise, and any other indelicacies of the lower classes
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

 away from their more cultivated employers, thus allowing the great hall and its adjoining rooms to be more tastefully decorated and specifically employed.

However it was essential that servants were close at hand, and so they were given their own specific floors, usually the lowest and the highest. These floors were often, as at Belton, distinguished by a different fenestration from the rooms of the employers in between. Hence at Belton can be seen the small windows of the semi-basement containing the kitchens, pantries and servants' dining halls. Above are the large windows lighting the principal rooms, while right at the top of the house are again the small windows of the servants' bedrooms. These rooms which were entirely in main block of the house, and constituted distinct servants' quarters, were to be the forerunner of the service wing.

Even while Belton was still being completing a large change was taking place in architecture with more classical genres of the continental Baroque being introduced. Chatsworth House
Chatsworth House
Chatsworth House is a stately home in North Derbyshire, England, northeast of Bakewell and west of Chesterfield . It is the seat of the Duke of Devonshire, and has been home to his family, the Cavendish family, since Bess of Hardwick settled at Chatsworth in 1549.Standing on the east bank of the...

 and Castle Howard
Castle Howard
Castle Howard is a stately home in North Yorkshire, England, north of York. One of the grandest private residences in Britain, most of it was built between 1699 and 1712 for the 3rd Earl of Carlisle, to a design by Sir John Vanbrugh...

 are symbolic of this period. The Baroque house was not only to introduce revolutionary changes to the layout and introduction of the state apartments but also to bring about innovations in the lives of the staff who were now to be firmly lodged in their places downstairs.

The new Baroque fashion, and that of Palladianism
Palladian architecture
Palladian architecture is a European style of architecture derived from the designs of the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio . The term "Palladian" normally refers to buildings in a style inspired by Palladio's own work; that which is recognised as Palladian architecture today is an evolution of...

 which quickly followed it, swept away the double pile concept of one compact block with sets of rooms back to back as at Belton in favour of houses having at their centre a grand corps de logis
Corps de logis
Corps de logis is the architectural term which refers to the principal block of a large, usually classical, mansion or palace. It contains the principal rooms, state apartments and an entry. The grandest and finest rooms are often on the first floor above the ground level: this floor is the...

 flanked by long wings or pavilions, which in Palladio's original conception had been the mere farm buildings of what were small country villas. These wings became adapted in design to house the staff, and other secondary rooms.

A second distinguishing feature of this new era was that flat lead roofs now often replaced the former attics where the servants had slept. However this lack of space was compensated in the new houses by the entire ground floor being given over to the servants. This floor, usually built of rusticated
Rustication (architecture)
thumb|upright|Two different styles of rustication in the [[Palazzo Medici-Riccardi]] in [[Florence]].In classical architecture rustication is an architectural feature that contrasts in texture with the smoothly finished, squared block masonry surfaces called ashlar...

 stone, was beneath the larger and grander piano nobile
Piano nobile
The piano nobile is the principal floor of a large house, usually built in one of the styles of classical renaissance architecture...

 occupied by the employers. Ornate external staircases were built to the front door which was now clearly on the first floor. The nobility now had very obvious minimal contact with those living downstairs.

The 18th century servant

It was not uncommon for the service wings to be the same size as the main part of the house which they served, or even larger than it. At the Baroque Castle Howard
Castle Howard
Castle Howard is a stately home in North Yorkshire, England, north of York. One of the grandest private residences in Britain, most of it was built between 1699 and 1712 for the 3rd Earl of Carlisle, to a design by Sir John Vanbrugh...

 and its slightly younger relation Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace  is a monumental country house situated in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, residence of the dukes of Marlborough. It is the only non-royal non-episcopal country house in England to hold the title of palace. The palace, one of England's largest houses, was built between...

 completed in 1722, the service wings are of monumental proportions, intended to be highly visible, enhancing the appearance of both the size and prestige of the mansion. In smaller houses the flanking wings could take the form of symmetrical pavilions linked to the corps de logis by open or closed colonnades. Each pavilion was a self-contained unit for a designated purpose as at both Holkham Hall
Holkham Hall
Holkham Hall is an eighteenth-century country house located adjacent to the village of Holkham, on the north coast of the English county of Norfolk...

 and Kedleston
Kedleston Hall
Kedleston Hall is an English country house in Kedleston, Derbyshire, approximately four miles north-west of Derby, and is the seat of the Curzon family whose name originates in Notre-Dame-de-Courson in Normandy...

, where one pavilion housed the kitchens and staff, and another the private family rooms. These servants wings could be fairly small
compared to the overall size of the house, as the servants had at their disposal, in addition to their own wing, the ground floor of the entire building. The kitchen and its attendant odours, however, were always confined to a more remote wing.

Ironically while life upstairs away from the servants now became more relaxed with less ceremony, life downstairs became a parody of the former world upstairs. Butlers, housekeepers and cooks now became monarchs in their own small kingdoms. A strict hierarchy among the servants developed which persisted in the grander households until the 20th century. The upper servants in large households would often withdraw from the servants' hall to eat their dessert courses in the privacy of a Steward's Room in much the same way the owners of the house had withdrawn to a solar from the Great Hall in the previous era. Strict orders of precedence and deference evolved which became sacrosanct.

During the 18th century, the only way of summoning a servant was by calling, or a handbell. This meant a servant had to remain on duty within earshot at all times (straight-backed uncomfortable hall chairs designed to keep servants awake date from this period). However, the early 19th century invention of the bell pull
Bell pull
A bell pull is a woven textile, cord, handle, knob, or other object that connects with a bell or bell wire, and which rings a bell when pulled. Bell pulls are used to summon workers in homes of people who have butlers, maids or other servants, and often have a tassel at the bottom...

, a complicated system of wires and chains within ceiling and wall cavities, meant a servant could be summoned from a greater distance, and therefore also kept at a greater distance. From this time on it became fashionable for servants to be as near to invisible as possible, which fitted exactly with the next change in architectural and aesthetic fashions.

These new fashions made sweeping changes to the life of the servant. From the 1760s Palladianism was slowly superseded by Neoclassicism
Neoclassical architecture
Neoclassical architecture was an architectural style produced by the neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century, manifested both in its details as a reaction against the Rococo style of naturalistic ornament, and in its architectural formulas as an outgrowth of some classicizing...

. A defining feature of the Neoclassical house was the absence of the first floor piano nobile. This was in part due to the picturesque
Picturesque is an aesthetic ideal introduced into English cultural debate in 1782 by William Gilpin in Observations on the River Wye, and Several Parts of South Wales, etc. Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty; made in the Summer of the Year 1770, a practical book which instructed England's...

 values then coming into vogue. During this - the era of Humphrey Repton's idyllic landscapes - it became desirable to step from any of the main rooms directly into the landscape. It was also desirable for all four sides of a house to enjoy this luxury.

Idyllic and pleasant as this concept was for those living upstairs, it was bad news for the servants, as the first and most obvious solution was to bury them. Nowhere is this more evident than at Castle Coole
Castle Coole
Castle Coole is a townland and a late-18th-century neo-classical mansion situated in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.Set in a 1200 acre wooded estate, it is one of three properties owned and managed by the National Trust in County Fermanagh, the others being Florence Court and the...

 in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

. The entire servant's quarters were put underground into cellars, lit only by windows at the bottom of grate
A grating is any regularly spaced collection of essentially identical, parallel, elongated elements. Gratings usually consist of a single set of elongated elements, but can consist of two sets, in which case the second set is usually perpendicular to the first...

d pits. The only means of approach was through a single underground tunnel
A tunnel is an underground passageway, completely enclosed except for openings for egress, commonly at each end.A tunnel may be for foot or vehicular road traffic, for rail traffic, or for a canal. Some tunnels are aqueducts to supply water for consumption or for hydroelectric stations or are sewers...

, the entrance of which was concealed by the brow of a landscaped hill some distance from the house.

In the absence of electric or gas lighting
Gas lighting
Gas lighting is production of artificial light from combustion of a gaseous fuel, including hydrogen, methane, carbon monoxide, propane, butane, acetylene, ethylene, or natural gas. Before electricity became sufficiently widespread and economical to allow for general public use, gas was the most...

 the servants rooms and kitchens of this period were dark, dismal, often damp and badly ventilated places. The only advantage of Neoclassical architecture from the servants point of view, was that houses once again began to have pitched roofs, which could contain servant's bedrooms with gabled windows, albeit often hidden behind a stone balustrade
A baluster is a moulded shaft, square or of lathe-turned form, one of various forms of spindle in woodwork, made of stone or wood and sometimes of metal, standing on a unifying footing, and supporting the coping of a parapet or the handrail of a staircase. Multiplied in this way, they form a...

 or parapet
A parapet is a wall-like barrier at the edge of a roof, terrace, balcony or other structure. Where extending above a roof, it may simply be the portion of an exterior wall that continues above the line of the roof surface, or may be a continuation of a vertical feature beneath the roof such as a...

. This arrangement for housing servants persisted in the affluent town houses of Britain into the late 19th century and is particularly common in the great Regency
English Regency
The Regency era in the United Kingdom is the period between 1811—when King George III was deemed unfit to rule and his son, the Prince of Wales, ruled as his proxy as Prince Regent—and 1820, when the Prince Regent became George IV on the death of his father....

 terraces of Belgravia
Belgravia is a district of central London in the City of Westminster and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Noted for its immensely expensive residential properties, it is one of the wealthiest districts in the world...

 and Mayfair
Mayfair is an area of central London, within the City of Westminster.-History:Mayfair is named after the annual fortnight-long May Fair that took place on the site that is Shepherd Market today...

 designed by John Nash
John Nash (architect)
John Nash was a British architect responsible for much of the layout of Regency London.-Biography:Born in Lambeth, London, the son of a Welsh millwright, Nash trained with the architect Sir Robert Taylor. He established his own practice in 1777, but his career was initially unsuccessful and...

 and later Thomas Cubitt
Thomas Cubitt
Thomas Cubitt , born Buxton, Norfolk, was the leading master builder in London in the second quarter of the 19th century, and also carried out several projects in other parts of England.-Background:...

 in London.

However, in the country where there was more space, the more practical solution was to build a specific wing onto the house for the staff, and as it was often asymmetrical to the main body of the house, and of cheaper building material
Building material
Building material is any material which is used for a construction purpose. Many naturally occurring substances, such as clay, sand, wood and rocks, even twigs and leaves have been used to construct buildings. Apart from naturally occurring materials, many man-made products are in use, some more...

s, it became necessary to disguise it.

The invisible servant

The fashion for disguising the service wings led to become feats of architectural engineering
Architectural engineering
Architectural engineering, also known as building engineering, is the application of engineering principles and technology to building design and construction...

. In the country where there was the space the wings were hidden behind screens of trees, shrubs and grassy banks as at Waddesdon Manor
Waddesdon Manor
Waddesdon Manor is a country house in the village of Waddesdon, in Buckinghamshire, England. The house was built in the Neo-Renaissance style of a French château between 1874 and 1889 for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild . Since this was the preferred style of the Rothschilds it became also known as...

 and Mentmore Towers
Mentmore Towers
Mentmore Towers is a 19th century English country house in the village of Mentmore in Buckinghamshire. The house was designed by Joseph Paxton and his son-in-law, George Henry Stokes, in the revival Elizabethan and Jacobean style of the late 16th century called Jacobethan, for the banker and...

. While the rooms within were light and airy, the wings were often designed to have windows facing away from the principal areas of the house and its gardens. In towns where space was limited the servants fared less well, with their daytime, and sometimes sleeping, quarters in the basement.

In both town and country means of access between the main house and the servant's wings were kept to a minimum, often the single door would be lined with green baize
Baize is a coarse woollen cloth, sometimes called felt in American English based on a similarity in appearance.-Usage:...

 to deaden any sound. Long and complicated passages linking kitchens with dining rooms were devised; in some houses the tortuous route through corridors and staircases from kitchen to dining room
Dining room
A dining room is a room for consuming food. In modern times it is usually adjacent to the kitchen for convenience in serving, although in medieval times it was often on an entirely different floor level...

 could be an eighth of a mile - an absence of cooking smells taking priority over hot food. Even the doors linking to the connecting corridors would be covered by screens, sometimes disguised as bookcase
A bookcase, or bookshelf, is a piece of furniture, almost always with horizontal shelves, used to store books. A bookcase consists of a unit including two or more shelves which may not all be used to contain books or other printed materials. Shelves may be fixed or adjustable to different positions...

s with dummy books, or just simply covered in the same wallpaper
Wallpaper is a kind of material used to cover and decorate the interior walls of homes, offices, and other buildings; it is one aspect of interior decoration. It is usually sold in rolls and is put onto a wall using wallpaper paste...

 as that with which the room was decorated, as the existence of servants was not to be acknowledged. Cleaning had to be performed in the early hours of the morning while the employers were asleep, and in the grander houses only male servants were allowed to be visible, and then only when required.

In some large houses from the beginning of the 19th century, enormous and ingenious efforts of building and design were employed to keep the staff out of sight. The service wings were often only accessed by underground tunnels as at Rockingham house
Lough Key Forest Park
Lough Key Forest Park is an 800 hectare park on the southern shore of Lough Key, 40 km south east of Sligo town and 3 km east of Boyle in the Republic of Ireland. Formerly part of the Rockingham estate, it is open to the public....

 and Castle Coole
Castle Coole
Castle Coole is a townland and a late-18th-century neo-classical mansion situated in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.Set in a 1200 acre wooded estate, it is one of three properties owned and managed by the National Trust in County Fermanagh, the others being Florence Court and the...

, both, in Ireland. At Mentmore Towers, where the service wing is a large block the same size as the mansion itself, the main part of the house is built on artificially raised ground allowing it to tower over the service wings which are in reality of a near similar height. The only windows to Mentmore's service wings were to an inner courtyard, thus preventing the servant's looking out on their employers, or their employers catching accidental sight of them. The outer, but blind, walls of the wings are of attractive dressed Ancaster stone
Ancaster stone
Ancaster stone is Middle Jurassic oolitic limestone, quarried around Ancaster, Lincolnshire, England. There are three forms of this limestone, Weather Bed, Hard White and Freestone...

 adorned with niches and statuary, while the inner courtyard visible only to the servants is of common yellow brick. However the majority of the wing is hidden by dense planting.

The Palais Strousberg
Palais Strousberg
The Palais Strousberg was a large city mansion built in Berlin, Germany for the railway magnate Bethel Henry Strousberg. It was designed by the architect August Orth and built between 1867–68 at No.70 Wilhelmstraße...

, a vast town house built in Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

  between 1867–1868, confined the servants to its semi-basement
Semi-basement is architectural term for a floor of a building that is half below ground, rather than entirely such as a true basement or cellar....

. The only windows facing outwards at the front of the mansion, were ironically those of servants' bedrooms: all the workrooms either had no windows at all or were lit by a complicated system of light-wells and small internal courtyards. The servants' quarters were designed to run like a well-oiled machine. Everything from the carriage horses to the wine cellar
Wine cellar
A wine cellar is a storage room for wine in bottles or barrels, or more rarely in carboys, amphorae or plastic containers. In an active wine cellar, important factors such as temperature and humidity are maintained by a climate control system. In contrast, passive wine cellars are not...

, kitchen and laundry
Laundry is a noun that refers to the act of washing clothing and linens, the place where that washing is done, and/or that which needs to be, is being, or has been laundered...

 was confined to one compact floor under one roof and, most importantly, out if sight. Small staircases led to convenient points in a complex labyrinth
In Greek mythology, the Labyrinth was an elaborate structure designed and built by the legendary artificer Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos...

 of narrow passages on the piano nobile above, allowing servants to enter reception rooms when required, without being seen in other parts of the house.

King Ludwig II of Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

 in his castles of Linderhof
Linderhof Palace is in Germany, in southwest Bavaria near Ettal Abbey. It is the smallest of the three palaces built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria and the only one which he lived to see completed.-Development of the building:...

 and Herrenchiemsee
Herrenchiemsee is a complex of royal buildings on the Herreninsel, an island in the Chiemsee, Bavaria's largest lake, 60 km south east of Munich. Together with the neighbouring island of Frauenchiemsee and the uninhabited Krautinsel it forms the municipality of Chiemsee...

, built during the same period as the Palais Strousberg took the invisibility of his servants one step further by having designed dining room tables which were lowered through the floor to the kitchens below to be replenished between courses, negating the need for a servant's immediate presence completely. However, while the Palais Strousberg's layout of its servants' quarters was common throughout the capital cities of Europe, King Ludwig's seem to have been more an eccentricity peculiar to him.

The 20th century

While staff accommodation continues to be built for hotels and similar buildings, in domestic use it has declined along with the numbers of staff kept. This decline began in Europe following World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. In Europe many owners of large mansions have gone so far as to demolish whole service wings. Queen Elizabeth II made this decision at Sandringham House
Sandringham House
Sandringham House is a country house on of land near the village of Sandringham in Norfolk, England. The house is privately owned by the British Royal Family and is located on the royal Sandringham Estate, which lies within the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.-History and current...

 in the 1980s, while at West Wycombe Park
West Wycombe Park
West Wycombe Park is a country house near the village of West Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, England, built between 1740 and 1800. It was conceived as a pleasure palace for the 18th century libertine and dilettante Sir Francis Dashwood, 2nd Baronet. The house is a long rectangle with four façades that...

 the roofless former service wing now contains a garden. In many other houses open to the public the former servants' domains are now restaurant
A restaurant is an establishment which prepares and serves food and drink to customers in return for money. Meals are generally served and eaten on premises, but many restaurants also offer take-out and food delivery services...

s, shops and offices, while the bedrooms are let to holiday makers and tourists. Where staff are retained in private houses, they are more likely to live in purpose-built apartments created from the former servants' quarters, or as at Woburn Abbey
Woburn Abbey
Woburn Abbey , near Woburn, Bedfordshire, England, is a country house, the seat of the Duke of Bedford and the location of the Woburn Safari Park.- Pre-20th century :...

converted from former stables; at Woburn the servants' attic bedrooms have now been altered to provide more spacious bedrooms for the use of the owners, thus providing a retreat and privacy from the paying public viewing the rooms below.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.