The Domestic Servants of Downton Abbey: Part 2-The Butler’s Pantry

Butler: At Downton Abbey, this is the guy who's in charge of the household staff as well as the post you assume on an estate after a failed showbiz career and a relationship in which your girlfriend dumped you for your Vaudeville partner. Though fatherly and stiff, can be quite amusing when trying to hopelessly interact with new technology like a phonograph or a telephone.

Butler: At Downton Abbey, this is the guy who’s in charge of the household staff as well as the post you assume on an estate after a failed showbiz career and a relationship in which your girlfriend dumped you for your Vaudeville partner. Though fatherly and stiff with a rigid code of conduct, can be quite amusing when trying to hopelessly interact with new technology like a phonograph or a telephone. Yet, suggest that a maid serve a duke in the dining room and he’ll think society collapse is inevitable.

The role of the butler is one of the more recognizable jobs in a Great House or a large estate and Downton Abbey is no exception. On Downton Abbey (and in most media in general), he’s seen as head of the household staff and sometimes attends to his every master’s need (though this is more of valet’s job description, which I’ll get to later). On one end, he can be well dressed, unfailingly polite, devoted to his employer despite being more level headed and smarter than his boss. On the other end, he could be a manipulative schemer who could kill his boss during a dinner party. However, while we usually see the Butler as the most senior employee nowadays, this wasn’t always the case in history and could sometimes depend on the household. In fact, the butler’s original purpose was to look after the wine in the cellar and was of middle rank yet later this included cheese, bread, and other basic provisions sometimes known as the butler’s pantry. Yet, from the 17th to 19th centuries, his stature slowly rose even though sometimes, he wasn’t always the servant in charge and could be outranked whether it be by the valet or Groom of the Chambers. But nevertheless, the liveried butler is still the most familiar intermediary between the upstairs world and the downstairs staff. So without further adieu, here are the jobs relating to the Butler and his retinue from the Butler’s Pantry.

1. Groom of the Chambers
Function: Responsible for announcing company, answering bells, making sure the principal seeing rooms are in proper order as well as supplied with pens, ink, candles, and paper. Also assist in decorating such as flower displays, making sure card tables have cards, and sees that rooms are in proper order. Keeps a book of invitations given to his employers to remind of their engagements as well as arranges invitations for special events. Sees that guests are properly attended. Supervised servants and specialized in furniture maintenance.
Pay and Benefits: I’m sure he receives a generous sum of money as well as room and board.
Status: Member of the Upper Staff, addressed by last name, and reported to the master or House Steward. May even outrank the butler.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 5:00am-10:00pm.
Typical Candidate: Usually a man who spent considerable time as a footman, butler, or other member of the male staff with leadership skills.
Characters who had this job: This job doesn’t exist at Downton Abbey but it’s likely that the estate might’ve had one. Then again, Carson performs a lot of this job’s duties anyway and might’ve went obsolete in the late 19th century.

2. Butler
Function: Highest official servant and responsible for running the house and from the 19th century onward assumed the House Manager’s responsibilities. Charged with supervising the footmen, the plate chest (making sure it’s properly cleaned before use), and affairs relating to any alcohol purchased and consumed by the household (such as keeping accounts, decanting it for lunch and dinner, and putting it away after every meal). Can even bottle wine and brew beer. Takes over valet’s duty when there’s not one in the household. Announces visitors during afternoon hours, readies rooms for use every day, as well as tidies them. Also, polishes the silver and keeps it in pristine condition. Responsibilities depend on the size of the establishment.
Pay and Benefits: Annual salary of 40-60 pounds ($4,300-$6,400). Also receives gratuity money from vendors selling goods to maintain the house. Has his own room on the estate or a cottage if married.
Status: Highest ranking of an official servant and is only answerable to the family.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 5am-10pm.
Typical Candidate: Usually a seasoned male veteran of the domestic service establishment who’s risen through the ranks over his career. Most butlers usually served many other positions while in the same house.
Characters who had this job: Mr. Charles Carson is Downton Abbey’s resident butler and does possibly everything described above except make alcohol and take over the valet’s duties (which Thomas does). Not surprisingly, he’s been working at Downton longer than any of the other staff or at least as early as the 1890s before the Crawley girls were born (then again, he may have been a servant before his career in Vaudeville).

3. Under Butler

Under Butler: At Downton Abbey this is the job you give to the estate's resident scheming asshole after he's caught sexually assaulting a footman in his bedroom. Sure he's worked as a footman for over 10 years, served as NCO in the war, and has experience as a valet. But, really, that incident could've landed him jail, let alone get him fired.

Under Butler: At Downton Abbey this is the job you give to the estate’s resident scheming asshole after he’s caught sexually assaulting a footman in his bedroom. Sure he’s worked as a footman for over 10 years, served as NCO in the war, and has experience as a valet. But, really, that incident could’ve landed him jail, let alone get him fired. Talk about giving a promotion to someone who doesn’t deserve it.

Function: Shares many of the butler’s duties but is only second to him among the male staff as well as takes control of staff when butler’s away. Also, takes over as a footman during special occasions. Responsibilities may vary according to household. Though not all estates have this position.
Pay and Benefits: Well, less than the butler as well as housekeeper and his own room or cottage at the estate depending on his marital status.
Status: Member of the Upper Staff and only answerable to the Butler. Addressed by last name.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 5am-10pm.
Typical Candidate: Again, a male veteran of the domestic service who’s worked for the household for quite some time to rise through the ranks.
Characters who had this job: Thomas Barrow has had this job at Downton Abbey since Season 3 (after an incident that would’ve gotten him jailed, let alone fired in real life. Then again, his homosexuality has been an open secret at Downton anyway. However, since he’s the resident baddie {especially after O’Brien left}, his position at Downton is relatively secure unless Rob James-Collier wants off the show). Nevertheless, Thomas has been working at Downton for over a decade.

4. First Footman

First Footman: At Downton Abbey this is the job you give to the handsome footman who's kind of a prick not above hazing his competition. Though this job may not get him laid by the kitchen maid who has a crush on him, it may make him prone to some awkward moments of unwanted sexual  attention.

First Footman: At Downton Abbey this is the job you give to the handsome footman who’s kind of a prick not above hazing his competition. Though this job may not get him laid by the kitchen maid who has a crush on him, it may make him prone to some awkward moments of unwanted sexual attention. Also has a former boss who won’t leave him alone.

Function: Next in line to replace butler (unless there’s an under butler in the household staff), with his main job to be tall, handsome, and to represent the estate’s grandeur. Aside from regular footman duties, he accompanied the lady of the house on shopping trips, served the family meals, and assisted the butler.
Pay and Benefits: Annual salary of 30 pounds a year ($3,200) as well as room and board (though he typically had to share one). However, like most footmen, the taller and handsomer he was (or the more similar he resembled the second footman), the more he got paid. Could be supplemented by 5-15 pounds annually ($500-$1,500) in tips and other gifts from the lady of the house.
Status: Highest ranking member of the Lower Staff. Addressed by first name and reported to Butler.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 6:00am-11:00pm.
Typical Candidate: Usually the footman who’s spent either the longest time at the estate. If not, then hotness and height.
Characters who had this job: Thomas Barrow starts out as the first footman in Seasons 1 and 3 until his promotion to under butler. Onwards, it’s been Jimmy Kent as of Season 4.

5. Second Footman

Second Footman: At Downton Abbey this is the job you give to a military age guy who's not the resident asshole or romantically pursuing the boss's daughter. Mainly exists as a nice guy to get killed off in WWI during Season 2. Because we all know that someone at Downton had to get it.

Second Footman: At Downton Abbey this is the job you give to a military age guy who’s not the resident asshole or romantically pursuing the boss’s daughter. Mainly exists as a nice guy to get killed off in WWI during Season 2, dying peacefully after his rushed death bed wedding with the kitchen maid. Because we all know that someone at Downton had to get it.

Function: Similar to the first footman but in an apprenticeship capacity.
Pay and Benefits: Annual salary of 25 pounds ($2,700) but can depend on hotness, height, and resemblance to the first footman, as well as having to share a room.
Status: Member of Lower Staff. Addressed by first name and reported to Butler.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 6:00am-11:00pm.
Typical Candidate: Usually the footman who’s spent a long time on at the estate. Yet, if he bore a resemblance to the first footman or was reasonably hot or tall, it was even better.
Characters who had this job: William Mason was Downton Abbey’s second footman until he joined the army in Season 2 (yet was killed in WWI so didn’t return to his post. However, since he, Thomas, and Branson were the only servants of military age on the estate, his death was no surprise.) And from Season 3 to the time he left for culinary school in London, Alfred Nugent served this post (of course, he was hired as a footman only because he was O’Brien’s nephew but he probably would’ve just gotten to work as one at Downton due to being 6’4” alone). Since then, it’s been Joseph Molesley (who probably got in since he was Matthew’s valet and aching for a job) as of Season 4.

6. Footman

Footman: At Downton Abbey, this is the job you give to men that are: complete assholes, kind-hearted cannon fodder, culinary aspiring nephews of lady's maids, guys fleeing the unwanted attentions of a female boss, and ex-valets desperate for employment after their boss suddenly died in a car accident on the way home from the hospital.

Footman: At Downton Abbey, this is the job you give to men that are: complete assholes, kind-hearted cannon fodder, culinary aspiring nephews of lady’s maids, guys fleeing the unwanted attentions of a female boss, and ex-valets desperate for employment after their boss suddenly died in a car accident on the way home from the hospital.

Function: Male staff part of the butler’s pantry department. Usual duties include laying the table, answering the door, waiting at the table, receiving and carrying packages and mail, and accompanying the family while traveling on foot, carriage, or car. Also looked after male guests who came without a valet. May even carry heavy items and move furniture for the house maids. Their roles were similar to waiters, bodyguards, busboys, and escorts.
Pay and Benefits: Annual salary of at least 20 pounds ($2,100) as well as room and board. Pay also depended on the footman’s looks such as height and hotness since they were meant to be seen by family and guests. A footman over 5’10” could earn as much as 40 pounds a year (which may be over $3,500), (Alfred could’ve earned this much money).
Status: Member of the Lower Staff. However, since they were hired to be seen, the notion of a handsome footman was the 19th century equivalent of the hot pool boy. And yes, affairs between footmen and their mistresses did occur. Addressed by first name and reported to Butler. Have expensive livery uniforms, refined mannerisms, and general appearance. Still, an estate like Downton Abbey usually had 4 of them.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 6:00am-11:00pm.
Typical Candidate: Well, must be an unmarried young man of great height and reasonably hot. Most were in their late teens and 20s (Moseley would’ve not been hired as a footman in real life since he’s balding and may be over 30. Yet, was made one nevertheless to keep him on the show. Yet, despite Alfred’s not being a servant before, he certainly would since he’s 6’4” tall {even if he wasn’t O’Brien’s nephew}.) Butlers usually had this position before rising to their current position.
Characters who had this job: Let’s see for there’s quite a list of footmen at Downton Abbey. Well, Season 1 has Thomas Barrow (until Season 3) and William Mason while Season 3 has Alfred Nugent and Jimmy Kent. However, since Thomas’ promotion and Alfred’s departure, it’s been Jimmy Kent and Joseph Moseley as of Season 4. Also, Carson was most likely a footman while the Crawley girls were young.

7. Page or Tea Boy
Function: Apprentice footman responsible for attending a person of distinction as well as guests. May have even served other servants in the Servants’ Hall.
Pay and Benefits: Annual salary of 8-16 pounds ($860-$1,700) depending on age, appearance, height, and abilities.
Status: Member of Lower Staff and addressed by first name.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 6:00am-11:00pm.
Typical Candidate: Usually a boy between 10-16 years old from the lower classes as well as shows higher ambition. A lot of footman started out this way.
Characters who had this job: This job doesn’t exist on Downton Abbey but I’m sure someone like Thomas Barrow and Carson worked as one for a time.

8. Hall Boy
Function: Assistant to the lowest footman who takes cards in the hall, polishes shoes and boots of visitors, and empties chamber pots.
Pay and Benefits: Annual salary of 13 pounds ($1,300) as well as room and board.
Status: Member of the Lower Staff and one of lowest male servant ranks. Addressed by first name.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 6:00am-11:00pm.
Typical Candidate: Usually a boy between 10-16 years old and from the lower classes. Many footmen, valets, and butlers started out this way.
Characters who had this job: Well, this job may or may not exist on Downton Abbey but it’s likely that men like Thomas Barrow and Carson might have worked as one.

9. Pantry Boy
Function: Responsible for maintaining the pantry as far as I know.
Pay and Benefits: Besides room and board, not much pay.
Status: Member of the Lower Staff and one of the lowest ranked male servants. Reported to Butler.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 6:00am-11:00pm.
Typical Candidate: Usually a young boy or a teenager at least 10, maybe even younger.
Characters who had this job: This job doesn’t exist at Downton Abbey. However, outside the show and in real life, this the job real life butler Eugene Allen started out with during his long career at the White House. So this job definitely existed somewhere.

10. Boot Boy
Function: Responsible for cleaning, polishing, and caring for the household members’ boots and shoes as well as other odd jobs.
Pay and Benefits: Besides room and board, not much pay.
Status: Member of the Lower Staff and lowest ranking male servant. Addressed by first name and reported to Butler.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 5:00am-10:00pm.
Typical Candidate: Usually a young boy or teenager. May be as young as 10 or even younger.
Characters who had this job: This job may or may not exist at Downton Abbey. Yet, these boys weren’t meant to be seen.

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