The Domestic Servants of Downton Abbey: Part 3-The Kitchen

Kitchen: At Downton Abbey, this is where the food is prepared and  a lot of the downstairs drama takes place, other than in the Servant's Hall, naturally

Kitchen: At Downton Abbey, this is where the food is prepared and a lot of the downstairs drama takes place, other than in the Servant’s Hall, naturally. Serves 8 hot meals a day, which seems a bit much even by Hobbit standards.

On a large British grand estate like Downton Abbey, the kitchen is probably one of the busier rooms since it’s where all the food is prepared before arriving to the dining room to serve. As we see on Downton Abbey, you can guess that the Crawleys entertain a lot, especially during special occasions like banquets, balls, parties, weddings, holidays, or when guests arrive. And when visitors and house guests arrive, you can expect Mrs. Patmore and her kitchen staff working into overdrive just to provide the most impressive and delicious meals consisting of at least a dinner with 3 courses or more. Nevertheless, since it was a room for food preparation, it was a servant domain located either in the basement or ground floor. And before the advent of the Servant Halls and Quarters, it was where they ate, socialized, spent their free time, or sometimes even slept. But while the kitchen staff at Downton have the luxuries of tiled floors, closed gas stoves, electricity, indoor plumbing, cupboards, and other industrial conveniences, this wouldn’t have been the case if Downton Abbey took place at a time before the Industrial Revolution. In Colonial America, kitchens were either built in the back of the house or as separate buildings due to the obvious fire hazards (at a time when kitchen fires were very common, by the way). And in Tudor times, let’s just say you’d want to stay the hell out of any of their estate kitchens since it was a dirty, hot, dangerous, and miserable place in which food took hours to cook over an open fire. It also wasn’t unusual for the kitchen staff at Henry VIII’s Hampton Court to cook in the nude on many occasions just to cool off, which probably isn’t something you’d see on The Tudors for obvious reasons. And it probably didn’t help that he had to have six lavish weddings either. Nevertheless, without further adieu, I bring you a list of servants you might’ve seen on a large grand estate like Downton Abbey.

1. Clerk of the Kitchen
Function: Responsible for supervising the kitchen, including the work of the female cook and her subordinates. Ordered table provisions, negotiated with the green grocer, baker, and butcher. Disbursed funds allocated by house steward for payment of provisions to tradesmen for their services. Guardian of the pantry. Ensured meals were served on time and properly prepared this type of food preparation. Sometimes the chef held this position.
Pay and Benefits: Well, higher than most of the kitchen staff but salary depended on size of the household. Yet, he did have his own quarters.
Status: Well, at least Senior Servants.
Hours: Works a daily schedule on the estate from at least dawn to dusk.
Typical Candidate: Must be male and have a certain amount of experience in management and the kitchen.
Characters who had this job: This job doesn’t exist on Downton Abbey yet, this is more of an 18th century job anyway. However, Mrs. Patmore does most of this positions duties herself though Mrs. Hughes has the key to the pantry.

2. Chef/Man-Cook

Chef/Man-Cook: At Downton Abbey, this is the job a lady's maid's nephew aspires to be even though he's just a second footman. Still, gets his chance to train at the Ritz Hotel through hard work and sheer luck in Season 4.

Chef/Man-Cook: At Downton Abbey, this is the job a lady’s maid’s nephew aspires to be even though he’s just a second footman. Still, gets his chance to train at the Ritz Hotel through hard work and sheer luck in Season 4.

Function: In charge of kitchen staff and responsible for preparing the family’s meals and the kitchen staff.
Pay and Benefits: Varies considerably depending on the household and the male cook’s prestige (a famous chef for the royal family could be paid as much as 300 pounds {$32,000}). Always paid more than female cooks though. Had his own room or cottage depending on marital status or level of expertise.
Status: Member of the Upper Staff though rank below Butler and Housekeeper if present. Ate in the kitchen.
Hours: From early morning until evening with free time in the afternoon save on special dinners.
Typical Candidate: Well, from the 19th century onwards, most male cooks had to be familiar with French cuisine. Yet, whenever the cook is male, French guys are usually preferred (at least in Great Britain).
Characters who had this job: This job doesn’t exist on Downton Abbey (since male cooks weren’t employed on estates at the time unless they were chefs). However, Alfred Nugent does leave Downton to train as one in Season 4.

3. Cook

Cook: At Downton Abbey, this is the person responsible for cooking all the food and supervising the kitchen. This job goes to a cantankerous and no nonsense middle-aged woman who rules her kitchen with an iron rod and quick tongue. But she can make anyone with a strong anti-British culinary prejudice enjoy English food. Doesn't permit profanity unless she's doing the swearing. Also takes a lot of frustrations on her staff. Hey, what do you expect from someone who has to cook 8 hot meals a day?

Cook: At Downton Abbey, this is the person responsible for cooking all the food and supervising the kitchen. This job goes to a cantankerous and no nonsense middle-aged woman who rules her kitchen with an iron rod and quick tongue. But she can make anyone with a strong anti-British culinary prejudice enjoy English food. Yet, she’s utterly hopeless with the electric mixer. Doesn’t permit profanity unless she’s doing the swearing. Hates makeup. Also takes a lot of frustrations on her staff she treats as her own children. Hey, what do you expect from someone who has to cook 8 hot meals a day?

Function: Responsible for preparing meals and in charge of the kitchen staff. Charged with making a menu for lunch and dinner as well as orders tradespeople to serve the house while in town. Makes soup for the following day as well as that day’s pastry, jellies, creams, and entrees, all in the morning. Also has to lock doors and windows to the basement, let the kitchen fire burn low, to turn off the gas in the kitchen and hallways before going to bed. Other responsibilities depend on size of household staff.
Pay and Benefits: In a modest home, she could be paid as little as 30 pounds ($3,200) and at most more than the butler yet rank below him. Also has her own room or cottage on the estate depending on marital status.
Status: Member of the Upper Staff. Addressed as “Mrs.” regardless of marital status if female. Ranks at least below the Butler and Housekeeper and above everyone else. Is only answerable to the family. However, if female, isn’t as prestigious as a male cook though but in rank, she was second only to the housekeeper among the female staff. Ate in the kitchen.
Hours: From early morning to late at night after dinner. Always has breakfast first before proceeding to make it for everyone else. Usually free in the afternoon save for special occasions like a dinner party or guests.
Typical Candidate: If female, she’s usually a woman who’s risen through the ranks after starting as a kitchen maid. Sought after for her sophisticated and practical knowledge.
Characters who had this job: Mrs. Beryl Patmore has this job at Downton Abbey and does about everything described above. She’s well known for her craft as well as worked at Downton for over 20 years as of Season 4. Still, she’s also known for her temper, but this is typical for most cooks at the time.

4. Confectioner
Function: Responsible with preparing candies and other confections for the estate during large dinners. Also, helps preserve foodstuffs and other ingredients.
Pay and Benefits: I’m sure anyone working in this position would’ve gotten a nice compensation as well as room and board.
Status: Member of the Upper Staff. Addressed by last name and reported to Cook. Dined with kitchen staff.
Hours: Worked from early in the morning to late at night.
Typical Candidate: Usually someone who’s been trained and possesses knowledge pertaining to making confections and food preservation.
Characters who had this job: This job doesn’t exist at Downton Abbey but probably does on grander estates.

5. Baker
Function: Responsible for preparing and making bread and other baked goods.
Pay and Benefits: I’m sure anyone in this position would receive a nice compensation as well as room and board.
Status: Member of the Upper Staff, addressed by first name, and reported to Cook. Dined with kitchen staff.
Hours: Worked from early in the morning to late at night.
Typical Candidate: Usually someone who’s been trained in a bake shop for a certain number of years.
Characters who had this job: This job doesn’t exist on Downton Abbey but probably does on grander estates.

6. Pastry Cook
Function: Responsible for preparing the pastry dishes and baked goods for the family during a large banquet on special occasions.
Pay and Benefits: I’m sure a person in this position received a great compensation with room and board.
Status: Member of the Upper Staff. Addressed by last name. Reported to Cook and dined with kitchen staff.
Hours: Worked from early in the morning to late at night.
Typical Candidate: Usually someone who’s been trained and possesses a wide range of knowledge regarding pastries and other baked delights. Could be either gender.
Characters who had this job: This job doesn’t exist on Downton Abbey but it probably does on grander estates.

7. Undercook or Assistant Cook

Undercook or Assistant Cook: At Downton Abbey, this is a job you give to a young woman who's complained about being a lowly scullery/kitchen maid for a good 8 years without being promoted. Also, had to go through a deathbed marriage with a dying soldier who once served as the second footman. Though she may someday get to run her father-in-law's farm.

Undercook or Assistant Cook: At Downton Abbey, this is a job you give to a young woman who’s complained about being a lowly scullery/kitchen maid for a good 8 years without being promoted. Also, had to go through a deathbed marriage with a dying soldier who once served as the second footman. Though she may someday get to run her father-in-law’s farm.

Function: Apprentice to the cook or chef. Prepares meals for the staff. In larger households, she was the head kitchen maid as well as was responsible for much of the plain cooking.
Pay and Benefits: Annual salary of 15 pounds ($1,600) as well as room and board.
Status: Member of the Lower Staff and addressed by first name. Reported directly to Cook and ate in the kitchen.
Hours: Usually early morning to late at night. Sort of the same as the cook.
Typical Candidate: Usually a young woman who’s had experience as a kitchen maid as well as quite skilled.
Characters who had this job: Daisy Mason is promoted to Assistant Cook after serving as a kitchen maid at Downton Abbey for 8 years in by Season 3 and she managed that mostly by complaining. Yet, she’s also known as a good cook though.

8.  Kitchen Maid

Kitchen Maid: At Downton Abbey, this is the job an aspiring Assistant Cook wants filled so badly unless it's by a girl who steals  the heart of the footman of her affections. Likes to attract guys but isn't interested in anything serious. Will take the first promotion opportunity she could get, even if it means leaving the country.

Kitchen Maid: At Downton Abbey, this is the job an aspiring Assistant Cook wants filled so badly unless it’s by a girl who steals the heart of the footman of her affections. Likes to attract guys but isn’t interested in anything serious. Will take the first promotion opportunity she could get, even if it means leaving the country.

Function: Basically her job was to assist the cook in preparing the meals and overseeing everything in the kitchen such as cleanliness, efficiency, and food preparation. Also answered to dining table demands on a daily basis. In smaller households, they can prepare vegetables, game, and poultry, do dairy work, and bake bread. If there was no still room made, they also made cakes for lunch, tea, and dessert as well as rolls for breakfast.
Pay and Benefits: Annual salary of 15 pounds a year as well as room and board.
Status: Member of the Lower Staff and addressed by first name. Reported to Cook and ate in the kitchen.
Hours: Usually from early morning to late at night. Same as the cook.
Typical Candidate: Usually an unmarried young woman at least in her teens though often very skilled or having ambition to be so.
Characters who had this job: Daisy starts out with this job at Downton Abbey in Seasons 1-3. By Season 3, she’s worked as a kitchen maid for 8 years (yet, an estate like Downton would certainly have at least 2-3). Ivy Stuart has this in Seasons 3-4, but since she left to be Harold Levinson’s cook in Season 4, this position is vacant.

9. Dairy Maid
Function: Responsible for churning butter, milking cows, transporting milk, as well as preparing creams and cheeses.
Pay and Benefits: Annual salary of 15 pounds a year ($1,600) as well as room and board.
Status: Member of the Lower Staff and addressed by first name. Reported to Cook.
Hours: Usually from sunrise to late at night as far as I know.
Typical Candidate: Usually a young woman at least in her teens who had some general knowledge on dairy products (like someone who grew up on a dairy farm).
Characters who had this job: This job doesn’t exist on Downton Abbey as far as I can tell. In fact, due to large scale dairy farming, this job might’ve become obsolete by the 20th century. Mrs. Patmore probably just got her dairy products from the open market. Still, they’re best known for inadvertently helping Edward Jenner develop the small pox vaccine (since the cowpox made them immune from the virus) but this was in the 18th century.

10. Scullery Maid

Scullery Maid: At Downton Abbey, this is a job you'd give to an impressionable teenage girl with a crush on the resident asshole who witnesses the boss's wife, daughter, and Head House Maid carry a dead Turk out of the daughter's bedroom in the middle of the night. Gives rise to the Kemal Pamuk scandal.

Scullery Maid: At Downton Abbey, this is a job you’d give to an impressionable teenage girl with a crush on the resident asshole who witnesses the boss’s wife, daughter, and Head House Maid carry a dead Turk out of the daughter’s bedroom in the middle of the night. Gives rise to the Kemal Pamuk scandal. Best girl to have dying soldier marry.

Function: Responsible for cleaning and scouring the pots and pans as well as cooking utensils and stoves. She also cleaned vegetables, scrubbed scales off fish, plucked poultry, provided hot water for the house, lit fires to heat water, and cleaned away garbage and debris off floor. Duties included cleaning the servants’ hall, scullery, larders, and kitchen hallways. Might’ve cleaned and emptied chamber pots as well as assisted in watching or cooking food. Other responsibilities may vary depending on size of staff and household.
Pay and Benefits: Annual salary of 13 pounds ($1,300) as well as room and board.
Status: Member of the Lower Staff as well as often the lowest ranked female servant in the household. She wasn’t allowed to touch any luxuries like the china, silver, or glass. Reported to Cook and ate in the kitchen.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 5:00 am to 10:000pm.
Typical Candidate: Usually a teenage girl between 10-16 years old and maybe even younger as well as from the lower classes.
Characters who had this job: This job does not really exist on Downton Abbey, yet Daisy and Ivy Stuart fulfill duties of both this and the Kitchen Maid (an estate like Downton would’ve employed at least 2-3 of them).

11. Provision Boy
Function: Assisted the kitchen in fetching supplies.
Pay and Benefits: Besides room and board, not much pay.
Status: Member of Lowest Staff and possibly among the lowest positions. Addressed by first name. Reported to Cook and dined in kitchen.
Hours: Worked from early in the morning to late at night.
Typical Candidate: Usually a boy who could be as young as 10, maybe even younger.
Characters who had this job: This job doesn’t exist at Downton Abbey.

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