The Domestic Servants of Downton Abbey: Part 4-The Maids

Maid: A general female domestic worker whose cheap job at Downton Abbey is to clean the interior rooms, add intrigue to the plot, and either be promoted to a better job or disappear from the show entirely. Seriously, maids don't last very long on this show for some reason.

Maid: A general female domestic worker whose cheap job at Downton Abbey is to clean the interior rooms, add intrigue to the plot, and either be promoted to a better job or disappear from the show entirely once the writers are done with them. Seriously, maids don’t last very long on this show for some reason.

Of course, I couldn’t do a series on Downton Abbey servants without including a post about another very recognizable domestic servant in popular culture: the maid. Now with the exception of Anna, they don’t seem to last long on the show for some reason or another, whether it be getting a job as a secretary, getting knocked up by a major, being threatened to resign for getting into Branson’s pants, or getting to close to the Earl of Grantham, in a creepy non-platonic sense. And if you’re Anna, chances are you’ll hang up that white apron once Lady Mary hires you as a lady’s maid and you become the second Mrs. Bates. Nevertheless, if the script calls for a disposable female domestic worker, I’m sure a maid will fit the bill since they’re basically the Downton Abbey equivalent to Star Trek TOS redshirts (except they don’t usually die). Still, their work amount could vary from household to household. In grand estates, they were under the housekeeper’s supervision and usually charged with cleaning or doing whatever their specialization required them whether they were a chamber maid, house maid, parlor maid, still room maid, storeroom maid, or in between maid. In houses where she’s the only domestic employee, she did everything and her life would be incredibly lonely. Still, they were very prone to unwanted sexual attention sometimes sexual assault. If they got married or pregnant, then they could be out of a job without a great character reference. And in those days, to be unemployed was to be considered a bum, if you were poor. So without further adieu, here are the many kinds of maids you would’ve seen at Downton Abbey.

1. Housekeeper

Housekeeper: At Downton Abbey, this job goes to a no nonsense, sensible, and motherly middle aged Scottish woman lower members usually tell their secrets to (even those they wouldn't tell their own spouses). Isn't afraid of rapists but if you're a maid don't have he catch you having sex or getting into Branson's pants. Should totally get together with the butler, seriously.

Housekeeper: At Downton Abbey, this job goes to a no nonsense, sensible, and motherly middle aged Scottish woman lower members usually tell their secrets to (even those they wouldn’t tell their own spouses). Isn’t afraid of rapists but if you’re a maid don’t have her catch you having sex or getting into Branson’s pants. Should totally get together with the butler, seriously. Though not a maid herself (she used to be one), she’s the boss of them.

Function: Responsible for the female staff (except for the lady’s maid, nurse, and cook) as well as maintaining the house’s furnishings. Could also share responsibilities with the House Manager and Butler in regard to buying provisions, dispensing funds as needed, and keeping household accounts. Second in command of the household staff and immediate representative of the mistress. Charged with the china closet and house linens, preparing bedrooms for visitors and their servants, and the stillroom. Makes rounds replacing supplies like candles, soap, and writing paper. Checks that rooms are clean and in order. Presides over the servants’ hall dinner. Does most of the needlework, arranges dessert, pours coffee and tea, and bottles fruit. Responsibilities vary by household and staff size.
Pay and Benefits: Annual salary of 30-55 pounds ($3,700-$5,400). Has her own room or cottage on the estate depending on marital status.
Status: Reported to mistress of the house and is only answerable to the family. Highest ranked female servant. Is always referred to as “Mrs.” regardless of marital status.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 5:30 am-10:00pm.
Typical Candidate: Usually a woman who’s risen through the ranks in the domestic service establishment. Again, this depends on the size of the household staff and estate. However, housekeepers among a large staff is usually not married.
Characters who had this job: Mrs. Elsie Hughes has this job at Downton and does almost everything described above relating to a housekeeper’s duties. Has been working at Downton Abbey almost as long as Carson (though doesn’t remember Lady Mary as a child. Though she might’ve started working there since Mary was a teenager).

2. Head House Maid

Head House Maid: At Downton Abbey, this is the job you give to the woman willing to cover up the boss's daughter's disastrous one night stand with a Turk and clear his valet of murder charges. Will be rewarded with marriage to valet and promotion to lady's maid to the boss's daughter in question.

Head House Maid: At Downton Abbey, this is the job you give to the woman willing to cover up the boss’s daughter’s disastrous one night stand with a Turk and clear his valet of murder charges (even if his first wife was a total bitch who deserved it). Will be rewarded with marriage to valet and promotion to lady’s maid to the boss’s daughter in question.

Function: The most senior house maid who supervised the maid staff. Usually on estates with at least 3 maids (an estate like Downton Abbey would’ve had at least 4-6 house maids).
Pay and Benefits: Well, annual salary of at least 20 pounds ($2,100) and room and board.
Status: Highest ranking female member of the Lower Staff. Reported directly to the Housekeeper.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 6:00am-11:00pm.
Typical Candidate: Young unmarried woman who’s been on the maid staff for at least some time, perhaps longer than most the maids under her care. Usually in her 20s.
Characters who had this job: Before she became the second Mrs. Bates and Lady Mary’s lady’s maid, Anna had this job during Seasons 1-3. Her successor’s identity is unknown but seeing that Downton has 3 house maids, this job must still exist. Despite being significantly younger than her husband, Anna has worked at Downton much longer and might be the same age as Thomas.

3. Chamber Maid

Chamber Maid: At Downton Abbey, this job goes to the woman who seems to be the most likely candidate for the resident Earl's "chamber" metaphorically speaking. Luckily for the Countess, this was more an emotional affair in which this maid was just trying to make a better future for her son through any methods she could.

Chamber Maid: At Downton Abbey, this job goes to the woman who seems to be the most likely candidate for the resident Earl’s “chamber” metaphorically speaking. Luckily for the Countess, this was more an emotional affair in which this maid was just trying to make a better future for her son through any methods she could.

Function: Responsible for cleaning and maintaining bedrooms. Duties include sweeping, dusting, making beds, warming beds, taking care of fires, attending dressing room, fetching hot water, and caring for windows.
Pay and Benefits: Annual salary of 20 pounds ($2,100) as well as room and board.
Status: Member of the Lower Staff and addressed by first name. Yet, have a slightly higher status than parlor maids since they’re in contact with the family. Reported to Housekeeper.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 6:00am-11:00pm.
Typical Candidate: Usually a young unmarried woman at least in her teens and from the lower classes.
Characters who had this job: On Downton Abbey, there’s no distinction between parlor and chamber maids (yet a place like Downton would typically have 2-3 of them).

4. Parlor Maid
Function: Responsible for cleaning and maintaining sitting rooms, drawing rooms and other rooms of public reception. Served refreshments at afternoon tea and sometimes dinner.
Pay and Benefits: Annual salary of 20 pounds a year ($2,100) as well as room and board.
Status: Member of Lower Staff and addressed by first name. Slightly lower than chamber maids since they had less contact with the family. Reported to Housekeeper.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 6:00am-11:00pm.
Typical Candidate: Usually a young unmarried woman at least in her teens and from the lower classes.
Characters who had this job: On Downton Abbey, there’s no distinction between parlor and chamber maids (yet a place like Downton would typically have 2-3 of them).

5. Still Room Maid
Function: Employed in the still room as well as responsible for alcohol, cosmetics, medicines, and cooking ingredients across all departments of the house.
Pay and Benefits: At least an annual salary of 15 pounds ($1,600) as well as room and board.
Status: Member of Lower Staff and addressed by first name. Reported to Cook, Butler, and Housekeeper.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 6:00am-11:00pm.
Typical Candidate: Usually a young unmarried woman at least in her teens who demonstrated some skill in distilling and preserving as well as from the lower classes.
Characters who had this job: This job doesn’t exist on Downton Abbey so it’s probably Daisy who has to do such duties as of Season 4.

6. Storeroom Maid
Function: Charged with supporting the housekeeper in maintaining vast stores of linens, foodstuffs, and household supplies.
Pay and Benefits: Well, probably an 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 to Housekeeper.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 6:00am-11:00pm.
Typical Candidate: Usually a young unmarried woman at least in her teens and from the lower classes.
Characters who had this job: This job doesn’t exist on Downton Abbey since it had basically disappeared by the middle of the 19th century.

7. House Maid

House Maid: At Downton Abbey, this is the job you give to: poor girls with secretarial ambitions, girls who can't keep their pants down for soldiers, war widows who want their kids in prestigious grammar schools, and social climbers who try to find fame and fortune through Branson's trousers.

House Maid: At Downton Abbey, this is the job you give to: poor girls with secretarial ambitions, girls who can’t keep their pants down for soldiers, war widows who want their kids in prestigious grammar schools, and social climbers who try to find fame and fortune through Branson’s trousers.

Function: A general purpose female worker whose function was chiefly upstairs, usually responsible for dusting, cleaning, making beds, caring for windows, opening windows, washing windows and stairs, lighting fires, polishing fireplaces and fixtures, tending to flower arrangements, emptying chamber pots, and serving tea but duties may vary depending on household and staff size.
Pay and Benefits: Annual salary of at least 16 pounds a year ($1,700) as well as room and board. Pay may depend on household size, staff size, and designation of responsibilities.
Status: Member of the Lower Staff and addressed by first name.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 6:00am-11:00pm.
Typical Candidate: Usually a young and unmarried woman at least in her teens and from the lower classes (though she may be even younger in the lower maid orders). Most housekeepers and lady’s maids usually were this before reaching their respective posts.
Characters who had this job: At Downton Abbey, Anna started out with this job in Seasons 1-3 and I guess that O’Brien, Baxter, and Mrs. Hughes worked as one before the show even started. Other notable house maids include Gwen Dawson from Season 1, Ethel Parks and Jane Moorsum from Season 2, and Edna Braithwaite from Season 3. While house maids don’t usually play a big part on the show, Downton Abbey usually has at least 3-6 of them (an estate like Downton would usually have 4-6), or as many as the plot allows.

8. Between Maid
Function: Responsible for waiting, setting the table, removing dishes, and serving meals for the servants. Worked in the house or kitchen as needed. Tidied libraries, studies, and (with footmen) answered bells for service. May even wait on the most senior staff in larger households.
Pay and Benefits: Annual salary of 15 pounds ($1,600) as well as room and board.
Status: Member of the Lower Staff and roughly equal to scullery maid. Reported to Housekeeper, Butler, and Cook. If these there didn’t like one another, her job was a difficult one. This was one of the lowest rungs in the maid world.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 5am to 10pm.
Typical Candidate: Usually a young unmarried girl between the ages of 12-16.
Characters who had this job: This job doesn’t exist at Downton Abbey or at least in name yet, an estate that size would at least have 2-3.

9. Maid of All Work

Maid of All Work: At Crawley House, this is the job you give a former Downton Abbey maid who was fired for banging a major and was forced into prostitution to support her son before the kid's handed to his paternal grandparents. Her mere presence will just make the longtime cook you've had quit. Is a terrible cook herself.

Maid of All Work: At Crawley House, this is the job you give a former Downton Abbey maid who was fired for banging a major and was forced into prostitution to support her son before the kid’s handed to his paternal grandparents. Her mere presence will just make the longtime cook you’ve had quit. Is a terrible cook herself.

Function: General domestic worker responsible for all the housework for a household that employed only one servant. Duties depended on the household.
Pay and Benefits: At least room and board but salary depended on the household she worked for.
Status: She isn’t of the servant hierarchy because she’s usually the only worker in the household. However, this was probably the nadir position in the maid world and one of the least desirable.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 6:00am-11:00pm.
Typical Candidate: Usually a young unmarried woman at least in her teens and rather inexperienced. Often someone “rescued” from the workhouse.
Characters who had this job: Ethel Parks tries to be this to Isobel Crawley in Season 3 but fails since she’s a bad cook. It’s also implied that she’s sought another position at a house near where her son lives.

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