The Domestic Servants of Downton Abbey: Part 8-Maintenance

Great House: At Downton Abbey, the maintenance staff isn't seen much because their jobs are so shitty. Yet, how do expect this estate be kept up in such condition as this? And how do expect the clothes being washed? Not to mention, the matter with visitors.

Great House: At Downton Abbey, the maintenance staff isn’t seen much because their jobs are so shitty. Yet, how do expect this estate be kept up in such condition as this? And how do expect the clothes being washed? Not to mention, the matter with visitors.

My last post on servants at Downton Abbey falls under the notion of maintenance and upkeep. Now I know I’ve covered a bit of it when I did the one on maids. However, maintenance involves more than just cleaning and making things look nice. Sure Downton may have maids, butlers, footmen, and other attendants but you never really see them perform tasks like repair work, restoration, heavy lifting, collecting garbage, replacing light bulbs, laundry, checking pipes, upholstery, electrical work, security monitoring and other tasks needed to keep up such a stately home. I mean, how did that telephone managed to be installed in Carson’s office? Must have a handyman around somewhere. Sure I understand that this is a show, but we never see any of those servants doing that kind of work at all. So it’s very likely that Downton employs certain people who do the actual handiwork we don’t see. Then again, some of the maintenance servants aren’t people who live on the premises and may come to the estate on a daily or weekly basis. Others may live at Downton but we never see them since they may have their own cottage, perform tasks at a different time, or have a job of such low status that they can’t even be seen at the servant halls. Then again, they may perform jobs that might cause some discomfort in the viewer watching the show and ruin the idyllic life this series tries to portray. Yet, many of the people who had these thankless and miserable maintenance jobs  help make the Crawleys’ lives possible and the other servants’ lives much easier. So perhaps when season 6 is in production, maybe Julian Fellowes should add a few laundry maids and a handyman at Downton. Maybe the handyman can  be a love interest for Daisy, Thomas, or Mrs. Patmore. How about include a chimney sweep? Well, it worked for Mary Poppins and Charles Dickens. Hey, it’s worth a shot. Besides, they can’t just have maintenance work on Downton Abbey be limited to Moseley doing road work or carrying boxes. Nevertheless, without further adieu, here’s a list of some servants who probably do the least recognized and most thankless work at Downton Abbey, those from the maintenance department.

1. Doorman or Porter
Function: Responsibilities similar to that of a hall boy but mostly for building security such as taking calling cards, screening guests, and granting admission.
Pay and Benefits: I’m sure he received a fair wage and compensation such as an annual salary of 30 pounds ($3,200) as well as room and board.
Status: Member of the Lower Staff and may be addressed by first name. Reported to Butler.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 6:00am-11:00pm or when the family was expecting guests such as special events.
Typical Candidate: Usually an older man who’s most likely a well regarded former footman or under butler who hasn’t been promoted to butler and valet as well as may be on his way out.
Characters who had this job: This job doesn’t exist on Downton Abbey since Carson performs most of this position’s duties anyway.

2. Handyman
Function: Responsible for repairs, maintenance, and other odd jobs that might include light plumbing, painting, and electrical work.
Pay and Benefits: I’m sure they were handsomely compensated for their duties as well as received room and board.
Status: Member of the Lower Staff, addressed by first name, and reported to Head Gardener.
Hours: Worked from early in the morning to late at night.
Typical Candidate: Usually a man skilled in a variety of trades, particularly carpentry. Yet, this was considered a semi-skilled job.
Characters who had this job: Though no named characters have this job at Downton Abbey, someone probably does considering the estate couldn’t survive without one. Yet, the ground staff aren’t the main focus of the show.

3. Useful Man

Useful Man: At Downton Abbey, this is an informal position designated to a former valet who'd do pretty much anything to pay the bills after his master got crushed by his sports car whether it's lifting, road work, or being a footman on a temporary then permanent basis. Chronic unemployment is a bitch.

Useful Man: At Downton Abbey, this is an informal position designated to a former valet who’d do pretty much anything to pay the bills after his master got crushed by his sports car whether it’s lifting, road work, or being a footman on a temporary then permanent basis. Chronic unemployment is a bitch.

Function: A general male domestic worker who performs a series of small jobs as needed to his employers. May range from cooking, cleaning, maintenance, and repair as well as bookkeeping or inventory.
Pay and Benefits: Depends on his responsibilities as well as wealth and size of the household.
Status: Member of the Lower Staff ranking below a footman but above a hall boy. Addressed by first name and reported to Butler. However, he never entered the dining room or waited on the master of the house.
Hours: Depends on the household or employer.
Typical Candidate: Usually a man at least in his teens or older.
Characters who had this job: This job doesn’t exist on Downton Abbey but Joseph Moseley is probably the closest thing to one on the show, especially in Season 4.

4. Charwoman

Charwoman: Probably the job Ethel had before turning to prostitution to support herself and her son. Might've been one while working as a prostitute, too. Guess it didn't pay as well as she hoped.

Charwoman: Probably the job Ethel had before turning to prostitution to support herself and her son. Might’ve been one while working as a prostitute, too. Guess it didn’t pay as well as she hoped, unsurprisingly.

Function: Female cleaner responsible for household maintenance and odd chores. Usually worked for people who couldn’t afford a maid of all work.
Pay and Benefits: They came fairly cheap than most household servants.
Status: Considered casual staff in that they didn’t live on the estate.
Hours: Usually depends on when they could find work.
Typical Candidate: Usually a woman of any age or disposition as long as she was poor.
Characters who had this job: This job doesn’t exist on Downton Abbey, but I’m sure it did exist in Great Britain at the time. Then again, Ethel might’ve tried to be one before becoming a prostitute. Maybe she was working as one during her tenure as well.

5. Odd Job Man
Function: Responsible for the heavy lifting of the house, replacing oil lamps, carrying logs for the maids to make fires in the fireplaces, as well as carrying hot water for the baths.
Pay and Benefits: Besides room and board, not much pay.
Status: Member of the Lower Staff and addressed by first name.
Hours: Worked from early in the morning to late at night.
Typical Candidate: Usually a man from the lower classes.
Characters who had this job: This job doesn’t seem to exist at Downton Abbey though an estate of that size would at least have one.

6. Dust Man
Function: Responsible for collecting trash or garbage from the estate.
Pay and Benefits: I’m sure they came pretty cheap.
Status: This was a Casual Staff position.
Hours: Hired at the estate on a weekly basis, particularly on garbage day.
Typical Candidate: Usually a man from the lower classes. Could be of any age or even have a family.
Characters who had this job: While no named characters have this job at Downton Abbey, it’s possible someone else does since the estate must generate a lot of garbage.

7. Chimney Sweep
Function: Responsible for clearing ash and soot from the chimney and fireplace.
Pay and Benefits: Depends on age and level of skill as well as the times.
Status: This was a Casual Staff position.
Hours: Worked as needed.
Typical Candidate: Depends on the times. By the Edwardian period it was usually a grown man who’s trained to clean chimneys. Until the 1860s, sweeps could be boys as young as 4 years old with the master sweep acting mainly as supervisor.
Characters who had this job: While no named characters have this job at Downton Abbey, it’s possible someone does since the estate has a lot of fireplaces. If not, then I wonder why the Crawleys have virtually no chimney fires.

8. Gate Keeper
Function: Responsible for guarding the main entrance to the estate.
Pay and Benefits: Annual salary could be as low as 10 pounds ($1,100) but he often had a cottage attached to the gate.
Status: Classified as an unskilled laborer and ranked relatively low on the servant hierarchy.
Hours: This was a 24/7 job since he had to guard the gate.
Typical Candidate: Usually a man from the lower classes, possibly a male servant approaching retirement.
Characters who had this job: Though no named character has this job at Downton Abbey, there’s probably someone on the estate who does.

9. Lamp Boy
Function: Responsible for lighting, cleaning, and maintaining the lamps inside and outside the great house and the estate.
Pay and Benefits: Besides room and board, not much pay.
Status: Member of the Lower Staff and one of the lowest servant ranks as well as addressed by first name.
Hours: Worked mostly at night.
Typical Candidate: Usually a young boy and teenager between the ages of 10-16, maybe even younger.
Characters who had this job: This job doesn’t exist at Downton Abbey since may have been rendered obsolete with the arrival of the electric incandescent lamp.

10. Upper Laundry Maid
Function: Chief laundry maid in charge of a team that washed, ironed, steamed, starched, dried, treated, and pressed clothes, towels, and linens for the family and the staff.
Pay and Benefits: At least an annual salary of 13 pounds ($1,300) as well as room and board.
Status: Member of Lower Staff and addressed by first name. Reported to Housekeeper.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 3:00am-10:00pm.
Typical Candidate: Usually an unmarried woman at least in her late teens who demonstrated the practicalities in clothes treatment.
Characters who had this job: This job doesn’t seem to exist at Downton Abbey but since it churns out a lot of laundry, there had to be at least one upper laundry maid.

11. Laundry Maid
Function: Responsible for washing, drying, ironing, starching, and treating clothes, bedding, linens, and towels for the entire household, including the staff.
Pay and Benefits: Annual salary of 13 pounds ($1,300) as well as room and board.
Status: Member of Lower Staff and among the lowest ranked female servants. Addressed by first name. Kept entirely out of sight. Reported to Housekeeper.
Hours: Worked 7 days a week from 3:00am-10:00pm.
Typical Candidate: Usually an unmarried woman at least in her teens yet skilled in the art of laundry.
Characters who had this job: This job doesn’t seem to exist on Downton Abbey but any estate of that size would’ve employed at least 2-3 of them. Yet, this was a very low status job so they were usually kept out of sight.

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