w_a_i_d (w_a_i_d) wrote in little_details,
w_a_i_d
w_a_i_d
little_details

Presents for, and expectations of, servants over Christmas in the 1890s

Christmas, 1893, London.

Searched "victorian housekeeper christmas" "victorian servants christmas" "victorian servants jobs", and again with "19th C" or "1890s" in place of "victorian". Also I did various book searches with the parameters set to pre 1920, "presents for the servants" "presents for the housekeeper" etc.


I have a recently widowed middle-class man (oh, what the hell, it's Dr Watson) who employs a housekeeper and a housemaid.

I want to get rid of both servants for Christmas so that he may have the Mopiest Christmas Day Ever all alone without inflicting his misery on innocent bystanders or it coming off like this.

What I can't work out is where servants at this time and this kind of establishment would expect to spend Christmas. I've read that servants routinely spent the day with their employers, but the sources concerned were often talking mostly about large aristocratic households, and I've also read that expectations of servants were less rigorous as the end of the century approached. But on the other hand, going a day-- let alone Christmas--   without any servants at all seems like it might be pretty unusual for someone in his position. Or did servants ever work part of the day and then go home? And where would "home" be likely to be for a housekeeper?  I've read that a housekeeper would be called "Mrs" whether she was married or not -- if she was married, and not widowed, would she... commute in from her own home, as it were, rather than live on site?

I just need to know whether him giving them both the entire day off is very weird, mildly weird, or not weird at all.

He also needs to give them Christmas presents. I know a very usual present was a bolt of fabric to make a new dress (fun.) I want him to give them something more, in recognition of the fact that they've helped see him through a tough year. Something not particularly personal and certainly not inappropriate, but still genuinely nice.  I'm going to steal inspiration from The Crimson Petal and the White here -- ( in which a character prides himself on giving presents his servants might actually want --chocolates, kid gloves) -- which seems to work fine for the housemaid but I'm not so sure about the housekeeper. What should her "basic" present and her extra, "thank you for everything" present be? 

I'm imagining the housemaid as about 20 and the housekeeper as in her late 40s or early 50s.
Tags: 1890-1899, uk: history: victorian era, ~holidays, ~servants/slaves
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