Articles

Domestic Service

For centuries, domestic staff has been managing castles, country houses, city residences and other property around the world. Household Staff was indispensable for the upkeep of the estates, the well-being of the owners and their image towards visitors. Today, some say that the profession of a Butler is dying, but nothing is further from the truth.

Sure enough, as the word ‘Butler’ brings to many of us the image of a grey-haired man of respectable age and with a certain number of years in service behind him, it is only logic that this stereotype domestic servant seems to disappear in the course of time. The senior manservant of the household was once the general manager of all staff and property, organizer of elaborate parties and dinners, the right hand and trusted ally of the employer and the gatekeeper of all communications between the lower staff and the principal.

In the old days, hierarchy was much respected and needed when dealing with vast amounts of staff working in and around the estate of the employer. Domestic service provided a substantial amount of people with descent jobs, food, shelter, clean clothes and social respect. The work load, however, was tremendous and long days followed eachother without much view on time off as entertaining guests was an important part of wealthy people’s lives and all servants had to follow the rhythm of their employers. Needless to say, workers’ rights didn’t really exist back then and throughout history, only small changes have been brought to this very special type of service at the highest level.

With the industrial revolution and the First World War a bit later, the number of staff in domestic service lowered dramatically. New inventions such as the vacuum cleaner, better equipment for cooking, techniques for conservation of food, new and improved versions of the washing machine and other domestic revolutions changed the way households were organized. Less staff was needed for the same amount of work and as salaries rose, employers could no longer afford the luxury of large numbers of servants. Whereas before, most of the careers for the working class were in farming or domestic service, the industrial revolution brought new jobs and diversity. It seemed as if domestic service would go down with the rise of the face of the new world.

Throughout the years, there have always been wealthy families that have earned their way up the social ladder. With vast possessions in real estate and other material assets, business agenda’s piling out with meetings and the social obligations that come with their lifestyle, it is virtually impossible to manage all concerning the household themselves. Professional help is needed, and this does not only count for the cleaning of the house or cooking of the meals, but for the management of the employer’s entire private life. People’s lives are already so busy with all their obligations, so that little time is available to spend on their personal well-being. Having to manage a large multiple residence household, including all details involved, expels all hope for an ease of mind. Having the right people manage it will provide with the comfort and prestige one needs in his life. Domestic staff will worry about deliveries, maintenance, cooking, cleaning, staffing, party and travel organizing, etc. and give an ease of mind as all will be arranged efficiently and discretely. The right service staff will directly contribute to the image one’s guests perceive while entertaining both social and business events.

If one would say the Butler is dying, the word on itself might make room for other, more modern variants, however the basic idea behind it stays the same: a person working at the highest level of service to cater to the needs of the employer with the correct experience, knowledge and discretion to allow the employer to enjoy the time that has been granted to him. Domestic service is not dying, and it never will.