January can feel like a long month after Christmas especially if you were paid a little earlier and now have a long wait until the next pay day. Just a month or so back we added a little more information about former members of staff to our Servants’ Hall Shop. A number of roles and wages are now listed up on the wall.
One of our Victorian Kitchen volunteers, Stewart, has looked into this a little further…
A Comparison of Charlecote Servants Wages with a Semi-Skilled Worker in 1841
We have a lot of interest from visitors about the servants wages, especially when they are visiting the kitchen. It is very difficult to make meaningful comparisons because everything was so different. I think the following is a helpful way of addressing this problem.
The information below shows a typical household budget of a semi-skilled worker in 1841; this admittedly is 25 years earlier than our 1866 wages list, nevertheless I feel it is helpful.
The family below spent all their earnings; the bulk of it on food. The servants at Charlecote were fed and housed so neither the food nor the rent headings compare. Whether the servants had to make a contribution towards clothing and the washing of clothing is an interesting question but, even if they did, their contribution would be of the order of the tiny miscellaneous figure below.
In comparison with the worker with virtually no disposable income, the wages of the servants were almost entirely available to spend, to save or to give in support of their families. Therefore whilst the wages look small, in contrast with our semi-skilled worker; they were huge. To look at it in another way, to cover similar costs of food and rent the servants wages would have to be considerably higher.
I don’t for a moment suppose that the servants had to work any harder than our semi-skilled worker!
It shows the household budget of a semi-skilled worker earning 15 shillings a week.
Stewart Scott, Volunteer
(The above cover image is by Adrian Clark and can be viewed on flickr)