It was normal practice in England, as in most regions where the Western marriage system held sway, for each new marriage to create a new household and middling Londoners were no different from their fellow-countrymen in this respect. In the early years of marriage, a couple might share a house but not a household with some other family or families, as lodgers in two or three rooms or as joint-occupiers of a house with a senior partner. But nearly everybody aimed to have a house of their own eventually, once sufficient accumulation had taken place. This chapter will look at the houses of the middle station and at the people who lived in them together with the master and his wife, but first it is necessary to say a few words about where these houses were.
London was not yet a city with the rigid class segregation that was to develop in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. There were 'rich' areas, such as the central City and the West End, while most of the rest of the metropolis was relatively 'poor'. However, no area was totally rich or poor, so that 'the parish was more like a microcosm of the city as a whole than a social quarter'. In an age when what public transport was available was both slow and expensive, it was necessary for the rich to be surrounded by middling and poor people to serve them. Nor were the poor areas all poor, for the densely packed, small, low-quality housing of the 'proletariat' was interspersed with individual houses of high quality in which lived the manufacturers who employed them and the shopkeepers who sold them their necessities.
It is, then, no surprise to find middle-class people scattered throughout the metropolis, the 375 men in the sample living in no less than 118 different parishes. However, there was a heavy concentration of the wealthier middle class in the central
parishes of the City, where most of the merchants and wholesalers and many of the richer shopkeepers lived. Other smart shopkeepers and people providing high-class services lived in the West End near to their upper-class customers. Most manufacturers lived either on the borders of the City proper or beyond the City in the so-called 'extramural' parishes, the product of London's first expansion outside its ancient walls, or beyond that in Clerkenwell, Shoreditch, the East End and Southwark. These areas were also the homes of small shopkeepers serving the manufacturing population, whilst such people as builders and the various sorts of caterer and victualler might be found anywhere in the built-up area.
It should finally be noted that some members of the 'London' middle class chose not to live in London at all. There were, for example, fifteen men in the sample who illustrated a developing trend of city life by living in a villa or farm just outside the metropolis, their homes being in such places as Leyton, Tottenham, Islington, Hammersmith and Wandsworth. Nearly all these men were either rentiers or retired or, if they were still active, were merchants, men who reflect the truth of Defoe's remarks on the fine buildings of Tottenham, which generally belonged 'to the middle sort of mankind, grown wealthy by trade, and who still taste of London; some of them live both in the city and in the country at the same time'.
The Middle-Class House
Londoners have always been famous for 'the agility, the ease and the quickness' with which they climb up and down large numbers of stairs and the people of our period had already adopted that vertical way of living which distinguishes the London living space from that in most other continental capitals. The typical middle-class house was similar to those which estate agents today call Georgian or Early Victorian, a narrow-fronted tall house with three, four or five storeys with two or sometimes three rooms to each floor. Most houses had a yard at the back, sometimes with access to warehousing or stabling and so through into a narrow back lane, while a few had proper gardens, mostly those in the suburbs but including a few of the grander houses in the centre of the City. Most
houses had a cellar, normally not as high-ceilinged as the modern 'basement', with storage for business purposes or for coal, beer and other things belonging to the household. Nearly all houses also had a garret floor set in the roof, which was used for servants' bedrooms, storage and occasionally for work purposes, the looms of weavers often being set up in garrets with large windows to catch the light.
Most of the houses in which the middling people lived were comparatively new, either because they were in areas which had only been recently built up or because they were City houses rebuilt after the Great Fire. The Rebuilding Act of 1667 had laid down strict rules of standardization which reflected the best practice already existing and so reinforced the tendency to uniformity of London houses. There were to be four classes of house: those of four storeys (not counting garrets) on the 'high and principal streets', three storeys on 'streets and lanes of note' and two storeys on 'by-lanes', while provision was also made for houses 'of the greatest bigness', 'merchants' houses' of a maximum height of four storeys which generally stood back from the street with courtyards and gardens. The thickness of walls and ceiling heights on different floors were specified and builders were required to use non-inflammable materials such as brick, stone and tiles. Such provisions meant that most London houses would have looked almost exactly the same had it not been for the individuality of builders, which was reflected in the use of different colours and patterns of brickwork, elaborate cornices and balconies, mean or magnificent doorways and windows and the like.
Not very many middling people owned the freehold of their houses, most freeholds in the City belonging to public bodies, such as the Corporation, parishes, hospitals and Livery Companies, or to ground landlords who tended to be absentee and aristocratic. This latter group also owned most of the land in the West End and the suburbs, which they developed by selling long leases to builders and other speculators or to potential occupiers who wished to build on their land. Owners of City freeholds also sold long leases and over a third of our sample owned a lease of their dwelling-houses for which they paid a quit or ground rent to the landlord. The amount paid ranged from the full commercial rent or rack-rent to a fairly nominal
sum and valuations varied accordingly, the valuation of a lease on a rack-rent normally being zero and of a long lease with a small quit-rent being between eight and twelve times the computed rental income which could have been earned had the property been let out. Such valuations obviously fell as the date approached when a new bargain had to be struck with the ground landlord and a fresh capital sum (known as a fine) laid out to extend the lease.
Leases tended to be very long. An average of twenty-seven years remained on the leases of dwelling-houses occupied by our sample when they died and, of course, such leases would have been considerably longer when first negotiated. Most corporate bodies had had financial difficulties during the Civil War and Interregnum, and had decided to solve these embarrassments by sacrificing long-term annual rental income in return for selling long leases for as large a fine as they could get. This process was intensified by the Great Fire. Landlords were desperately keen to rebuild but few had the capital to do the job themselves. The easiest solution was to get the occupier or some other person to rebuild at his own expense in return for a further extension of the lease, often to sixty years or more, and a reduction of the ground rent.
Investment in long leases tied up capital, several hundred pounds in the central City area, which could have been invested in a business. It is not surprising, then, that the majority of our sample rented their shops and dwelling-houses, either from the owners of long leases or directly from the ground landlords. In 1776, Adam Smith thought that house rent in London was greater than in any other European city, partly 'from those causes which render it dear in all capitals, the dearness of labour, the dearness of all the materials of building . . . the dearness of ground-rent', but also because of 'the peculiar manners and customs of the people which oblige every master of a family to hire a whole house from top to bottom'. Such conditions already existed in our period and rents were high, especially in the major shopping streets. The highest rent that has been found in an inventory was £80 a year paid by a jeweller in Cheapside; typical high rents in the central City area or the Strand were £50 to £60 a year; while off the main streets
in the City or in meaner areas, rents for middle-class houses were about £20 to £30.
These were major fixed costs to set against a business, the equivalent of the wages of one or even two journeymen for a year or of three or four domestic servants and their keep. One way to make sure that one could pay the rent even when trade was poor was to take in lodgers, particularly high-class lodgers who could pay a good rent, and this was a common practice. Adam Smith thought that competition between shopkeepers in this respect explained the low rates paid by lodgers compared with the high rents paid by shopkeepers for their houses, although in fact the rates paid by lodgers do not seem to have been particularly low. Jonathan Swift was paying 8s. a week or £20 a year for the first floor (a dining-room and bed-chamber) of a house in Bury Street in 1710, a rent which he thought 'plaguy deep' but was about the norm for lodgings suitable for gentryfolk during the reign of Queen Anne. In 1706, Francis Tallents reported to a friend in Derbyshire that 'you can not expect to board at London under £20 a year at least for yourself, and proportionately for your maid'. The poor, few of whom earned £20 in a year, obviously paid very much less and de Saussure said that weekly rates for rooms in London ranged from 'sixpence to half a guinea a head'. However, most lodgers in middle-class houses, who tend to be described by such labels as 'Mister' or 'Captain', were paying nearer half a guinea than sixpence and such payments could be a useful income for a shopkeeper. It was, however, a considerable nuisance to have your first floor occupied by strangers, as can be seen when the lay-out of houses is considered.
The number of rooms and their distribution within the house obviously varied, depending on the number of storeys, on whether a back extension had been built, and on the idiosyncrasies of particular builders. Nevertheless, the structure of London houses led to some uniformity in the way that they were laid out. A common arrangement was to have the shop or workshop on the ground floor, with cellar beneath and yard behind, the kitchen and dining-room on the first floor, two bedrooms including the best bedroom on the second floor and then either a third floor with two more bedrooms with garrets above or
straight up to the two garret rooms, which were most commonly used as servants' bedrooms.
Another arrangement was to have the kitchen on the ground floor. This was sometimes because the house was small, such as that of William Justice, a comb-maker in Whitechapel, who had his workshop at the front and his kitchen at the back on the ground floor, a dining-room and one good bedroom on the first floor and two garret bedrooms above. People who needed no shop were also likely to use the ground floor as living space. Joshua Marshall, who built many houses for other people, showed his own preference with a front parlour and kitchen on the ground floor and a large yard behind where he stored building materials. Many merchants and professional people needed only a counting-house at street level and would use the back of the ground floor as a large kitchen which could be extended out into the yard in the form of a buttery or washhouse. This made access to piped water easier and gave servants plenty of work space, but it also meant that all the food had to be carried up 'one pair of stairs' since most people had their dining-room on the first floor, normally the grandest floor of the London house.
Not everyone occupied a whole house, even in the middle station. Some people only rented one or two floors in somebody else's house. Some managed with even less, such as the Levant merchant William Edwards, who died worth nearly £6000 but was living with his wife and small baby in only two rooms. However, Edwards was only thirty-one and had been married less than a year when he died and he would probably have moved into something more fitting to his status if he had lived longer. Many other people rented or owned the lease of a whole house, but did not fill every room with their family, servants and goods. The other rooms would have been occupied by lodgers, some in furnished rooms, which appear in inventories since the furniture was the property of the deceased citizen, and some in unfurnished rooms, which usually do not. This can lead to some confusion since rooms or whole floors will be missing from the inventory and one can easily get a false impression of the lay-out.
Thus the number of rooms used for domestic purposes might vary quite considerably. The smallest living space in our
inventories was a single room occupied by Lawrence Pinder, a rather poor widower with one child, who was probably boarded out; the largest, not counting inns and taverns, was nineteen rooms occupied by James Birkin, a wealthy alderman and Levant merchant who lived in Mincing Lane, a property which included gardens, summer-house, stables and warehouses and whose lease was valued at over £5000. Houses can be found with every number of rooms between these extremes, but for most people there was considerable uniformity in the number of rooms which they occupied, as is seen in Table 8.1 above. Nearly two-thirds of houses had between five and eight rooms, which were typically arranged on three or four floors (including garrets) above the shop, the standard arrangement for the
median seven-room house being five bedrooms, kitchen and dining-room or four bedrooms, kitchen, dining-room and parlour.
In Table 8.2 (p. 211), it can be seen that richer people tended to have more rooms, as would be expected, but the medians do not cover a very wide range, varying only from six for the poorer members of the sample to nine for the richest, despite the fact that the latter were at least ten times as rich as the former. Rooms in the houses of the rich were no doubt larger than those of the poor, but the constraints on London houses meant that there were limits to the ostentation one could display in one's dwelling-house. There was just not enough room in good commercial areas for many urban palaces on the scale of James Birkin's house in Mincing Lane, even though there were many other wealthy men with the £5000 necessary to acquire the lease.
The Structure of the Household
Who lived in middle-class houses can be discovered by looking at the structure of households. Much the best source for this is the series of assessments produced for the tax on burials, births and marriages which came into force on 1 May 1695. This tax required parishes to produce a complete enumeration of their populations and these are listed in a standard form, which enables one to see not only who was living in a house in 1695, but also the relationship of most of the occupants to the householder.
These assessments were first analysed by Gregory King, who found an average of six 'heads per house' in the parishes within the walls, five in the extramural parishes and four and threequarters in the remaining parishes of the metropolis, and his first two figures were confirmed in 1935 by Jones and Judges, who found 6.1 and 5.1 persons per house in the intramural and extramural parishes respectively. One would expect middleclass households to have rather more occupants than the average, so one may hazard a guess that the average middling household had some seven to eight persons living in it, a density of about one person per room, though of course some people
such as the master had exclusive use of much more of this space than others, such as the foot-boy.
The variety which made up this average of seven or eight persons per household can be seen in Table 8.3 overleaf, where the members of thirty-six households are set out. It has been compiled by linking data from the sample with the tax data, a task much simplified by the excellent index to the assessments. This linking exercise shows that several people must have deceived the assessors and so avoided the surtax paid by those worth more than £600. The most blatant example was Samuel Palmer, a cheesemonger who was also a collector for the tax. He was taxed in 1695 as a man with less than £600 but died in 1701 with a fortune of £3603, a remarkable rate of accumulation. There were also several people alive in 1695 who were not listed as resident in the family home. The merchant Daniel Wigfall was listed as living with his son and one female servant, but had a wife and no less than seven other children alive in 1695. The assessment for Francis Levett lists his wife, a footman and a maid; none of his six children alive in 1695 is mentioned. Both these men had country houses, one in Woodford and one in Enfield, and, since the assessments were supposed to be made on or before May Day, it seems probable that the missing members of their families were enjoying the spring air. Since these and other similar cases rather distort the 'families' of our sample, they have been left out of the table.
The table shows that middle-class households took on a variety of forms, as might be expected, but a few general points can be made. First, virtually all the families had servants; indeed, they are so regular a feature that one suspects that a servant or servants have been overlooked in the assessment of John Rouse (No. 11), a wealthy cheesemonger and the only household without a single servant. Only a few assessments distinguish between apprentices and domestic servants, lumping them together under 'servants'. However, it is a reasonable assumption that, in most cases (except Nos 35 and 36), the male servants were either apprentices or, if they were over twenty-five, journeymen, clerks or book-keepers—in other words, the 'service' they performed was connected with the business side of household life. Most of the female servants, who appear in every house but two, would have been true
domestics, though it is probable that some served in the shop as well or in the bars of the two taverns. The next point to note is that lodgers, although not uncommon, were hardly as ubiquitous as Adam Smith suggested, less than a quarter of the families having any lodgers at all. Finally, it can be noted that resident kinfolk outside the nuclear family were unusual, there being only two brothers, one father and one unspecified 'kinswoman' in the thirty-six families.
It is, then, the number of resident children and servants who determine the size of the household in the majority of cases. Nearly all the small households were those of comparatively young people who had only recently married and so were likely to have no or few children and less need for many servants. It is less easy to generalize about large households since their
composition varied so much. Some resulted from large numbers of children (e.g. No. 33), some from large numbers of children and great wealth, which enabled a staff of six or seven servants to be kept (Nos 35 & 36). Other large households might result from the residence in the family home of an industrial labour force, such as seems to be the case in the home of the tobacco-refiner John Hicks (No. 31), whose two lodgers may also have been workers in his business, while the builder Thomas Lawrence's household (No. 34) is swelled by the presence of four lodgers.
There were in all 286 people listed in these 36 households, of whom 91 or 32 per cent were children of the householder, 54 or 19 per cent were his male servants and 52 or 18 per cent were his female servants. Children and servants thus made up over two-thirds of the residents in middle-class households, and these two groups will be discussed in the next two sections, concentrating on the female domestics since the male servants were mainly apprentices, who have already been considered.
Relations with Servants
The employment of domestic servants was virtually universal amongst the middle class and indeed went right down into fairly lowly strata of the artisan population of Augustan London. Some households employed huge numbers of servants, especially in the West End, but the typical staff was modest, as can be seen in Table 8.4 opposite, where the servants in two wealthy City parishes are analysed. The table shows the dominance of female servants, who represent four out of every five domestics and were the only domestics in over three-quarters of the households. It can also be seen that over half the households had only one servant, nearly always female, and that nearly 80 per cent had only one or two. One or two servants, usually female, was therefore the normal domestic staff, this being all that most households had space for or could afford. A staff of three or more, ideally with at least one man or boy, was, however, something to which most middling people aspired, since a larger staff freed wives from virtually all menial tasks and a male servant gave the household distinction in the neighbourhood. Such aspirations ensured that London's servant
population grew faster than the city as a whole, as more Londoners employed at least one servant and as those who already had one began to think in terms of a staff rather than a single maid. 'I believe nobody will deny', wrote Defoe in 1724, 'that people live more profusely, keep greater equipages and more servants than ever was done before.'
There was always a steady flow of country boys and girls coming into London to seek a place, but this was not sufficient to satisfy demand and our period sees an increase in servants' wages, Defoe claiming that the wages of female domestics had risen from 30s. or 40s. a year to £6–8 during his lifetime. A few pounds more a year does not seem very much for employers to pay, though they certainly grumbled about it, but there were other ways in which servants could enhance their incomes. Many writers thought that servants could double their wages by what they got as vails, or tips, from guests. It was also claimed that servants took commissions from shopkeepers for the family business and helped themselves to some of the money given them to go shopping. Further income might be earned, with or without the employer's permission, by selling worn-out clothing, left-overs from the table and other things which might
be considered perquisites and not downright thieving, though there was said to be much of that as well.
Defoe also suggested that domestics were becoming much more sophisticated about job specification and the definition of what might be considered a proper work-load. The main point here was how much work might be expected from a single maid-servant working on her own, 'the useful housewifery servant, commonly called maids of all work', as Sir John Fielding described them. Defoe claimed in the 1720s that it took two servants to do the work done by one in the past. He illustrated the growth of job-specification by describing a girl who, while being interviewed for a job as a house-maid, laid down the law in no uncertain way. 'If you wash at home, you should have a laundry-maid; if you give entertainments, you must have a cook-maid; if you have any needlework, you should have a chamber-maid; for such a house as this is enough for a house-maid in all conscience.'
It seems then that our period was generally a good one for servants, who were becoming better paid and more independent. Servants made the best of the good times. They dressed well, enjoyed themselves in the myriad ways offered by London and regularly changed jobs to make the best of their excellent bargaining position. It need hardly be said that such behaviour made the employers think that the 'servant problem' was more than usually intractable. They moaned and wrote pamphlets complaining about servants or manuals directed to potential servants which were designed to improve their characters by telling them that they should be pious, faithful, diligent, submissive, humble, honest, modest, early-rising, neat, clean, housewifely and a large number of other things which it seems clear that many girls were not.
Such didactic literature gives very little idea of just what servants actually did or of the nature of their relations with their employers. For these subjects, one can turn to the diary of Samuel Pepys , which provides a marvellous running commentary on domestic servants in the household of an upwardly mobile public servant. When he started his diary in 1660, Pepys had just one female servant, but he was soon to learn 'the inconvenience that doth attend the increase of a man's fortune, by being forced to keep more servants, which brings
trouble'. The first addition to his family was a footboy, engaged in June 1660, whose main duties were to wait on him as he went about the city, sometimes lighting him home with a link, go on miscellaneous errands and do odd jobs about the house. In 1661, Pepys took on a second maid, one girl now being cookmaid and the other chambermaid. In 1663, a third maid was engaged as a 'little girl' or under-cookmaid and in the same year his household reached its maximum size during the diary period with the appointment of a waiting-woman or companion for his wife. Although there was sometimes no companion or only two maids, this establishment of four women or girls and a boy was the normal arrangement till 1669, when the diary closes. Pepys was a man in a hurry, with no children to drain his purse, but his pattern of household building was typical of the more successful of middling Londoners.
In order to maintain their household at the requisite level, Samuel and Elizabeth Pepys had to engage at least thirty-eight servants in just over nine years, and the service of thirty-one of these can be analysed. The longest service was given by Jane Birch, 'our old little Jane', the only servant when the diary starts, who stayed in all for seven years in three separate periods. The next longest service was that of Tom Edwards, who doubled as a junior clerk in the Navy Office and a footboy in the household, his wages being paid by the government. He stayed four and a half years, eventually leaving to marry his fellow-servant Jane Birch, much to the delight of the Pepys , who gave them £40 each as a marriage portion. Long service was also given by Jane's younger brother Wayneman, as footboy, and 'our little girl Susan', under-cookmaid, both of whom stayed nearly three years, and Mary Mercer, the longest lasting of Elizabeth Pepys's five companions, who stayed for two years.
There was much greater turnover among the other twentysix servants. Six stayed between a year and eighteen months, seven between six months and a year, five between three and six months, and eight did not even last a quarter. Such lack of continuity in a household was by no means unusual. Six former servants of a scrivener who gave evidence in 1698 had lived in the household for thirty-six, twenty-one, twelve, ten, six and four months, and their service with other employers showed the
same pattern with periods of from three to eighteen months with each. Turnover of servants caused continuous disruption in middling households as new girls had to be found, trained and hopefully moulded into becoming members of a happy and well-ordered family. Most of Pepys's servants were acquired through personal recommendation, though agencies already existed, a service to householders which became more important in the eighteenth century. Nell, for instance, who was taken on in October 1661, was chosen from several maids who arrived to be interviewed. She insisted on being hired for six months, though the normal arrangement was for a month's notice by either side, servants who were dismissed or discontented being given time off to find a new place.
Houses were kept to a high standard and the work of servants was accordingly arduous. César de Saussure reported that wellkept houses were washed twice a week 'and that from top to bottom; and even every morning most kitchens, staircases and entrances are scrubbed. All furniture, and especially kitchen utensils, are kept with the greatest cleanliness.' Our sources provide much evidence of the effort that went into such work. Floors and stairs were sprinkled or scrubbed with sand to soak up grease and droppings before sweeping and saucepans and kettles were regularly scoured with sand. Wainscots had to be washed down, walls white-washed, hangings, mats and carpets brushed and beaten, and the house searched regularly for bugs, one of the curses of the age. Then there was the washing of clothes and household linen, a task done once a month 'in good citizens' houses'. Wash-day was a terrible day for servants, who, in Pepys's house, were got up at two in the morning and might still be at it when he returned home late in the evening.
The work of the kitchen was equally arduous—boiling, baking and spit-roasting on an open coal fire, making pies and pasties, salting and preserving, maybe brewing and baking, and then serving the food 'neatly' to the master and mistress. When there were guests, the work-load was appalling. Hannah, the best cook ever employed by the Pepys , once prepared a feast of nine different dishes, served it to eleven diners and then cleared the whole lot up whilst the Pepys and their guests were taking the air in the park, returning to 'find the house as clean as if nothing had been done there today from top to bottom'. It is
gratifying to learn that Hannah's efforts were appreciated and she was well rewarded, receiving a shilling from 'each of us'.
Nearly all work in middle-class homes was made more difficult and tiring by their lay-out. Fire and water were needed in every room, but the coal and wood were kept in the cellar and water was only piped to the yard. The kitchen was often at ground level but the dining-room on the first floor, so all food had to be carried up one pair of stairs. Close-stools and commodes were kept in bedrooms but the house of office or privy where they had to be emptied was in the yard. And when the privy itself was emptied, it was not only the nightmen who had to work. Pepys got home at eleven one evening to find the nightmen at work and, when he got up the next morning at six, he found 'the people to have just done; and Hannah not gone to bed yet, but was making clean of the yard and kitchen'.
Such dirty, nasty work was interspersed with work involving cleanliness, neatness and very close and personal attendance on the master and mistress. Much time was spent ironing, mending and altering clothes, making night-caps and shirts, cutting out and hemming sheets, pillow-cases and towels from rolls of linen. Chambermaids had to keep the clothes of the master and mistress in order, help them dress and undress, and be clean enough and sufficiently well dressed themselves to escort their mistress around the town—to shops, to friends, to the theatre, even to her adulterous liaisons, as one can learn from the records of the Consistory Court. Any servant of Pepys might have to cut or comb her master's hair, search it for lice or wash his feet or ears. Most middle-class households would have one or two, possibly more, small children, who created more work. Sometimes girls were hired specifically as nursemaids but, in most households, minding children, washing and feeding them, making and mending their clothes and similar jobs were part of the duties of the maids or the single maid-of-all-work. On top of all this, many girls had to help out in the shop or other business premises of their employers. The range of duties obviously varied, but there is little doubt that a servant's life was not quite as easy as contemporary commentators often made out.
and clothed in order for them to be idle. The childless Pepys seems to have been genuinely fond of many, indeed most, of the servants who made up his 'family' over the years, and evidence can be found of kindness and affection from many other employers. Pepys was amused by the antics of his adolescent footboys, enjoyed a chat with servants in the kitchen, took servants on outings, was interested in their problems and normally genuinely upset when they were ill, so long as he was sure that they were not malingering, and was nearly always sorry and often very sad when they left. He was probably not unusual in preferring attractive servants and in grumbling when his wife hired girls like Doll or Luce, both of whom were 'very ugly'. Pepys , of course, is notorious for his loose ways with women and two of his wife's companions and three of the maids had to put up with his groping hands on their 'mamelles', their belly or even their 'thing'. Just how common such behaviour was one cannot tell, but the opportunities were certainly manifold. Judging from the diary, most of the girls seemed to regard Pepys's exploration of their person as just part of the job, though some were certainly more willing than others. And, just for the record, one might perhaps note that Pepys employed twenty-four female servants who do not seem to have been subjected to such indignities and not all of them were ugly.
Pepys certainly liked a pretty face or a well-shaped bosom, but he also appreciated good service and was generous in his diary and no doubt in person when he thought he was receiving it. Such comments enable us to determine what was expected. The first quality to look for in a servant was that she should 'do what she is bid', be modest, humble, well-meaning and faithful. She should be ready to take criticism without argument and be duly remorseful if she did something wrong, such as the servant who fell on her knees and asked pardon for running away after being struck by Elizabeth Pepys . Willingness to work hard was obviously an important asset and a servant who was 'a drudging, working wench' would receive due praise, as did Susan, who was described as 'a most admirable slut', not at all an opprobrious term, when she did 'more service than both the others' on a wash-day.
Another great bonus in a servant was that she should be good-natured, quiet and not liable to burst into tears, tantrums
or arguments either with her employers or her fellow-servants. In the whole of the diary period, the best time was August 1664: 'Never since I was housekeeper I ever lived so quietly, without any noise or one angry word almost, as I have done since my present maids, Besse, Jane and Susan came and were together.' Finally, it was of course useful if a servant was particularly skilled at her job. The ability of a chambermaid to dress the mistress's hair really well, of a cook to 'dress meat' and serve meals with some style or, in the case of the companions, to talk, sing and play musical instruments with unusual talent, were all valuable assets. However, a servant was never dismissed for a lack of innate skills and Pepys was always ready to put up with less quality if a servant was willing and well-disposed. Harmony and quiet were the keys to a happy household, just as they were to happy relations between husband and wife.
A bad servant was likely to be proud and would not show that proper humility, respect and gratitude which her employers expected. She would be lazy, sleepy and forgetful, with 'no care nor memory of her business at all'. She might be dirty and was almost certain not to do things 'as they should be'. She would lie, answer back, speak boldly and be 'apt to scold'. She was likely to go out visiting without permission and, worse still, gossip about the household when she was out, a terrible crime in the small world of London. Pepys expected his servants to be silent when they were 'abroad', but to keep their ears open and report back any criticism of his household which they heard. One can understand his paranoia, since the servants of a household knew everything that was going on within it and indeed everything that their employers did elsewhere, as is made abundantly clear from depositions in the Consistory Court. High turnover made such silence impossible, however, and one can appreciate Pepys's annoyance when his maid Sarah left and almost immediately got a place with his bête noire, Sir William Penn, where inevitably 'all our affairs of my family are made known of and discussed of there, and theirs by my people'.
Just as bad as gossiping abroad was asking people into the house without permission, such visitors being liable to gossip in their turn, steal or provide thieves with useful information.
Susan felt the full weight of Pepys's anger when she let in 'a rogueing Scotch woman . . . to help them to wash and scour'. Pepys made his wife 'beat our little girle, and then we shut her down into the cellar and there she lay all night'. This was a savage punishment and out of character, for the maids were rarely beaten, a cuff or a box on the ear or a serious and angry talking to being the normal method of maintaining discipline. Boys were beaten more, especially the incorrigible Wayneman, who was beaten at least eight times with a cane, a whip or with rods, and sometimes very savagely. A master or mistress could, if necessary, call in the law to punish troublesome servants. In a defamation case of 1697, for instance, we learn that the nursemaid Mary Fawden was taken up by the constable 'for abusing and calling her then mistress . . . ill names'. She was brought before a magistrate who sent her to Bridewell 'and she was there whipt and lashed', her mistress adding insult to injury by kissing her at the whipping-post and saying, 'Mary, God forgive you, I do.' The only time that Pepys sought assistance was in the case of the parish-child Jinny, who arrived in August 1663, was deloused and dressed in 'good new clothes' and then immediately ran away. She was captured by the parish beadle, stripped of Pepys's clothes and then sent away to be whipped. Employers were no doubt glad to have the force of law behind them, but the usual final sanction was dismissal, the eventual fate of the naughty Wayneman.
Pepys saw his household as a family, but it was a family where nobody was equal to anybody else and Pepys was often troubled lest the strict hierarchy be disturbed. This was most obvious amongst the five female members of his family, a hierarchy headed by his wife Elizabeth and then, in descending order, her waiting-woman or companion, the chambermaid, cookmaid and under-cookmaid. The companions, who were usually poor members of respectable families, were treated as gentlewomen and sat down to table with their employers and spent their evenings with them. They were, however, still expected to show a due respect and this was a difficult relationship to maintain. Pepys's fears that Winifred Gosnell 'hath been bred up with too much liberty for my family' proved to be correct, while the problem with Barker was
exactly the opposite, 'because she will be raised from so mean a condition to so high, all of a sudden'. Mary Ashwell was 'not proud, but will do what she is bid; but for want of being abroad, knows not how to give that respect to her mistress as she will do when she is told it'. On the other hand, she also had to be told 'not to make herself equall with the ordinary servants of the house'. Barker's problem was that she really wanted to be an ordinary servant and 'did always declare that she would rather be put to drudgery and to wash the house than to live as she did, like a gentlewoman', an attitude which Pepys found incomprehensible.
Chambermaids also gave trouble. They might be upset at the appointment of a waiting-woman above them, thus effectively pushing them down one rank in the domestic hierarchy. They might think that they were too 'high' for the job, like Pepys's sister Pall, whom he introduced into the household as a chambermaid, not thinking her 'worthy of being Elizabeth's waiting-woman'. Pall had to stand in Elizabeth's presence and was not allowed to dine with her brother and sister-in-law and, not surprisingly, turned out to be too proud and idle to retain for long. Pall was Pepys's first chambermaid and she had a bad effect on Jane Birch, who had previously been the only maidservant, but who now became 'lazy and spoiled'. Chambermaids might be proud because they thought themselves of good birth or because they had previously served in a higher class household. However, the very condition could make a girl 'high', since the chambermaid's personal service to her employers was considered superior to service in the kitchen and was rewarded by higher wages. This made promotion a tricky problem since the glory involved might turn a girl's head. Should Bess be raised to chambermaid? 'We have both a mind to it, but know not whether we should venture the makeing her proud and so make a bad chambermaid of a very good-natured and sufficient cook-maid.' Even in the kitchen itself there were problems of hierarchy and status. Pepys was worried about a new cookmaid who had formerly been a chambermaid and 'holds up her head'. He also worried about hiring a new 'little girl' under the longserving Susan. 'I am a little disatisfied that the girl, though young, is taller and bigger then Su, and will not I fear be under her command.'
Why did servants leave the Pepys's household? Some were dismissed, like the rogue Wayneman, whose crimes included lying, fighting, stealing and dawdling on errands. Two other servants were dismissed for theft, two cooks for drunkenness and one servant for telling stories about the household in the neighbourhood. Most dismissals were, however, for less obvious reasons. What tended to happen was for there to be a honeymoon period in which a new servant received praise or at least was given the benefit of the doubt and then, slowly, the relationship began to deteriorate. Sometimes this was clearly the result of the servant's own personality but, very often, it was the product of Elizabeth Pepys's awkward character, which caused her to turn against her servants and begin to dislike or even hate them. She obviously had some justification for jealousy of her husband, but her contrariness went far beyond this and time after time one finds her picking quarrels with servants and accusing them, usually falsely, of lying and stealing. The end product of such relationships was that the servant was either dismissed, being described as proud, negligent, quarrelsome or some other opprobrious epithet, or she could stand it no longer and handed in her notice.
However, there did not have to be any unpleasantness for a servant to leave. Some girls left to get married or because they were sick. Many left simply because they wanted a change or because they wanted a different sort of job. Mary, a cookmaid, for instance, left after a month's trial because she wanted 'to live in a tradesman's house where there was but one maid', a situation in which she might have to work even harder than in Pepys's household but in which she would be the boss below stairs. Servants who left, even those who were dismissed, do not seem to have borne any grudge. Nor did they necessarily vanish. Many came back to visit, to chat with their fellow-servants or to call upon their former employers. The household had after all been their home, almost their universe, for several months and sometimes for several years.
All these reasons for leaving are, of course, a matter of Pepys's own interpretation of events and do not necessarily reflect how the servants themselves saw the situation. Nevertheless, when servants did give reasons for leaving their places, as
they often did when giving evidence to the Consistory Court, one can see that Pepys's household is not atypical. Nearly all the servants whom he employed had been, or were to be, employed in other London households and they simply reflect the range of servant personalities and experiences which could be found in the metropolis. Even Elizabeth Pepys is by no means unusual as an employer; indeed, she could almost be taken as a prototype of the idle, spoiled and discontented wife of contemporary literature. Give a woman like her a servant or servants and she will quarrel with them for no particularly good reason. Deborah Coleman, for instance, left the service of a scrivener's wife 'because of some difference betwixt this respondent and . . . her mistress', and such a vague reason for leaving was common enough. Another common scenario, likely to be interpreted differently by mistress and servant, is illustrated by a servant in the household of Elizabeth Nowes, the wife of a barrister. She left because her mistress 'and shee could not agree in their bills and reckonings about money laid out', a constant source of disagreement when innumerate but not necessarily dishonest servants went out shopping. Other servants in these depositions left because they were sick or wanted to get married or had found a better place or wanted to visit their relations in the country. Service in London was not exile and many girls spent long periods at home, interspersed by periods of service in London or elsewhere, before eventually getting married.
Samuel Pepys's diary has been used as the main source for this section because nowhere else can one get the same detail on the relations between master, mistress and servants in a London household. His became a large household by middleclass standards and one must expect that, in the typical single servant household, relations would have been rather different, with the mistress doing far more work in the house, as indeed Elizabeth Pepys did in the early months of the diary. However, the general impression is that Pepys's household was not untypical of his day and it seems legitimate to use examples from his diary to make general points about the life of servants. Where Pepys's diary is of no use is in discussing relations with children, the subject of the next section, for which different sources will have to be found.
Bringing up Children
One tends to think of the families of the past as teeming with children, and if we go back a mere hundred years this was certainly true. In our period, however, although there were some very large families, most were relatively small. Table 8.5 opposite sets out the numbers of children in the families of the sample who were alive when their fathers died. Nearly half the families had only one or two children, while the average was just over three, a figure which takes no account of families with no children at all. Vivien Brodsky has shown that nearly a quarter of marriages were childless in late Elizabethan London and that there was an average of only two surviving children per family, and one suspects that the figures would have been similar for our period.
Such numbers seem remarkably small when it is remembered that most middle-class mothers got married in their early twenties or even younger, and one might assume that birth control was providing at least part of the explanation. Contraception certainly existed and was condemned by moralists, who regarded it as murder and normally assumed that women were responsible, such practices being seen as yet another example of the frivolity of the modern woman. 'She would have the pleasure of lying with a man, but would not have the least interruption from her usual company keeping.' There is, however, no evidence that contraception had any effect on the birthrate, fertility being exceptionally high in London and even higher in parishes with a high proportion of middle-class mothers than in poorer parishes. There seems little doubt, then, that the small numbers of children shown in Table 8.5 were predominantly the result of the appallingly high levels of infant and child mortality in the metropolis. Middle-class mothers gave birth to many children, on average one every twenty-three months in the early years of marriage, but comparative wealth, clean homes and plentiful food were no guarantee that these children would live for very long. Infancy was the worst period, but all of childhood was dangerous and Finlay has estimated that only three out of five of those born even in wealthy parishes would survive to the age of 15.
High rates of infant and child mortality were a sad fact of the
human condition and parents had to learn to live with the loss of many of their children. Since we today would find such repeated grief almost impossible to bear, some historians believe that the parents of the past did not love their children as we do. Lawrence Stone, for example, has suggested that high mortality rates 'made it folly to invest too much emotional capital in such ephemeral things'. He claimed that parents were indifferent to their children or, at best, gave them the same sort of affection as they gave their pets. Such attitudes reduced grief when a child died but also tended to make parents unloving and sometimes extremely harsh in their treatment of children, subjecting them to savage beatings and other forms of cruelty.
This grim form of childhood began to change in the second half of the seventeenth century, at least in 'the middle ranks of the society'. Parents now began to love their children more and beat them less. Kindness and encouragement appeared in
children's lives and a reasoned rebuke replaced the harsh word and the rod as the means of correction. Many parents still regarded their children as pets but they now became pets on whom they were prepared to spend large amounts of money in the form of clothes, toys, expensive outings and a much more thorough education.
This thesis has proved totally unacceptable to the majority of social historians who claim, with reason, that Stone's views have been developed on the basis of unrepresentative sources and selective quotation. Such critics see childhood as changing very little between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries or indeed today. They accept that there have always been some bad and uncaring parents, but these were very much a minority. Most parents loved their children and the fear of losing them probably made them love them even more and care for them more tenderly than parents do in our safer society.
Despite the gulf between these two schools of historians, they both agree that a decline in religious sensibility in our period led to less emphasis on the salvation of children and a greater concern with secular ambitions for their futures as adults. In particular, the decline in belief in original sin and a growing acceptance of the innocence of children had an important influence on their treatment. Even the kindest parent might accept the epigram of Cotton Mather—'better whipt than damn'd'—if they genuinely believed that the death of an unrepentant child might take him straight to hell. In fact, as a recent study of diaries by Linda Pollock has shown, such beliefs often led to unbearable conflict in the minds of parents, torn between love for their children and acceptance that it was their duty to punish them for their own good. However, affection usually overcame duty, with the result that diary entries are often heavily laden with guilt. Even Cotton Mather was far more terrible in print than he ever was in reality.
Diaries have been the main source used by these revisionist historians, Linda Pollock's work being based on 496 British and American diaries and autobiographies, a huge body of material which might be expected to silence all critics. However, the number of diaries for any period before the second half of the eighteenth century is small and the number written by mothers even smaller, while the diaries which do exist often throw little
light on childhood. Most diarists were much more interested in their own activities than in those of their children and simply did not mention the things that interest historians of childhood, such as methods of childcare and discipline, children's games and the early learning process.
All historians must be grateful for the efforts of Linda Pollock; her work is much more systematic and far more convincing than that of Lawrence Stone but, because of the nature of the evidence used, one should perhaps be cautious of some of her conclusions. The case that parents generally loved their children and grieved when they died certainly seems proven, especially for those children who survived infancy. There also seems little doubt that parents were interested in the development and education of a child and had hopes and fears about its future. However, it is much harder to generalize on such subjects as discipline in the home. Only a third of Pollock's diaries for the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries have any information at all on this subject and one wonders just how thorough this information is. She wishes to minimize the physical chastisement of children in the past, as a counter to the habitual brutality claimed by other writers, and the fact is that not very much evidence of chastisement and very little of brutality appears in the diaries that she has read. But does such silence mean that children were only very rarely beaten? Would people necessarily comment on this subject?
Everything else that is known about the society of Augustan London would suggest that young people, and especially boys, were likely to be beaten quite a lot. Conduct books nearly always mention beating as a final sanction; one can hardly read about a school without being told of the savage beating of boys, not just for naughtiness but for what seem to us trivial lapses of memory; the normal punishment for erring apprentices and servants, for unmarried mothers and for a host of other young and not so young people was a beating in Bridewell or in some other place of correction, if their master had not already provided the punishment. In other words, this was a culture where beating was quite common. Can parents in our period really have loved their children so much that they spared the rod? It does seem rather unlikely, despite the evidence from silence in the majority of Linda Pollock's diaries.
The fact is that silence surrounds every aspect of childhood. The only people with much to say about the subject, and not much even then, were those who wrote books of advice for parents. Most of these concentrate on moral issues, on the need to instil in the child a fear of God and a respect for the authority of parents. Other books discuss the practicalities of pregnancy, childbirth and infant and child care, somewhat in the manner of a modern baby book. One can learn, for instance, that 'experts' disapproved of wet-nursing throughout our period, that swaddling was approved of in the seventeenth and not in the eighteenth, and so on. All of which is interesting, but does not tell us whether parents took any notice of such books, which are generally written in a depressingly pious manner or in obscure medical jargon. Recent research has shown that twentieth-century mothers do not follow baby books, a fact which makes it unlikely that their seventeenth-century ancestors did, making any conclusions from such literature of little value except for those interested in the history of baby books.
When other types of source material are looked at, one moves into areas of even greater darkness. Several hundred depositions from divorce cases have been studied for this book. Most relate either to the cruelty of husbands and thus a considerable degree of violence in the home or to the adultery of wives, which usually involved absence from home. In no case does one learn that the husband's brutality frightened or might have frightened the children or that the mother was neglecting her maternal duties by gallivanting about the town. Indeed, in very few cases would one know that there were any children of these broken marriages. Children are simply not mentioned and no attention is paid to their welfare, upbringing and maintenance. Does this mean that nobody cared about children or does it simply mean that a divorce required evidence of a husband's cruelty or a wife's adultery and nothing more, facts which could be proven without reference to the children?
When inventories are looked at, it can sometimes be sensed that children lived in these middle-class houses, as it is known they did from other sources. Some houses had a room called the nursery or the 'children's room'. Others had rooms which were described by the name of a teenage child, such as 'Mrs Phoebe's room' or 'Master Gabriel's room'. Lists of furniture sometimes
contain evidence of children, too. There is the occasional 'child's chair' or 'child's table', lots of clouts and child bed linen and quite a few cradles and child's baskets. However, not many inventories mention purpose-built children's furniture at all. Many list 'toys', but these were ornaments rather than what we understand by toys; others list the equipment for games such as draughts, chess and backgammon, but these were just as likely to be played by adults as by children. In short, inventories show that children often lived in comfortable quarters, but do not give any support to a hypothesis that children were a pampered breed on whom a great deal of money was spent. They may have been, but the evidence will not be found in this source.
Wills are another source which might be expected to throw light on attitudes to children, though in fact most are disappointing in this respect. One thing which comes through clearly in nearly all middle-class wills is the father's desire that his children should be treated equally and equitably, older and younger, boys and girls all normally getting exactly the same amount of his personal estate. This seems to have been a fundamental difference between middle-class attitudes and those of the gentry and aristocracy, who treated their children very unevenly. However, wills provide little evidence that fathers actually loved their children, either equally or at all, adjectives such as 'loving' or 'dear' being used rarely and in fact less frequently for children than for the father's adult friends.
A frequent theme in wills is the mention of duty and obedience that the children either have not observed towards their father or should observe towards their mother in the future. Three fathers in our sample disinherited their eldest son and all mentioned disobedience, unfaithfulness and lack of duty as a reason for this, Daniel Darnelly, for instance, being described as 'a very undutifull and disobedient sonne unto mee and his mother'. Other men bequeathed property to their wife to give to such of their children 'as shall be the most dutifull to her'. The wealthy merchant John Brookes left £3000 to be distributed by his widow amongst his eight children, 'as she shall in motherly prudence see fitt thereby to engage their love and obedience . . . and also that they are most pious, dutifull
and diligent may be most encouraged'. Finally, it should be noted that many wills showed much concern about the education and future careers of the children. These wills, then, present a picture of middle-class fathers behaving almost exactly as they were told to behave in conduct-books. There is little evidence here of the new-look fathers who pampered and spoiled their children or would put up readily with disobedience, a model which Lawrence Stone thinks was common amongst the members of the London bourgeoisie.
Childhood is one of the few subjects covered in this book on which it has been difficult to find good sources and it is important to realize just how fragile is the evidence from which large books have been written on the subject. Despite this, I, like others, will say what I think were typical attitudes to the upbringing of children. But, first, it should be noted that children were not necessarily brought up by both of their own parents, since adult as well as child mortality was very high. A quarter of our sample, for example, had lost their fathers before they were apprenticed. Widows and widowers often continued to raise their families single-handed or with the assistance of a housekeeper, but remarriage was also common. Many families, then, were very complex, with step-parents, natural parents and children from two or more unions all living in the same house, a situation similar to that created today by high divorce rates. Such arrangements could often lead to family tensions. Some people might refuse to allow the children of their spouse's previous marriage into the house; many husbands worried that if they died their widows might not treat the children of a previous marriage fairly. No evidence of really wicked stepmothers has been found, but presumably the stereotype had some basis in reality.
The care of young children was therefore distributed amongst a number of persons, of whom parents, step-parents, servants and wet-nurses were the most important, though older siblings probably played their part as well. A middle-class baby's first few months might well be spent with a wet-nurse, either at home or in the villages on the outskirts of London whose air was supposed to be good for babies. Linda Pollock has demonstrated the care with which parents chose and supervised wetnurses, and there seems little reason to suppose that the practice
illustrates indifference to the baby, as some writers have suggested, but it would presumably have reduced the strength of maternal bonding. Contemporary writers tended to criticise wet-nursing, on the grounds that it was due to idleness and vanity on the part of mothers and also because babies were supposed to absorb plebeian instincts with their nurses' milk. How common wet-nursing actually was, nobody knows, but contemporary comment suggests that it was widespread among those who could afford it.
Once the baby was weaned, it seems probable that much of the everyday care of small children was left to servants, who would produce them from time to time, nicely cleaned up, for the amusement and gratification of their parents. Misson thought that the English found young children too amusing and were over-affectionate and too tolerant of them, 'always flattering, always caressing, always applauding what they do; at least it seems so to us French folks who correct our children as soon as they are capable of reason; being of opinion, that to keep them in awe is the best way to give them a good turn in their youth'. The truth of Misson's comment cannot be proved but it agrees with what Linda Pollock has found in her diaries. How parents were supposed to behave, according to the conduct books, was much more in the French manner, though correction was always supposed to be tempered with affection.
In practice, it seems to have been the mother who provided most of the instruction and correction, as can be seen from two middle-class autobiographers, both of whom praised their mothers in almost identical terms for taking 'all oppertunityes to instruct and instill good principles of religion and moralls into us her children'. One also gets a hint of attitudes to mothers, a very shadowy subject, from the fact that the commonest adjective describing a mother in a will is not 'dear' or 'loving', which were used for many other people, but 'honoured'. This may simply be a convention, but it is important to remember that however much affection, however many caresses, there were in a family, children were still expected to honour, obey and respect their parents. There was always a distance, symbolized by such customs as bowing, kneeling or at least standing in the presence of parents. One also gets the impression that these middle-class houses were not places where
children raced up and down stairs, screaming and shouting and constantly vying for their parents' attention. They seem rather to have been quiet, almost sombre, places where children were seen but not heard and were whisked away by servants if they began to be a nuisance.
Our evidence suggests that parents took their duties towards children seriously and were chided by relations, friends and neighbours if they did not. Such duties took many forms besides the instilling of good principles of religion and morals, though this came first. Accumulation itself was one such duty, its object being not the gratification of the accumulator but the advancement of the next generation. Middle-class stock, like upper-class land, was something received on trust from parents to be improved and then handed on to children, an attitude symbolized by the frequent reference to stewardship in wills: 'And as concerning such worldly estate as God in his goodness hath made me steward of in this life, I give and bequeath the same as followeth.' Fear that one might be a poor steward, that there might not be enough money to advance one's children, was a common middle-class phobia.
If accumulation was a duty, so was the education of children so that they would be able to make good use of the money when it came to them. Education was also, of course, a vehicle for social advancement, the dream of 'the meanest tradesman [who] affects to raise his family out of its original obscurity by fixing his children some degrees higher than the vulgar occupation in which he has worked himself'. Parents certainly took great trouble over the choice of schools, a choice made more taxing by the expansion of different sorts of school, which was discussed in Chapter 2. Most children in this class went to school for eight to ten years, starting around the age of six and continuing till their early or mid-teens. Schoolmasters and mistresses were therefore another group playing an important part in the moulding of young members of the middle station, a group who emphasized religion, hard work, attention, obedience and duty, and thus reinforced what children were supposed to have already learned from their parents. School removed children from home all day and so reduced their contacts with parents and servants; boarding school, to which many children went, removed them for months at a time, though contact was
retained through visits and the rather stilted letters that parents and children tend to write to each other.
Both boys and particularly girls often stayed at home for some years after they had finished school. Many sons were apprenticed in their late rather than early teens and some were formally apprenticed to their fathers, while others, like George Boddington, learned their father's business in a more informal way. When he was fifteen, his father 'set me to his business in the packing trade and wrighting his letters and keeping his cash'. That this was quite common is indicated by the number of families in Table 8.3 (p. 214) who had sons in their late teens still at home. Sir John Hedges, for example, had his nineteen-year-old son William living at home, while John Cary had a twenty-eight-year-old son by his first marriage and an eighteen-year-old from his second marriage living with him. Both these men also had girls in their late teens living at home and it seems probable that most daughters in this class got married from home. The influence of parents on the children of the middle class might be broken to a certain extent by the long period of formal schooling that most children went through, but it was an influence which lasted much longer and was almost certainly more pervasive than in the working classes, where children tended to leave home in their early teens or even earlier. What exactly this influence amounted to is difficult to say given the paucity of the sources, but the impression is that parents' desire for respect and obedience from their children created a rather more formal relationship than is suggested by some historians.