I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.
Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights

vrijdag 8 april 2011

Housekeeping in the Victorian period.

Mr. Brontë had intended that his second daughter, Elizabeth, should be a housekeeper, and the other four, governesses. The only paid employment that Emily ever undertook was teaching at the Law Hill School near Halifax in 1838, and she lasted only six months. Emily Brontë was only ever happy at home; she enjoyed housekeeping, and she enjoyed the company of the family's elderly servant, Tabitha Aykroyd.

Nancy and Sarah Garr had accompanied the Bronte family in Thornton in 1820. Nancy had joined the family as a nurse-maid, but was later promoted to cook and assistant housekeeper. In 1824 Nancy married. Sarah emigrated to America.

In 1821, Elizabeth Branwell travelled up to Yorkshire and moved into the Parsonage to nurse her dying sister and help run the household. She subsequently spent the rest of her life there raising the Brontë children - to whom she was known as 'Aunt Branwell'. She provided much of the children's education, including needlework and embroidery for the girls. After Aunt Branwell died in 1842 Emily took on the role of housekeeper helping out in the kitchen.

Since 1826, 'Tabby' was the cook/housekeeper and for the first 15 of her 31 years at the Parsonage, she was the only servant living in, although the Brontë sisters themselves also cooked, cleaned and washed clothes.

In December 1836 Tabby slipped on ice in Haworth's main street, badly breaking her leg. Aunt Branwell suggested that she leave the Parsonage to be nursed by her sister Susannah, but the Brontë children objected, even going on hunger strike, and Tabby stayed in the Parsonage nursed by the children. The leg never fully healed however, and over the next 3 years many of Tabby's duties were taken up by Emily. Emily cooked and ironed.

In 1839 Tabby seems to have retired temporarily, moving into a house in Newell Hill that she had bought with her now-widowed sister Susannah. Mr. Brontë engaged Martha Brown, the 11 year old daughter of his Sexton, John Brown, but the greater part of the skilled and the heavy work fell upon the Brontë girls, with Emily becoming Housekeeper. In 1842, Tabby moved back into the Parsonage where she stayed, sharing the little servants' bedroom with young Martha, for the next 13 years.

Martha's duties ranged from basic washing, cleaning and laying fires, to running errands and, after Tabby's death, preparing food. She was also called upon to help nurse the sick of the household, and for all this she was paid £6 a year when she started, rising to £10 a year by 1858.

The Servant's Room. Tabby Ackroyd lived local, as did Martha Brown. To the left of the fireplace is a section of a staircase which would have gone outside.

1) Charlotte in a letter to Ellen Nussey: (after Tabby had been ill)
"" I discovered a most unladylike talent for cleaning, sweeping up hearths, dusting rooms, making beds etc., so if everything else fails- I can turn my hand to that- if anybody will give me good wages, for little labour. I won't be a cook, I hate cooking, I won't be a nurserymaid, nor a lady's maid, far less a lady's companion, or a straw-bonnet maker, or a mantua-maker, I will be nothing but a house-maid.""

2 ) Emily and Anne Brontë's Diary Paper, November 24, 1834.
I fed Rainbow, Diamond Snowflake Jasper pheasant (alias) this morning Branwell went down to Mr. Driver's and brought news that Sir Robert Peel was going to be invited to stand for Leeds Anne and I have been peeling apples for Charlotte to make us an apple pudding and for Aunt nuts and apples Charlotte said she made puddings perfectly and she was of a quick but limited intellect. Taby said just now Come Anne pilloputate (i.e. pill a potato) Aunt has come into the kitchen just now and said where are your feet Anne Anne answered On the floor Aunt papa opened the parlour door and gave Branwell a letter saying here Branwell read this and show it to your Aunt and Charlotte–The Gondals are discovering the interior of Gaaldine Sally Mosley is washing in the back kitchen.

It is past Twelve o'clock Anne and I have not tidied ourselves, done our bedwork or done our lessons and we want to go out to play we are going to have for Dinner Boiled Beef, Turnips, potatoes and applepudding. The Kitchin is in a very untidy state Anne and I have not done our music exercise which consists of b major Taby said on my putting a pen in her face Ya pitter pottering there instead of pilling a potate I answered O Dear, O Dear, O dear I will directly with that I get up, take a knife and begin pilling (finished) pilling the potatoes papa going to walk Mr. Sunderland expected.
Emily and Anne

3) Anne Brontë's Diary Paper, Thursday July 31, 1845
Charlotte has lately been to Hathersage in Derbyshire on a visit of three weeks to Ellen Nussy–she is now sitting sewing in the Dining-Room Emily is ironing upstairs I am sitting in the Dining Room in the Rocking chair before the fire with my feet on the fender Papa is in the parlour Tabby and Martha are I think in the Kitchen Keeper and Flossy are I do not know where little Dick is hopping in his cage

4) Emily Brontë's Diary Paper, Thursday, July 30, 1845
Tabby has just been teasing me to turn as formerly to-'pilloputate'. Anne and I should have picked the black currants if it had been fine and sunshiny. I must hurry off now to my taming and ironing I have plenty of work on hands and writing and am altogether full of buisness;


The back yard of the Parsonage contained a peat store and the two-seater privy, with seats for children and adults. A large wash kitchen, built on the back of the house.
A mixture of  coal and peat would have been burnt for heat, Mrs Gaskell recalled how fires burning in the grates ""made a pretty warm dancing light all over the house"".

A visitor to the Parsonage recalles how ""everything was exquisitely neat, and the copper pans shone like gold. it was a snug, warm crooning place.

Emily studied German, with her book propped up before her, when she kneaded dough"".


A Homekeeping Schedule One of the things most stressed for the woman of the past was to keep a regular homekeeping schedule. A schedule meant all things were done in a timely manner.

"FOR convenience as well as efficient work in housekeeping, a schedule of regular daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly processes should be made out. Time can then be well planned, and a routine established that simplifies the machinery of housekeeping. " ~ A Manual of Home-Making
"A very good order of work is :
Monday, washing.
Tuesday, ironing.
Wednesday, mending.
Thursday, cleaning silver, preserving, etc.
Friday, sweeping, and window cleaning.
Saturday, thorough cleaning of kitchen closets,
cellar, etc., baking, etc.

a woman's work in the victorian age
victorian laundry
victorian servants

Behind Closed Doors is a fascinating look at Georgian domestic life. The period covered is the long 18th century, from the Glorious Revolution of 1688 to the end of the 1820s.
Behind Closed Doors is published by Yale University Press & it’s gorgeously produced with lots of plates & illustrations in the text & heavy, creamy paper. A beautiful object worthy of its contents.
I also have the DVD of the TV series Amanda Vickery made based on the book, At Home with the Georgians. I’ve watched the first episode & enjoyed it very much. I loved seeing the people in the book brought to life in their own words & seeing their houses & portraits was fascinating. I was also intrigued to see Amanda Vickery whip out her iPad at every opportunity to show us a print (which she enlarged with a touch to the screen to show details) or a document as well as lots of more traditional documentary scenes of her lovingly unwrapping diaries in various libraries & archives. Seeing poor, frustrated Gertrude Savile’s diaries with their crossings-out & miserable scribble was very poignant. I’ll be watching the other episodes over the weekend.

3 opmerkingen:

  1. Wonderful post Geri! Homekeeping in Victorian times has always fascintated me...as well as the whole toiletry thing...what must that have been like?!
    I love the diaries of the girls with all of the tales of the daily tasks...so real.

    We do have it quite easy now don't we...thank you for the fabulous links!
    xo J~

  2. Hi all...

    Housekeeping Review brings the innermost depth of the subject to the readers with a fresh and lively viewpoint on all that’s new and notable in house keeping review needs, design, techniques, trends, products and much more. Thanks.

  3. This information really worth saying, i think you are master of the content and thank you so much sharing that valuable information and get new skills after refer that post.
    Housekeeping Services in Chennai


The Parlour

The Parlour



Charlotte Bronte

Presently the door opened, and in came a superannuated mastiff, followed by an old gentleman very like Miss Bronte, who shook hands with us, and then went to call his daughter. A long interval, during which we coaxed the old dog, and looked at a picture of Miss Bronte, by Richmond, the solitary ornament of the room, looking strangely out of place on the bare walls, and at the books on the little shelves, most of them evidently the gift of the authors since Miss Bronte's celebrity. Presently she came in, and welcomed us very kindly, and took me upstairs to take off my bonnet, and herself brought me water and towels. The uncarpeted stone stairs and floors, the old drawers propped on wood, were all scrupulously clean and neat. When we went into the parlour again, we began talking very comfortably, when the door opened and Mr. Bronte looked in; seeing his daughter there, I suppose he thought it was all right, and he retreated to his study on the opposite side of the passage; presently emerging again to bring W---- a country newspaper. This was his last appearance till we went. Miss Bronte spoke with the greatest warmth of Miss Martineau, and of the good she had gained from her. Well! we talked about various things; the character of the people, - about her solitude, etc., till she left the room to help about dinner, I suppose, for she did not return for an age. The old dog had vanished; a fat curly-haired dog honoured us with his company for some time, but finally manifested a wish to get out, so we were left alone. At last she returned, followed by the maid and dinner, which made us all more comfortable; and we had some very pleasant conversation, in the midst of which time passed quicker than we supposed, for at last W---- found that it was half-past three, and we had fourteen or fifteen miles before us. So we hurried off, having obtained from her a promise to pay us a visit in the spring... ------------------- "She cannot see well, and does little beside knitting. The way she weakened her eyesight was this: When she was sixteen or seventeen, she wanted much to draw; and she copied nimini-pimini copper-plate engravings out of annuals, ('stippling,' don't the artists call it?) every little point put in, till at the end of six months she had produced an exquisitely faithful copy of the engraving. She wanted to learn to express her ideas by drawing. After she had tried to draw stories, and not succeeded, she took the better mode of writing; but in so small a hand, that it is almost impossible to decipher what she wrote at this time.

I asked her whether she had ever taken opium, as the description given of its effects in Villette was so exactly like what I had experienced, - vivid and exaggerated presence of objects, of which the outlines were indistinct, or lost in golden mist, etc. She replied, that she had never, to her knowledge, taken a grain of it in any shape, but that she had followed the process she always adopted when she had to describe anything which had not fallen within her own experience; she had thought intently on it for many and many a night before falling to sleep, - wondering what it was like, or how it would be, - till at length, sometimes after the progress of her story had been arrested at this one point for weeks, she wakened up in the morning with all clear before her, as if she had in reality gone through the experience, and then could describe it, word for word, as it had happened. I cannot account for this psychologically; I only am sure that it was so, because she said it. ----------------------She thought much of her duty, and had loftier and clearer notions of it than most people, and held fast to them with more success. It was done, it seems to me, with much more difficulty than people have of stronger nerves, and better fortunes. All her life was but labour and pain; and she never threw down the burden for the sake of present pleasure. I don't know what use you can make of all I have said. I have written it with the strong desire to obtain appreciation for her. Yet, what does it matter? She herself appealed to the world's judgement for her use of some of the faculties she had, - not the best, - but still the only ones she could turn to strangers' benefit. They heartily, greedily enjoyed the fruits of her labours, and then found out she was much to be blamed for possessing such faculties. Why ask for a judgement on her from such a world?" elizabeth gaskell/charlotte bronte

Poem: No coward soul is mine

No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the worlds storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heavens glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.

O God within my breast.
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life -- that in me has rest,
As I -- Undying Life -- have power in Thee!

Vain are the thousand creeds
That move mens hearts: unutterably vain;
Worthless as withered weeds,
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,

To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by Thine infinity;
So surely anchored on
The steadfast Rock of immortality.

With wide-embracing love
Thy Spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.

Though earth and man were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou wert left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.

There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou -- Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.

Emily Bronte

Family tree

The Bronte Family

Grandparents - paternal
Hugh Brunty was born 1755 and died circa 1808. He married Eleanor McClory, known as Alice in 1776.

Grandparents - maternal
Thomas Branwell (born 1746 died 5th April 1808) was married in 1768 to Anne Carne (baptised 27th April 1744 and died 19th December 1809).

Father was Patrick Bronte, the eldest of 10 children born to Hugh Brunty and Eleanor (Alice) McClory. He was born 17th March 1777 and died on 7th June 1861. Mother was Maria Branwell, who was born on 15th April 1783 and died on 15th September 1821.

Maria had a sister, Elizabeth who was known as Aunt Branwell. She was born in 1776 and died on 29th October 1842.

Patrick Bronte married Maria Branwell on 29th December 1812.

The Bronte Children
Patrick and Maria Bronte had six children.
The first child was Maria, who was born in 1814 and died on 6th June 1825.
The second daughter, Elizabeth was born on 8th February 1815 and died shortly after Maria on 15th June 1825. Charlotte was the third daughter, born on 21st April 1816.

Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls (born 1818) on 29th June 1854. Charlotte died on 31st March 1855. Arthur lived until 2nd December 1906.

The first and only son born to Patrick and Maria was Patrick Branwell, who was born on 26th June 1817 and died on 24th September 1848.

Emily Jane, the fourth daughter was born on 30th July 1818 and died on 19th December 1848.

The sixth and last child was Anne, born on 17th January 1820 who died on 28th May 1849.

Top Withens in the snow.

Top Withens in the snow.



Related Posts with Thumbnails