House Tour: The Servant’s Bedroom

IMG_1604It may be their bedroom but the servants weren’t allowed to rest – just outside the door is a bell to summon them at any time of day or night.

IMG_4640At least they could lock their door – if they were given a key…

IMG_1562The servant’s bedroom is located at the back of the house on the first floor right above the old scullery. We are currently using it as a utility/laundry room. It’s quite a small room but it does have a fireplace – the first one I revealed last year. The window overlooks the side of the house rather than the garden – there was to be no gazing upon the family for the servant. Unusually for this house the room has a sash window – only the family’s part of the house has the more fashionable Edwardian casement windows.

IMG_1588Miss Rose having a sniff about. We tend to keep the cats out of this part of the house at the moment.

IMG_1567You may remember from earlier posts that the servant’s room has a small landing outside for access to the servant’s stairs. Below lay the kitchen, scullery, pantry, coal store and the outside servant’s toilet. There was to be no using of the family’s staircase for the servants in Edwardian times and the strict division between the family areas and service areas of the house was maintained at all times. Note that the glazing on the window on the stairs is obscured to prevent the servant seeing the family in the garden below.

While I know a lot about the people who owned this house over the years, I know far less about the servants who lived and worked here. There is only one Census I can consult – that of 1911. From that I know two servants lived in this house at the time. Ethel May Deverell was the housekeeper. She was 25 years old and was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Sarah Elizabeth Hudson, 20, from Burton-on-Trent, was the cook and general domestic servant. Luckily for them, even though this is a big house, it was lived in by only one gentleman, who was renting the house at the time: John William Pendleton, 59, the owner of a boot manufactory. But Mr Pendleton’s is another story.

Well, well, well

We passed a renovation milestone today – the first builder made a site visit in order to tender for the work! I liked JB and he spent two hours here discussing the house and the project with me. He was very observant and conscious of the need to work around us: containing the cats, the fact that we are living in the house and that our possessions are spread throughout. He also thought we should salvage and sell the Edwardian handmade terracotta quarry tiles in the kitchen and breakfast room as he had just bought hundreds of them for another project at £2 each!  We probably have eight hundred of them downstairs and instead of ignoring the fact that they weren’t on our ‘salvage list’, technically meaning they would be his to dispose of, he suggested we reclaim them.

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JB’s observant nature continued outside and he was keen to see what was under this slab. He asked if he could go and get his crowbar. I was as curious as he to see what was there.

2014-02-04 15.50.26It was a well! Well, technically it’s called a cistern, as a well accesses groundwater.  The cistern is a beehive-shaped underground tank built of brick and lined with cement and was designed to collect and store rainwater from the roof of the house. This would then be used for tasks such as the laundry because the rain water was much softer compared to hard, high mineral content groundwater. The water would usually be accessed by a hand-operated pump but ours has long since gone.

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JB did some measurements. The cistern is about six feet deep and four feet wide and had about five feet of water in it. It’s a lovely feature but unfortunately sits right on the edge of where our new foundations need to be built (just by that row of bricks to the left of JB). Our architect wants to keep the tank as the water can be used for the garden but I am in favour of the lowest cost option, which may be to fill it in with concrete. Given the rain we get here, combined with our aversion to gardening, I think we would hardly ever use the water stored here! We shall wait and see.

Upstairs Downstairs

IMG_0834Our architect tells us that the house’s main staircase is quite unusual and that he has never seen such a layout. The stairs are situated on the outer wall of the house and are lit by six large leadlight windows, three on each flight. Usually the stairs would be situated on the inner wall adjoining the neighbouring (semi-detached) house. The Edwardians designed houses to let in as much  light and air as possible.

IMG_0807The three windows on the upper flight of stairs. A cabinet maker who was preparing a kitchen quote for us told me that the banisters and newel caps are made of Cuban Mahogany (unfortunately harvested to the point of complete depletion a century ago). The newel posts may also be made of this wood but we will need to strip the paint to find out. The cabinet maker said that these would have been supplied by a specialist and that they would have been French polished … we will probably have to get an expert in to restore them properly.

IMG_0787Ruby on the Cuban Mahogany. She has a habit of trying to scare us with her balancing act.

IMG_0788Her view from the top floor. We’re glad she is nimble and has a level head. Oliver tried it once, slipped and landed one floor down. He’s never been tempted to try it again.

IMG_0835The house also has a concealed servant’s staircase, which leads from the breakfast room (originally the kitchen) to the rear landing and servants’ bedroom. The inside of the door still has the original wood-grain paint effect designed to mimic a more expensive wood. I think the carpet may be original too.

IMG_0808From the rear landing there is a door to the main first floor hallway so that the servants didn’t use the main stairs when tending to the family’s needs. Ruby was the first to make the link between the two staircases. I once shut the door into the breakfast room with her on the servant’s side. She knew to go up the servant staircase, along the first floor hall and then down the main staircase to get back to me. She’s a clever girl.



IMG_4574The doorbell at the front door has been lost but this is the bell press for the door to the old scullery at the side of the house. The coal man and perhaps the rag and bone man would have used this bell. Mark also suspects that other servants would have used this door as well.

IMG_4576This is the bell at the side door closer to the front of the house at the tradesman’s entrance. The tradesman’s entrance is adjacent to the original kitchen and there is also a door leading from this area into the main part of the house. This was the door for deliveries of meat, fish, fruit and vegetables for the kitchen as well as for use by ‘respectable’ tradesmen who needed access to the house.


As for the front door, this would have only been used for visitors to the house of the same social rank as the middle-class family who lived here in Edwardian times. Of course, in this country, everyone knew which class they belonged to and therefore which doorbell they had to press.