Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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272                Glimpses of Our Ancestors.
of things, as regards the larger part of society. It can only have been since the rise of the middle classes in England into wealth and the introduction of a luxurious style of living that domestic service, as we know it, came into existence at all. Three or four hundred years ago—perhaps less than that—the wives and daughters of our farmers and traders did their own domestic work, with the help, perhaps, of a poorer neighbour, if in the country, or of an apprentice in towns. As to hiring men and women at large fixed salaries, for domestic services, as cooks, housemaids, butlers, footmen, coachmen, &c, &c, that must have been unknown to the middle classes of England in the days of the Plantagenets. It was confined altogether to the establishments of the great nobles. In these, indeed, domestic service was of a severer, more stately, and more ponderous character than anything that is known in the present day, even in the abodes of Royalty. The " Book of Orders and Rules," drawn up by Anthony, Lord Montague, who lived at Cowdray, Midhurst, in the reign of Elizabeth, for the government of his household, gives us a lively idea of this. Hundreds of servants of all kinds and degrees,from the "Principal Officers" and "Gentle­men Ushers," who waited on the person of the great man, down to " the groomes of the Great Chamber," and " the Scullery men," helped to fill the house and empty the purse of the great noble in the Tudors' day, and to give occupation to the sons and daughters (for, of course, My Lady the Countess had her gentlewomen, chambermaids, " lavenderers," &c.) of the inferior classes.
The enormous expenses, not to say inconveniences, attendant upon such a style of living doomed it to extinction, in an age when the price of labour was rising, and when the vast estates of the old families were being broken up by civil war, the attacks of the C rown, and other causes. Amidst these troubles to the higher ranks, the middle classes grew up in the days of the Tudors and the Stewarts; and the Great Revolution of the 17th century put its seal on their victory. They were now the masters of the political situation, and we
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