Kiplin Hall Vector

Silent Footsteps


As a new exhibition opens at Kiplin Hall a table is laid with 9 place settings, representing some of the servant roles in this historic house. Join us each week as we explore the lives of these diligent workers.

In life the servants and staff of Kiplin Hall moved through the house silently undertaking their duties. We see traces of them in the historical record through things like wage bills and diary entries. Then and today, they are shadows, without whom Kiplin Hall could not have existed and thrived.

Today we meet James Allen, a footman.

James was born in 1822 in Conington, Huntingdonshire, but we aren’t sure how old he was when he passed away. He worked at Kiplin Hall between 1847 and 1868. He was employed at Kiplin Hall as footman and paid a half-yearly salary of £12 and 10 shillings. Around half the earnings of a butler, but more than double the wage of a dairy maid.

Part of his job would have included travelling with the families who owned Kiplin Hall. We know he travelled to London with the 4th Earl and Countess of Tyrconnel in 1851, probably for The London Season. He was still working for Sarah, Countess of Tyrconnel in 1861 and returned to London with her again for The Season that year.

Working for the family for 21 years he must have earned a place in their hearts as well. When the Countess of Tyrconnel died in 1868 she named ‘James Allen, Footman’ in her will and gifted him £20.

A lamp of the sort that a footman like James Allen would have used in his work

As footman James would be expected to report to the butler and under butler, he would have worn a livery uniform supplied by his employer. As you’d expect, he would accompany the carriage when it is taken out in the afternoon and evening.

But he would be kept busy all day with other tasks like bringing in coal and wood or pumping water for daily use in the house. He would assist with cleaning the plate and trimming and cleaning lamps as well as cleanings boots. He’d help the butler and under butler with dining duties like laying and clearing the table for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. Wait on the family at all meal times. Wash the silver and glass used at meal times. Attend to fires throughout the day and evening. Attend to lighting in the house as soon as dusk falls using gas lamps and candlesticks. Assist preparation and service of coffee after dinner. Attend to needs of family and dinner guests, including valet duties for younger male members of the family or guests without a valet.

Like all of the domestic staff the footman’s duties were lengthy and kept the house and the lives of the families living there running smoothly.

Join us next time to find out more about Frances Woolger, a house maid.

The exhibition Silent Footsteps is now open and is included with standard admission. Day and Annual tickets are available. Kiplin is open 6 days a week, closed on Thursdays. Please note that this exhibition is on the third floor and there is no lift, access by stairs only.

We can see a breakdown of wages in documents from the time, James Allen is named on the second line here.