Kiplin Hall Vector

Silent Footsteps

House Maid

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 Frances Woolger, a house maid.

Frances Woolger was born in Esher, Surrey in 1820. She worked at Kiplin for a short period of time from 1848 to sometime after 1851. Domestic staff were able to travel around the country for work and can sometimes be traced in the census, which is only completed every ten years. The census records the names, ages, and occupations of anyone living at an address on a given date. It is a very useful historical document, but a lot can happen to people in the 10 years between each census.

Working as a house maid Frances would have been paid £6 and 6 shillings as a half yearly salary. Far less than the £25 a housekeeper would be paid.

At some point after 1851 she stopped working at Kiplin Hall. However, she stayed in domestic service. In 1861 she was house maid in Harefield, Middlesex to a land owner. In 1866 she married a carpenter and builder called John Foster in London and they lived in Stoke Newington. She lived until around 1895, aged 75.

As a house maid Frances would have reported to the housekeeper. She would complete daily tasks like sweeping and dusting of drawing rooms, sitting rooms, dining room and entrance hall before the family rise. Cleaning the fire grates in the morning and lighting fires when required.

Jug, of the sort used to bring water to bedrooms

Once the family had woken maids would also clean bedrooms including furniture covers, dusting and papering wardrobes and drawers.

The house maid would ensure the daily items the family members needed were available; like soap, writing materials, and fresh towels. As well as caring for house plants and flowers.

Each day Frances would prepare bedrooms for the evening: draw curtains, turn down beds, fill jugs with water, take hot water up for each person and put fresh candles in rooms.

Additional cleaning of rooms would take place once a month including thorough clean of mirrors, pictures, windows, walls etc. She’d also regularly repair textiles items so would have needed good needlework skills. This task would ideally take place in the afternoon when the light was still good. Sewing by lamp or candle light in the evening would be much more difficult.

Join us next time to find out more about life at Kiplin in the past as we get to know Richard Carey, post boy.

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.