Kiplin Hall Vector

Silent Footsteps

Laundry 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 Sarah Mountain, laundry maid.

Sarah Mountain was born in Kirby Misperton, Yorkshire in 1823. By 1841, Sarah’s father had died and she was living away from home. In 1849 she began working at Kiplin Hall as a laundry maid, aged 26 years old.

She was paid £6 and 6 shillings as a half yearly salary, around the same amount as a house maid but much less than a housekeeper who earned £25.

We can see in the census records that she stopped working at Kiplin Hall after 1851 but before 1861. The census records the names of people living at an address on a given date every 10 years. We do not know what she did afterwards. It can be especially difficult to trace women in the census as  it was the convention for them to change their surname name if they married. It is even more difficult to trace them if they also move where they live, which domestic servants frequently did.

As a laundry maid Sarah would report to the housekeeper. As her job title suggests she was responsible for washing, drying and ironing fine linen for family and guests. As well as washing, drying and ironing household linen, including servants’ linen. Presentation in a home like Kiplin Hall was very important and the owner families would have high standards. Without modern washing machines laundry would have taken hours. Boiling water over a coal or wood fired stove, using wash boards and dolly tubs. Irons would have been made from cast iron and would have been heated on a stove as well.

An egg iron was used for shaping puffed sleeves and grooves in hats. Laundry maids who have taken great care of their employer’s clothes and textile belongings.

There is a long thin area of ground surrounded by high walls between Kiplin Hall and the visitor car park. It is used for staff parking today, but is historically known as the drying yard. One can imagine the area strung with washing lines drying the linen on warm breezy days.

Join us next time for the final article in this series to find out more about Ann Walker, scullery 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.