Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Scullery maids

The lowliest member of the household staff was the scullery maid, an assistant to the kitchen maid. Yet she was still worthy of portrayal on canvas, as evidenced by the paintings above: "A Scullery Maid Preparing A Chicken" (1776) by German artist Willem Joseph Laquy (1st image), "The Scullery Maid (L'Ecureuse)" (1738) by French artist Jean-Simèon Chardin (2nd image), and "The Scullery Maid" (1705) by Italian artist Giuseppe Maria Crespi (3rd image). The grueling duties of a scullery maid were as follows and could last up to 17 hours a day:
  • Scrubbing the floor, stairs, and sinks
  • Scrubbing work tables
  • Scouring the pots, dishes, and utensils after each meal and morning and afternoon tea
  • Polishing brass and silver
  • Lighting the fires on the kitchen stoves and keeping them clean
  • Cleaning vegetables, plucking fowl, and scaling fish
  • Clearing away meat and vegetable garbage
  • Supplying hot water for tea and washing
Her duties may have included lighting the morning fires in the bedrooms and hauling warm water upstairs for bathing. The scullery maid may also have been required to wait on her fellow staff members and to empty their chamber pots.

In Victorian England, these tasks would certainly been performed by a woman, but in the Middle Ages female domestic servants were rare, so they would have been carried out by a man - a scullion.

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