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The Edwardian Gamekeeper


Edwardian Gamekeeper

The position of a gamekeeper in England is a curious one. Admittedly he is among the most skilled and highly trained workers of the The country-side. His intimate knowledge of wild life commands respect. Often he is much more than a careful and successful preserver of game—a thoroughly good sportsman, a fine shot. His work carries heavy responsibility; as whether a large expenditure on a shooting property brings good returns—and on him depends the pleasure of many a sporting party. On large estates he is an important personage—important to the estate owner, to the hunt, to the farm bailiff, and to a host of satellites. His value is proved by the many important side-issues of his work—dog-breeding and dog-breaking, or the breaking of young gentlemen to gun work. Yet, in spite of the honourable and onerous nature of his calling, he is paid in cash about the same wage as a ploughman.

The actual wages of a first-class gamekeeper may be no more than a pound a week. A system has sprung up by which he receives, in addition to wages, many recompenses in kind, while his slender pay is fortified by the tips of the sportsman to whom he ministers. This system has bred in him a kind of obsequiousness—he is dependent to a great extent on charity. With a liberal employer he may be well off, and all manner of good things may come his way; but with a mean employer the perquisites of his position may be few and far between.

At the best, he may live in a comfortable cottage, rent free. His coal is supplied to him without cost, and wood from the estate. Milk is drawn freely from the farm—or he may have free pasturage for a cow of his own. A new suit of clothes is presented to him each year. He may keep pigs for his own use, usually at his own expense, but this is a small item, and even here he may be helped out by a surplus of pig-food from the kitchen of the house or from the farms. He has a fair chance to make money by dog-breeding and exhibiting. Then there is vermin and rabbit money which he earns as extra pay, and useful sums may flow into his pocket from the hunt funds.

He may keep fowls at his employer’s expense, and if not solely for his own use, he has the privilege of a proportion of the eggs, and a reasonable number of the chickens may be roasted or boiled for his own table. The estate gardeners aid him with his gardening operations, and many surplus plants and seeds find their way into his plot. To rabbits he may help himself freely, also to rooks and pigeons. After each shooting party his employer—if a generous master—invites him to take home a brace of pheasants and a hare; and there may be other ways in which game comes to his larder.

Commissions and fees of various indeterminate sorts may swell his coffers. All kinds of supplies he secures, if not freely, at reduced prices. And always there is the harvest of tips. Clearly there is every chance for a gamekeeper to receive charity of some form or another, if it is not always offered; and this must tend to weaken that independence which is found by the man who is paid for his labour fairly and squarely in cash.

Wood-pigeons are among the gamekeeper’s perquisites. Apart from a very occasional request from “the house” for the wherewithal for pigeon-pie, the pigeons shot are for the benefit of the keeper and his family, and when he shoots more than he requires there are always labourers and others glad of a pigeon or two “to make a pudden.” Rabbits, also, are perquisites, but to be sold no more than pigeons. The popular idea is that keepers may help themselves to any game they please—true, they could if so minded. But no matter what a keeper’s ethics in other directions, as a rule he deals honourably with the game in his charge. The keeper has no more right to take a brace of birds or a hare without permission than has an ironmonger’s assistant to take a coal-scuttle.

Gamekeepers, though their work for wages is never done, yet have a few legitimate ways of adding to their incomes. Of course they have the opportunity of making a good deal of money if they trespass on their employers’ time; but your keeper is an honest man, and his work is the object of his life. Most keepers are skilled vegetable gardeners, and may make a few shillings from peas and beans. Often enough they have a cunning way with flowers, though envious amateurs are free with their hints about the advantages to be gained from burying foxes to enrich the soil. We know one who will put in a fair day’s work with spade and wheelbarrow before even the waggoners have stirred to give their horses breakfast. Going his rounds, the keeper marks good briers for budding; if he does not sell them, he will beg choice buds from rose-growers, and a year or two later the passer-by may be tempted to offer half-a-crown for the fine roses of his little plot.

For the first time in many a long year a gamekeeper may find himself taking a holiday in the early days of February—either because he has left his place of his own free will, or has been dismissed. “Left owing to shoot being given up “—that is the usual reason for a keeper’s enforced holiday. Married keepers seldom leave berths of their own accord except to better themselves; but a young bachelor keeper with a light heart may be fond of change, and scores of places are open to him from which married men are barred. Often he can afford to take a holiday while he looks about for a new berth; he can find lodgings anywhere, and what with odd jobs and the money he has saved he can exist comfortably until he finds an employer to suit him.

The married keeper is not so light-hearted, and perhaps on this account the best permanent berths go to the married men. The chance of such a berth gives the country maiden her best chance of bagging an elusive bachelor. Sometimes she captures the heart of a bachelor before he has found a berth that will support a wife; then he will advertise for a place, making the ambiguous statement: “Married when suited.” No doubt some keepers who have issued this form of advertisement could tell strange stories of the applications received.

A Gamekeeper’s Notebook by Owen Jones & Marcus Woodward

General Servant’s Time-Table in Edwardian England


Edwardian maids

Daily Work in a seven-roomed house

Family – Master, mistress, and one child

6 a.m. – Rise, light kitchen fire, fill kettles, clean boots, sweep hall and steps. Sweep, and light dining-room fire, call family, and take hot water. Help mistress to lay table, and prepare breakfast.

8 a.m. – Have kitchen breakfast while family breakfast. Clear kitchen breakfast; tidy kitchen. Attend to bedrooms.

9 a.m. – Help clear dining-room. Wash breakfast things.

9.20 a.m. – Help make beds; receive daily orders. Dust bedrooms.

10.15 a.m. – Do special work for the day. Help in the kitchen, etc.

12.30 a.m. – Lay cloth for luncheon.

1 p.m. – Dining-room luncheon and kitchen dinner.

1.45 p.m. – Remove and wash lunch things. Tidy kitchen. Make up fire.

2.30 p.m. – Change dress. Put large clean apron over afternoon black dress and muslin apron, and do some light work, such as cleaning silver, sewing, ironing. Be ready to answer front door.

4 p.m. – Prepare drawing-room and kitchen teas.

4.30 p.m. – Carry in drawing-room tea.

5.15 p.m. – Remove and wash tea. things.

6 p.m. – Arrange bedrooms for the night. Help prepare dinner.

7 p.m. – Lay table.

7.30 or 8 p.m. – Serve dinner and wait at table {the amount possible depends on the skill of the mistress in organising and arranging this meal).

8.30 or 9 p.m. – Clear, and wash up dinner things. Tidy kitchen. Have supper.

9.45 p.m. – Take hot water to bedrooms and go to bed.

The mistress should see that the general reading, or going on some errand during servant has an hour off for writing letters, the afternoon or early evening each day.

Special Weekly Work

Monday Morning – Wash kitchen cloths, dusters, and any small articles done at home.

Tuesday Morning – Clean large bedroom.

Wednesday Morning – Clean two small bedrooms.

Thursday Morning – Clean dining-room, bathroom, and lavatory.

Friday Morning – Clean staircase, hall, and sweep drawing-room.

Friday Afternoon – Clean kitchen brasses, etc.

Saturday Morning – Clean kitchen range thoroughly, and do extra work in larder, etc.

Wages of a general servant vary in different localities from £12 to £24 per annum. Usually 1s. to 1s. 6d. is allowed for laundry expenses, according to the time allowed for getting up her own small things.

Dress. – Print dresses, with neat white aprons and caps, should be worn for mornings, and large coarse aprons should be used when stoves have to be cleaned or scullery work done. A black dress, pretty muslin apron and cap, should be worn in the afternoon.

If low wages are paid, the mistress will often give the maid material for one black dress, or provide her caps, aprons, cuffs, etc.; but this is a voluntary matter.

From the Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, v1

The Type-Writer Girl


Edwardian typistIt was no coincidence that with the rise in female education, female employment would also rise in prominence. Something monumental happened to English society with the passing of the Education Act of 1870, wherein schooling was provided to all children between the ages of five and twelve, with elementary school made compulsory in 1880, and free in 1891. Add to this the founding of women’s colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, the granting of degrees to women from other colleges and universities (something Oxbridge did not do until the 20th century), as well as the fight for secondary education and the founding of girls’ public schools and high schools, and you have a veritable revolution in thought! As a result of these monumental changes, women and teenage girls of the Edwardian era were the first generation of females to be educated along the same standards as males.

And this came at the perfect time for late Victorian and Edwardian women. By the 1860s and 1870s, the “Surplus Woman Question” was the subject of countless articles, lectures, and pamphlets. Despite the age-old opinion that women were meant for marriage and motherhood, the uncomfortable reality that hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of women would not wed because of poverty, age, physical appearance, lack of position, and especially a shortage of eligible men, frightened society. However, no one offered any real solutions besides devoting one’s self to one’s aging parents, or becoming a caretaker/governess for the household of one’s married brother or sister. Women of the 1880s revolted against this dreary existence and slowly, but surely, began to infiltrate the workforce as shop-girls, teachers, librarians, journalists, nurses, etc. Of course, though there was a bit of a struggle against women “de-feminizing” themselves by having a job, the rapid modernization of technology and business made their entry much easier than in the past (for example, the growth of ocean liners meant stewardesses were needed for female passengers; the growth of department stores over individual shops meant female employees were needed in certain departments, etc).

Four women in an officeOne profession which reigned king (or queen) above all was the type-writer girl, or typist. As one of the better paying and most “genteel” of positions, it was highly coveted by professional women. A woman possessing skills in typing, dictation, and shorthand could work as a private secretary, an authors’ amanuensis, a copying clerk to a solicitor, or for the Government. To equip women with the necessary skills, business schools and classes were founded, and after a stated period of time, the student was awarded a certificate, which verified to prospective employers that the applicant was trained and experienced in the aforementioned skills, as well as light book-keeping, business terms, business arithmetic, and précis (the summarizing of “a document in the fewest possible words, consistently with clearness and accuracy”).

In London, the Metropolitan School for Shorthand, in Chancery Lane, charged five guineas for a complete course of instruction until a rate of about 120 words a minute was reached by the student (a half-a-guinea could be paid weekly, with the fee reduced to 5s. if evening classes were attended). A prospective typist could also learn to use the typewriter at the chief or branch offices of the leading typewriter makers, and frequently these classes were free with purchase. The pay for a typist or secretary varied based on experience and position. A shorthand and typewriting clerk could have been paid anything from a beginner’s 15s. to £2 or £3 a week, whilst a secretary was paid from the assistant’s £50 to £250 a year. Oddly enough, though positions as copying for a solicitor or typing manuscripts were difficult to obtain, the pay was quite poor–about £5 for a novel of 100,000 words.

The most dependable and lucrative positions were found working for the Civil Service. Of the departments opened to women typists, they included the Board of Education (England), Colonial Office, Customs, Foreign Office, India Office, Inland Revenue, Office of the Secretary for Scotland, Treasury, and War Office (including Royal Army Clothing Depot). To become a typist in a Government department, a woman was required to be between the ages of 18 and 30, be unmarried or widowed, “duly qualified in respect of health and character,” a natural born or naturalized British subject, and at least five feet in height without boots or shoes. The examination for employment included “writing, spelling, English composition, copying manuscript, arithmetic (first four rules, simple and compound, including English weights and measures, and reduction), typewriting; and, if required by the department by which the candidate has been nominated, shorthand–and they were required to pass all topics.

Gwen's typwriterThough domestic service continued to dominate womens’ employment, the professional class of women were solid and formidable. For the first time, possible ever in history, women could and did find work outside of the home through which they could support themselves. Granted, the issue of imbalanced pay between male and female employees exists ’til this day, but in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras, “surplus women” were no longer pathetic, mild-mannered creatures to be pitied: they were independent and resilient women who forged an individual path in spite of society’s dictates. And for women like Gwen (left), the typewriter was an instrument of dramatic social change.

Further Reading:
Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education by Jane Robinson
Girls Growing Up in Late Victorian and Edwardian England by Carol Dyhouse
The Englishwoman’s Year Book (1900 edition) ed. by Emily Janes
Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia v1 (1912)
The Type-writer Girl by Grant Allen (writing as Olive Pratt Rayner)

Interesting Articles:
The Cultural Work of the Type-writer Girl by Christopher Keep
Surplus Negro Women (1908) by Kelly Miller

Blogs of Note:
Fresh Ribbon
Life in a Typewriter Shop