Life in service in the 1930s

We have already met Joy, who provided us with an oral history recording of her memories of life in and around Market Lavington from the 1920s onwards. (See An interwar childhood in Market Lavington.) When she left Market Lavington School, aged fourteen, in the mid 1930s, she wanted to be a cook. An older sister got her a job as a scullery maid at Roundway, near Devizes. We often think of girls in service in big houses in late Victorian and Edwardian times, but Joy described a very similar work regime as late as the 1930s. She started work at 5 am and, if there was company at the house, might not finish until 10pm. She worked seven days a week, with just a half day off starting at 3pm and needing to return by 9 pm. A scullery maid did the dirty work in the kitchen, such as preparing the vegetables and cleaning and polishing the grate.

Joy wasn’t happy at Roundway and was pleased that her other sister was able to get her a job as scullery maid at Clyffe Hall in her home village of Market Lavington.

Although it was a strict life in service, Joy was happy at Clyffe Hall and liked the old cook, Mary Breach, who taught her a lot. This photograph of Clyffe Hall staff in 1930 shows Mrs Breach in the centre.

At Market Lavington Museum, we have some of the kitchen utensils from Clyffe Hall, which Joy might have known, including this potato ricer and a tongue press. (See A Potato Ricer and Clyffe Hall’s Tongue Press.)

Lord and Lady Warrington owned Clyffe Hall when Joy was there, but Lord Warrington died in 1937 and his wife sold up and moved away. (See Lord Warrington relaxes.) She found Joy a job at Rowdeford, where she worked until war broke out in 1939.

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