Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, Mrs Beeton, TV Programme, Uncategorized

Mrs Beeton’s advice for The Housekeeper

Image of a typical kitchen, from Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1915 edition.

There are not many weeks left now until the second series of ITV’s hugely successful and simply brilliant Downton Abbey returns to our tv screens.  I believe that the first episode is due for transmission on Sunday 18th September.  The first series ended at the outbreak of World War One on 4th August 1914.  The second series continues the story in 1916, two years into the Great War.  In the second series Downton Abbey is converted into a Military Hospital for wounded servicemen.

I am looking forward to bringing you some Mrs Beeton tie-ins to help bring life below stairs to life.  My edition of Mrs B’s book is from 1915 and contains lengthy advice for the cook (including kitchen-maid duties), the housekeeper, the butler, domestic servants and their duties.  I thought I would whet your appetite and bring you Mrs B’s advice for ‘The Housekeeper – Chapter II’ together with her recipe for candied peel.  One of the suggested evening occupations for the housekeeper was to make candied peel:

Duties and Responsibilities

‘As second in Command in the House, except in large establishments, where there is a house-steward, the housekeeper must consider herself as the immediate representative of her mistress, and bring to her work all the qualities of honesty, industry, and vigilance which could be expected of her if she were at the head of her own family.  Constantly striving to promote the prosperity of the household, she should oversee all that goes on in the house, that every department is thoroughly attended to, and that the servants are comfortable, at the same time that their various duties are properly performed.  Cleanliness, punctuality, and method are essentials in the character of a good housekeeper.  Without these qualities, no household can be well-managed.  Order again, is indispensable; by it we provide that “there should be a place for everything, and everything in its place.”  A necessary qualification for a housekeeper is that she should thoroughly understand accounts.  She will have to write in her books an accurate account of all sums paid for any and every purpose, the current expenses of the house, tradesmen’s bills, wages, and many miscellaneous items.  The housekeeper should make a careful record of every domestic purchase whether brought for cash or not.  An intelligent housekeeper will by this means be able to judge of the average consumption of each article in the household; and to prevent waste and carelessness.’

The Housekeeper’s Room

The Housekeeper’s room is generally made use of by the lady’s-maid, butler and valet, who take there their breakfast, tea and supper.  The lady’s-maid will also use this apartment as a sitting-room, when not engaged with duties which would call her elsewhere.   In different establishments, according to their size, means and expenditure of the family, different rules, of course, prevail.  For instance, in mansions where great state is maintained, and there is a house-steward, two distinct tables are kept, one in the steward’s room for the principal members of the staff, the second in the servants’ hall for other domestics.  At the steward’s dinner-table, the steward and housekeeper preside; and here, also, may be included the lady’s-maid, butler, valet.’

Evening Occupation

‘In the evening, the housekeeper will often busy herself with the necessary preparations for the next day’s duties.  At times, perhaps attention will have to be paid to the preparation of lump-sugar, spices, candied peel, the stoning of raisins, the washing, cleansing, and drying of currants, etc.  The evening, too, is the best time for attending to household and cash accounts, and making memoranda of any articles she may require for her store-room or other departments.’

Recipe for Candied Peel

‘There are three kinds of candied peel, viz. citron, lemon, and orange, the mode of preparation being in all cases practically the same.  The rinds of sound young fruit are cut lengthwise in halves, freed from pulp, boiled in water until soft, and afterwards suspended in strong cold syrup until they become semi-transparent.  Finally, they are slowly dried in a stove or in a current of hot air.’