The poor little Scullery Maid was at the bottom of the heap in the household, and was given all the worst jobs in the kitchen.
Not only that, but she had to get up before anyone else, and not go to bed until long after everyone had retired.
Scrubbing was the order of the day – pots; saucepans; kettles as well as any steps leading to the outside doors, and then there were all the general utensils and crockery to wash. She would also keep all the other servants quarters clean as well as constantly washing the kitchen floor.
Other duties included going out to select vegetables as requested by the cook, and then preparing them for cooking.
Depending on how many other servants were employed, the Scullery Maid could also be expected to clean out all the fires and then relay them ready for lighting – this of course to be done quickly and quietly before the rest of the household awoke.
A typical Day in the life of a Scullery Maid
She would get up around 5.30/6.00 a.m., then after making her bed go to the kitchen to stoke up the range.
Once the other servants were up and about, the Scullery Maid had to collect all their chamber pots, empty them and clean them thoroughly before replacing them in the rooms.
Then the scrubbing really started – the kitchen and all adjoining rooms such as the Scullery and pantries, which all had to be completed before the cook arrived to start breakfast for the servants. Once breakfast was over, the table had to be cleared and the dishes washed.
Throughout the day it was a constant round of clearing the kitchen table and scrubbing and cleaning to keep the kitchen spotless and the pans constantly available, apart from one hour in the afternoon when the Scullery Maid could catch her breath and have some time to herself. Whole days off were very rare.
Of course there was no hot water gushing conveniently from a tap, so it made the work all the more hard.
This then was a truly horrible, and very badly paid job, but for many young girls (sometimes even only 9 years old) it was a hopeful rung on the ladder to a better position and most worked their fingers to the bone in an attempt to be noticed and given the chance.
Despite being the lowest of jobs, it did at least give poor girls a roof over their heads and it was better than being stuck in the Work House.
Finally a rather stark description by a chap called Arthur Munby who married a Scullery Maid, and when he first set eyes on her he recorded the scene:
She stood at a sink behind a wooden dresser backed with choppers and stained with blood and grease, upon which were piles of coppers and saucepans that she had to scour; piles of dirty dishes that she had to wash. Her frock, her cap, her face and arms were more or less wet, soiled, perspiring and her apron was a filthy piece of sacking, wet and tied round her with a cord. The den where she wrought was low, damp, ill smelling, windowless, lighted by a flaring gas jet, and, full in view, she had on one side a larder hung with raw meat, on the other a common urinal; besides the many ugly, dirty implements around her.