The life of a female domestic servant in 1700’s England was extremely difficult. There were no labour laws at this time, so girls worked seven days a week and were paid a pittance, if they received any money at all. In return they were provided with a place to sleep, food and clothes.

Some homeowners gave the girl’s wages directly to their father’s. The job duties of a domestic servant were wide and varied such as maid, dairy maid, cook etc. Some held higher ranking positions such as ladies’ maid, while a maid-of-all-work did whatever needed to be done around the home.

There were not many employment options for peasant women so those who failed to get or keep a domestic servant position might of had no choice but to consider prostitution and or theft, the first of which was extremely dangerous and the second punishable by hanging.

This is an account of female servants pay from 1714-1728 in Sir John Noel Bart’s household in Kirkby Co. Leicester. Sarah Sherwin started working in the household as a maid on 22nd June 1717 and was paid £4 per year which she ‘desired to leave in the hands of her master’ for three years. She also had savings of £5.14.3 (probably from a previous employer) and £2.05.9 from her father, both amounts were given to her master for safe keeping. By 1721 she had savings of £20 which would have been worth approximately £1,695 in today’s money.

These documents, along with many other 18th century material can be found in the Mundy Special Collection.

My Ancestor Was in Service’ publication by Pamela Horn is available at £8.50 from our bookshop. Click here to buy online.

Attend our  lecture ‘The Oldest Profession’ by John Hurley on Wednesday 8th December at 2pm to learn more about the ‘other’ profession peasant woman sometimes had to consider.

        DSC 1646 thumb Female Servants Pay 1700’s
DSC 1648 thumb Female Servants Pay 1700’s

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