The Housekeeper's Tale - The Women who really ran the English Country House

The story of The Housekeeper s Tale follows the lives of five women to delve into the secret existence of these powerful yet invisible women who ran our great English country houses.From the 19th to the mid 20th century this was the most important professional job an uneducated woman could aspire to the female equivalent of the butler But we know very little about the wThe story of The Housekeeper s Tale follows the lives of five women to delve into the secret existence of these powerful yet invisible women who ran our great English country houses.From the 19th to the mid 20th century this was the most important professional job an uneducated woman could aspire to the female equivalent of the butler But we know very little about the women who filled these posts.In the fictional view, the housekeeper was invariably a spinster in black silk cold, remote and calculating But what of the real lives Tessa Boase turns domestic detective to take the reader on a journey of investigation, unearthing secret diaries, bundles of letters and neglected archives from the service wings of great houses the housekeeping accounts, the doctor s bills, the shopping lists, the character references.Mrs Doar, Mrs Wells, Mrs Penketh, Mrs Mackenzie and Mrs Higgens are forgotten women, but each had an intriguing personal story Through meticulous research and imaginative reconstruction, their tales are told here for the first time There is a pregnancy, a court case, a love affair, a scandal These were real women, with real problems But they were also determined, ambitious and single minded Whatever their era Victorian, Edwardian, the roaring Twenties, the liberated Sixties without these women the world s that they kept in order would have stopped spinning altogether.
The Housekeeper s Tale The Women who really ran the English Country House The story of The Housekeeper s Tale follows the lives of five women to delve into the secret existence of these powerful yet invisible women who ran our great English country houses From the th to t

  • Title: The Housekeeper's Tale - The Women who really ran the English Country House
  • Author: Tessa Boase
  • ISBN: 9781781310434
  • Page: 269
  • Format: Hardcover
  • 1 thought on “The Housekeeper's Tale - The Women who really ran the English Country House”

    1. I grew up in a country house with a housekeeper. It wasn't a grand country house and it wasn't in England, it was in the Welsh valleys and had three bedrooms. Ironically she really did end up as the Lady of the house as my mother went out to work.What happened was that the family business went belly up as did many businesses in Wales when the coal and steel went. Rather than declare bankruptcy my father and his brother and cousins decided the and their wives would all go out to work to pay of th [...]

    2. The Housekeeper's Tale is the history of the traditional English housekeeper, told through the painstakingly-researched histories of five housekeepers in the 19th and 20th centuries. The author has done a heroic job of digging up details about the lives of these five women who were otherwise invisible to history, and often to the aristocrats they worked for. It was a role with significant power and financial responsibility, but also endless drudgery and lack of personal freedom. Each woman's sto [...]

    3. Great book; really really interesting. The author obviously put in a LOT of work to research these fairly invisible housekeepers, and it is surprising that she managed to get as much evidence as she did. These were the women who kept the whole 'machine' of the large country house turning and yet attitudes towards them by the rich people they served were shockingly dismissive; as one ex-butler said, 'we were just human furniture' - there to serve a purpose but not really seen as individuals. They [...]

    4. The only thing that really put a dampener on things with this very good audiobook are the frequent annoying musical jingles that are played at the end of every (short!) chapter, which were played MUCH louder than the normal text, which is horrible at louder settings (such as the setting I used while walking along the road. Thanks for the ear ache). Other than that, the stories of the women introduced in this book are well-researched and captivating. I was especially pleased to find the story com [...]

    5. The author follows the lives of five women who were housekeepers for large English country homes from the early 1800s to the 1950s. The story of these women span several changes in English culture and society and through two world wars.The lives of housekeepers were mostly unknown to history even though they were responsible for the success of many English houses and manors. Some of their responsibilities included managing the staff, balancing the books, and keeping inventory.Through her extensi [...]

    6. This book suffers from the lack of source material. There is so much speculation. Do I think THIS happened? Or THAT? It is obvious that the author did a ton of research to try to flesh out the lives of these people, but there just isn't enough to make a story. I think it's interesting to try to imagine what the lives of these women were like, but I just felt that the author was handcuffed by the very thing she was trying to overcome, the fact that the lives of these servants were dismissed as no [...]

    7. I've been wanting to read this book after visiting Uppark and seeing HG Wells words about his mother on the wall and I'm so glad I finally did.This is a fascinating set of stories about women who usually disappear into the background and I love the way Tessa Boase has resurrected them, sometimes from scant evidence, and how she makes space for them even where the evidence is missing.

    8. This book could have been much better if the writer had remained in the background and narrated the stories in an unobtrusive way. Instead, she opted for "filling in the blanks" with "I can imagine" and other assumptions, as well as telling us all about how "I researched this and that, I sat in the archives, I did this, look at me!" Yes, we know that, you wrote a book about it. Unfortunately, by about halfway through it turns into less a historical overview and more a novel-wannabe. By the time [...]

    9. I couldn't tell from the description whether this was going to be one of those aggregations of obscure previously-written memoirs and articles or a well-researched work of history, and was surprised and delighted to find it the latter. Really engrossing.

    10. Fascinating! Despite only needing to read the first chapter for research, I read it cover to cover.

    11. This is an interesting account of housekeepers in grand houses in the 19th century. It certainly puts my 21st century work/career problems in perspective. They worked long hours and often with no hope of retirement, they just worked until they died quite often. Kitchens were subterranean with little sunshine or fresh air. There was no sick leave, no NHS, no pension. If she got married, she lost her job. If she had a child, she lost her job. If the lady of the manor died and the new lady found th [...]

    12. Whether reading or watching TV we all like to escape our mundane reality by entering the world of someone else. Occupants of 'The Big House' have always provided good drama, not least for the contrasting lives of those above and below stairs. But whereas many of the rich and famous have left memoirs and records, their servants' stories are less well documented. To redress this imbalance Sarah Boase tells the story of the housekeeper, the over-looked but central figure of every house. In fact, th [...]

    13. If you've watched Downton Abbey, you know just how important the housekeepers were to running grand houses in England. "The Housekeeper's Tale" is the story of some of the real life housekeepers throughout the decades that ran the houses of England. If you're interested in some of these amazing residences (which I most definitely am), this would be a great pick for you!This book introduces us to several women starting with Dorothy Doar who lived during the Regency era all the way up to a houseke [...]

    14. Interesting - well told. The book is structured around the stories of five English country house housekeepers, each in a different time (stretching from the early 1800s to 1971 -- and an epilogue from 2013). In the course of it the author examines broader questions of evolving class structure, the position of women, etc. She also provides a lot of detail on how people lived in the different periods (both the wealthy, middle class and poor) -- the food they ate, the houses they lived in, how they [...]

    15. Because the Downton Abbey series has brought Highclere Castle into focus, I've become more curious about the historical background of English country estates. This unique record of certain working class women who served as housekeepers in country houses instantly engages one's attention. Would you believe that the mother of H. G. Wells served as the High Victorian housekeeper of Uppark in West Sussex or that the creator of Peter Pan helped subsidize an English country estate when it was turned i [...]

    16. I picked up this book because Phyllis Logan who plays housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes in Downton Abbey mentioned it in an interview. I liked that it was a history book (1832-2013) from the perspective of housekeepers. History tends to ignore people in everyday jobs, and this book shed light on the lives of 5 women (actually 6) from different eras: 1. Georgian, 2. Victorian, 3. Edwardian, 4. First World War, 5. Interwar/Second World War/Post-war, 6.Modern. That being said, I was surprised that each hous [...]

    17. This book was fascinating! Boase takes you through five stories of housekeepers, spanning a century or so. You see the pettiness, the blind devotion, the hypocrisy of the "upstairs" family, and discretion--a quality lacking in these days of "tell all, tweet all". The role and relationship between mistress and housekeeper has morphed, for the better. Though I'm sure there are those "below the stairs" staff that are treated as invisible necessities--and nothing more.

    18. This is an excellent book about several housekeepers from great English country houses. They served at various points over the last 200 years, and their stories are compelling. One was the mother of H.G. Wells, and another was housekeeper to Vanessa Bell, part of the famous Bloomsbury Group of early 20th-century British writers and artists. All of these women led interesting lives within the confines of being housekeepers. The author has done some amazing research to uncover the details of their [...]

    19. I really liked this book and would have loved doing the research the author was able to do- hunting down the clues of these women's lives in archives (many of them located in the very homes the housekeepers managed), reading letters and diaries - the slight ephemera left by the lives of decidedly not-grand people. The book tells the stories of five women, spanning three centuries of service. The juxtaposition of their very different lives is so interesting and yet creates a cohesive picture of t [...]

    20. This was a delightful little book! I truly enjoyed getting an insider's viewpoint on life in a great English country house. The five housekeeper's lives were all different and yet the same. I loved the bits of gossip, the insight into the private lives of the housekeepers and the families they worked for. My only complaint is that I would have liked to know even more about a couple of these women, especially Hannah Mackenzie and Grace Higgens.

    21. Recommended for fans of Downton Abbey. This books takes us from the Regency era to the present day, so we see changes in British society and culture through the eyes of housekeepers. At least that is what Boase is attempting to do. There isn't much information about housekeepers, so Boase has to speculate about many incidents. However, she's honest about when she's making her educated guesses. Phyllis Logan, who plays Mrs. Hughes on Downton Abbey, says she read this to prepare for the role.

    22. I absolutely adored this book - it kept me spellbound from the second I opened the pages. I am interested in how the Housekeepers lives were back in the day and I also learned a lot about how their employers lived. It was quite fascinating.Would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in that day and age.

    23. Overall,well doneAlthough the book is generally well written, it does drag at times. It did show how working below stairs has evolved over the years. I find books of this genre to be fascinating. At the same time, I am turned off by the sense of entitlement that royalty and the aristocracy have simply because of their birth.Carl Roache

    24. History of the housekeeper of the great English country house of the 19th and 20th century, told by detailing individual women's lives. Vivid and varied, captures pictures of English servant life over a broad span of time. Well researched and engaging, brings these real women alive.

    25. A very interesting and topical read with the Downton craze. I liked the way the author looks at one person from each era and shows how the role changes over time.

    26. A very readable history. The only reason it took me so long to read it is that I was reading a lot of other books. I love learning about people (specifically women) that history has "forgotten."

    27. Very easy to read, informative and well researched, but using a lovely chatty style. Would recommend to social history buffs.

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