Erddig House: Exploring Georgian Domestic Service

On Friday 31st October a group of second year history students from the University of Birmingham set out on a trip to visit Erddig House, a stunning 18th century National Trust property in Wales.

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The house is of great interest to us, as we are all writing group research projects on domestic servants in the Georgian Era as part of our module ‘Domestic Service in Georgian England’ , and the house is renowned for presenting an insight into upstairs-downstairs life during this period.P1030541

Upon arrival at the house we were given a guided tour of the property, paying particular attention to the servant spaces (including the kitchens, the servant bedrooms, and the laundry rooms), whilst also appreciating the beauty and grandeur of the more luxurious rooms in the house.

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Each group benefited greatly from this tour, for it not only enabled us to see clearly the environment, and atmosphere, within which a domestic servant at that time may have lived and worked, but it also presented the opportunity to ask questions relating specifically to our topics of interest, including areas such as the nature of the relationship between master and servant, and what role gender played in establishing the servant hierarchy within the house. A truly fascinating moment during the trip was being shown the elaborate collection of servant portraits belonging to the house.

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The Yorke family, who lived at Erddig, began a controversial tradition of painting, and later photographing, their servants in the 18th century, and today the collection lives on to provide a unique and insightful medium through which the lives of domestic servants can be viewed that is unlike anything else available. The visit was rounded off nicely by the opportunity to wander around the landscaped garden before heading back to the University. Overall, it was an interesting and informative trip enjoyed by all.

By Anna Dearden, second year B.A. English Literature and History

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