Butler history Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, May 2018, The Wisdom of Butlers Past

Steven FerryThe Wisdom of Butlers Past

by Steven Ferry

Part 12

The next duty in importance for the butler two hundred years ago, was something that simply requires we flip switches today—the trimming of lamps to keep them clean and illuminating well. Failure to trim the cotton wicks to the right length resulted in soot, the smell of oil, and black smoke. Cleaning involved the use of boiling water and pearl ash to remove the gummy build-up of old oil. And so on for six pages of do’s and don’ts!

Think of all the things we are freed up to do these days by not having to service the lamps in the estate one or more hours each day!


Extracted from the 1823 book, The Footman’s Directory and Butler’s Remembrancer, re-published in hardback by Pryor Publications.

You may obtain your discounted copy (with free s&h) by emailing the publisher: Mr. Pryor (

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.