Butler standards Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, November 2021, The Wisdom of Butlers Past

Steven FerryThe Wisdom of Butlers Past, part 54

by Steven Ferry



Kitchen Meals

These meals were for the staff in the kitchen and required all staff to be present unless engaged in work for the employers. Anyone not arriving on time for grace to be said, had their food returned to the kitchen. The table was laid by the Hallboy, the entry level position for males. The manservants were expected to draw the beer for the meal, but not too much, as “shameful waste often brings wo[e]ful want to those who are so sinful as to be careless and extravagant in the provisions committed to their charge.” Any beer taken from the keg and not used was to be poured into a bottle and mixed in with the next day’s beer.

As for what to do during the meal, “talk but little while eating; I have known some who have been so rude as to talk all manner of filthy conversation at such times, which is a disgrace to any human being, and ought not to be suffered in any place, above all in a gentleman’s house. Some likewise cannot sit a moment without lolling upon the table, or cutting and chipping a bit of bread, or something of that kind, or rubbing the tablecloth with their fingers, or else knocking the knives against each other: avoid all such foolish actions. If you have done eating first, sit upright and behave respectfully, and never get up till all have done, unless your business calls you. Do not abuse the plenty you may see before you by suffering it to tempt you to eat and drink till you can do it no longer, or till you feel uncomfortable: this is a hoggish practice, and frustrates the designs of Providence; for, when the stomach is overcharged, it does harm instead of good, as it cannot digest well, particularly if you have not much exercise, as you cannot then require so much support; and gluttony and excess not only unfit the body for exercise, but likewise clog the wheels of the mind, and make it seem a trouble to read, move, think, or do anything else.”

Furthermore, arguments and complaints were not tolerated; it was thought these were engaged in by those who had not enjoyed a good meal before being employed.

While the staff were not allowed to enjoy themselves at table, nor to eat their fill nor even talk, for some reason, the exact opposite applied to employers and guests when they were eating.



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 (alan AT



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.