Butler standards Newsletter Steven Ferry

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

Steven FerryThe Wisdom of Butlers Past

by Steven Ferry



Once dinner was over, the ladies withdrew to the (with)drawing room where they were served tea and coffee by the butler. The men followed later, at which point they were also served tea and coffee. Meanwhile the staff cleared and washed the dirty dishes, etc.

In the event that wine and fruit etc. were leftover in the dining room, the butler was to lock the door to prevent the staff helping themselves to the leftovers. It was advised the staff be given beer so that they would not feel tempted to drink the remaining wine.

When serving coffee, no food was provided, but when serving tea, plum cake, bread and butter, or toast were served.

While this year’s Journal has covered a formal dinner on the ground floor, sometimes suppers were hosted for smaller parties (up to 30!) or for families with just one servant, in the withdrawing room upstairs and combined with some activity like card games. This required the staff carry tables upstairs and lay them there with the same precision of placement as engaged in for larger dinner tables. The food seemed to be presented family style, meaning in bowls on the tables for guests to help themselves.

One caveat after the meal: “It sometimes happens that spoons, forks, etc. are thrown into the dust-hole or hog-tub, with bits and scraps, therefore always count it up the same night or the next morning.”



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.