Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, August 2020, The Wisdom of Butlers Past

Steven FerryThe Wisdom of Butlers Past

by Steven Ferry


The butler was responsible for warming the plates in an enclosed plate warmer that was transportable to the dining room—unless there was a fire in the dining room that he could use to warm the plates. In either case, he had to remember to dust the plates before use.

Bread was placed before the arrival of guests, as well as any cold first course.

The soup tureen was placed at the bottom of the table, soup bowls to the left of the person who was ladeling, and he then gave the plates to the butler to distribute.

The placement of covered serving-dishes with food had to be precisely in line and at a uniform distance from the edge of the table.

The butler then laid the heated plates.

Then he ensured that the gravies, sauces, vegetables, salad and cold meats were all in place. And finally, he went to announce dinner. This was not done by standing at the door and «bawling» generally, «Dinner is ready,» as is recommended today, but by walking close to the hosts and telling them; then going to the dining room door and holding it open until all guests were inside, then shutting it.

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

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