The footman's duties were dependent upon the size of the household in which he was employed. In a large household with several maid-servants for housework, kitchen servants for food service, stable staff, and body servants, his duties were restricted to decorative and service tasks like carrying messages, parcels, and general errand work.
But in a small household, the list of duties could be extensive. The Complete Servant by Samuel and Sarah Adams, written in 1825, says "The business of the Footman is so multifavious and incessant, that in most families, if he be industrious, attentive, and disposed to make himself useful, he will find full employment in the affairs of the house, and the more useful he can make himself, greater will be his reward, and the more comfortable he will be himself."
left - a shoe polishing chest
Included in The Complete Servant is an advertisement which appeared in the Gloucester Journal in January 1825 "WANTED, a middle-aged steady Servant, in the capacity of FOOTMAN; he will be required to wait at table, clean plate, and make himself generally useful in the House. No one need apply who has not lived some time in his last place; and it is indispensably necessary that he shall be able to shave his Master."
Duties included everything from cleaning boots, clothes, lamps and furniture, to setting tables, following his mistress as she shopped, laying fires, and assisting his master to dress...and shave.
left - the sort of lamps that constantly required cleaning
A later 1800's report however, noted in the book The Rise and Fall of the Victorian Servant by Pamela Horn suggests that the very nature of the footman's work, particularly the carrying of messages and performance of errands offered him a unique opportunity to order their own time, and occasionally to be less than diligent.
The footman's life offered plenty of variety, if nothing else, generally for twelve to sixteen hours a day. And unlike many domestic positions, it extended the opportunity for advancement to the place of butler or perhaps even steward.
Next week the first of my guest bloggers, Linore Rose Burkard, will be here. Linore is the author of three Regency romances, and will be discussing aspects of her own research. Linore's latest book is The Country House Courtship. Visit her website at linoreroseburkard.com
I will be back to two weeks--til then, take care,