Diary of a Scullery Maid – November 1935

Arianna Diary logoWritten by Sienna James

As I write this I’m sitting by the fire in the servants’ hall. Maggie is next to me, flicking through a magazine and Ava is opposite, writing to her brothers, both oblivious to me.

In a way, I’m really the one to blame for what happened today. But they didn’t have to make me feel so stupid! I was exhausted! I was aching too, and longing for something more exciting than washing dishes. It was only a small thing, but now I feel as though my confidence has been broken.

The kitchen was becoming heated as the dish the Cook had prepared for the family upstairs was taking longer than expected, and so she was in a terrible temper. And then two of the housemaids Ava and Connie “had the cheek” – that’s how Cook put it – to ask when the servants’ dinner would be served and when to bring the trolley through. I’m surprised they left the kitchen alive.

Of course, I was washing up. I haven’t done anything else for the last three days and I was completely fed up with it all – with Cook’s temper, with the heat from the fires, the noise, the sores on my hands, Maggie’s voice as she told me to hurry up, and my back which was aching from stooping over the sink. Making a mumbled excuse, which apparently Maggie didn’t hear, I escaped for a minute and made myself a cup of tea. I shouldn’t have. I was being disobedient. But I did it anyway.

When Maggie found me I was sitting on a bench drinking tea. So foolish of me! She gave me a grand ticking off, and some of the housemaids who were in the hall started to giggle. Maggie said later that I should be very glad it was her and not Mrs Seddons who found me. But she got herself into a terrible rage and marched off to tell Cook, who scolded me badly – shouting at one point about how scullery maids need to learn their lowly place in life. I feel so humiliated and such a fool.

“You hadn’t even earnt a break!” Cook exclaimed afterwards, two patches of red on her cheeks.

I should never have become so comfortable here! Right now, I feel like running away from everything – like Jane Eyre when she ran away from Mr Rochester. Poor Jane slept on the moors and made up a new name when she found sanctuary at last. I remember that story so well – a neighbour lent it to me in Bakewell. Jane is such a such a strong and powerful character! But I cannot run away – there are no moors nearby, just miles and miles of park and woodland all part of the Ickworth Estate.

I wonder, now, where my home is! In the first few months I knew I had left “home” behind in Bakewell. But then I became happy here and Ickworth began to feel like it was meant to be. Now I am surrounded by strangers and I cannot understand how I could have felt included in their lives when they are all so different to me. Higher in the ‘pecking order’ – that’s how my brother James would put it. Apparently chickens have a hierarchy too – they peck at the lowest hens! That’s what I felt like today – peck, peck, peck. I wish James and I could meet more often. He always makes things better – but our days of rarely coincide.

I’m no longer sure who my friends are now. I had thought my friends were Maggie and Lily and Laurence, but Maggie is the one who told Cook, Laurence is too busy flirting with the housemaids and Lily doesn’t seem to be bothered that I am hurt. I do wish I was back home in Bakewell!









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