Diary of a Scullery Maid – December 1935

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At the moment I’m writing in bed. It is freezing up here. I feel like a little dormouse, curled up under all the covers in a nest. I’m warm enough now but if I move a limb the cold comes rushing back.

I’ve always known about John Mayhew the hall-boy but until now I never really made the connection that he is the exact same rank as me. Just like how the footmen are the same rank as the housemaids, and the valets are equivalent to the ladies’ maids.

John came into the kitchen on an errand this morning, whilst I was on my knees scrubbing at the tiles – it is a chore I hate as it’s so difficult to scrub the uneven floor. My hair gets in my face and my hands red from the boiling water.

“Hello, Arianna,” he started, his brown face friendly but unsure. He smelt of shoe polish and carbolic soap.

“Good morning, John.” I continued to scrub away, otherwise Mrs Finkle or Maggie would be at me again, I was sure.

He stood over me a moment longer then turned and went to the window, where he had to collect the laundry basket for Jim.

“What are you baking today?” he asked.

“Oh, I won’t be baking anything. I’ll be washing up as normal.”

John grinned. The creases in his cheeks made me think that he grinned often. “At least you don’t have to polish a hundred pairs of boots every morning or sweep out a thousand fires!”

“Anything to get out of this kitchen, trust me.”

He stepped closer and held a finger to his lips, his eyes amused. “Don’t let Mrs Seddons hear you – she scolded me yesterday for slouching when I walk. The old-”


We both looked at one another for a moment and then John began to laugh. Picking up the laundry basket, he scurried out of the kitchen with his head down like he was a schoolgirl in disgrace. He made me giggle, if I’m honest. I think he’s probably quite funny to be around. He seems like that type to me. A bit like my brother James was when he was fifteen, really.

I should stop writing now as there will be another early start tomorrow. And washing up – more of it now Christmas is coming nearer. The ball is in a couple of weeks! I am so excited – it will be the first time I’ve been upstairs into the house. The housemaids go up to dust every few days but scullery-maids are always stuck in the kitchen.



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