The trouble with servants

Old photo of maid and children

Bertha and Helen with Elizabeth, a housemaid at
Clayton Lodge, about 1925

The Tinne family generally had up to six servants at any one time, including a cook and butler, general housemaid, nursery maid or nanny and a gardener. The girls were educated at home when they were young and had a governess, before being sent to local private schools.

The family's relationships with the servants could be fraught at times, as revealed through their letters, and there appears to have been a fairly regular turnover of staff.

In July 1924 Emily wrote to Ernest, who was away at Prep school:

"Helen and Bertha seem to hit it off with the new governess all right - she is very strict. Elspeth and she do not get on very well together though. But perhaps things will improve."

In February 1926 Emily was complaining that

"The new housemaid is a rotter but the old cook is all right."

By September 1929 Philip was telling his son that

"Phyllis [the nursemaid] has gone home, the Welsh cook has given notice and Mummie has her hands full."

In February 1931 Philip recounted that

"Mummie is getting overworked with no cook and stupid girls, but prefers it to dishonest or insolent older women in the kitchen."

Things were no better by June of that year, when Philip wrote that

"Maids here getting unbearable: Mummie does all the work and they only get up to go to Mass."

In June 1934 Emily was still having problems with the staff, writing

"Alice [the cook] has gone to Manchester for the afternoon to see her brother. She has been a very good girl. It is a pity she gets on Daddy's nerves so much. She gets on my nerves too but I have to put up with it. She is much nicer to deal with than Mary [the former cook]."

Despite such difficulties, the family employed servants during the war years, although it became increasingly difficult to recruit staff for domestic service because there were better paid jobs available as part of the war effort.

Old photo of woman with baby in a pram

Elspeth with her nanny, name now unknown,
about 1925