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Book review: Servants, By Lucy Lethbridge


Despite the enduring appeal of nobs and servants on TV, the reality is far more interesting.

When did Downton include a kitchenmaid stirring boiling eggs so the yolk was centralised, a retainer picking up the five overcoats discarded by his master during a walk, or a "gong man" whose sole job was to patrol a grand house thrice daily at mealtimes?

Lower down the social ladder, housework was "a distant humming in the background" for Thirties heroine Mrs Minniver. The witty Lucy Lethbridge notes that it took the war "to level the tussocks of social difference."