Middle-aged and crusty? Not us, says the king of British butlers

Anthony Seddon-Holland is seeking to revive one of the country's quirkiest professions. Hazel Davis reports

Butlers are as crucial a part of the English stereotype as crumpets, cricket and country lanes. But one of its leading lights says the industry needs some new blood. Anthony Seddon-Holland is The Man when it comes to butlers. He has more than 20 years' experience as a hotel head butler and trainer and has established teams at more than 50 five-star hotels around the world, including The Ritz and Claridge's.

He is also the managing director of the British Butlers Guild, an organisation dedicated to the promotion of the ideals, ethos and traditions of the British butler. Seddon-Holland comes from three generations of professional butlers. You could say he was born to it.

And Seddon-Holland looks set to perpetuate his high standard when he takes over at York's newest hotel, the five-star Cedar Court Grand Hotel & Spa, which opens tomorrow. It's one of only a clutch of hotels in the UK to have butlers. Presenting itself as a hotel "inspired by the golden age of travel and luxury", it is the perfect destination to train a new breed of personal service providers.

A former British Army rifleman, Seddon-Holland has worked all over the world, including India, Bali and Jamaica. He has worked as butler to a Russian oligarch and on the Las Vegas strip after starting as an under-footman (deputy butler) in an English stately home.

The butler department at The Grand, says Seddon-Holland, will be small at first, but it will expand. "In the sense of a five-star luxury property, the butler is a one-stop shop for guests," he says. "They will help them check in, they will help them organise a trip to the theatre, unpack their suitcase, everything."

You have to be a pretty special person to do it, he says. "You need to be flexible, be good with people and to be a good communicator." Far from being a servile or demeaning job, Seddon-Holland says it's a very important one. "I did a radio interview a few years ago in which someone asked me whether I felt like I was lacking in self-respect. I don't see being of service to people as being demeaning. People don't say the same about policemen or nurses. These are all service industries."

It's this attitude, according to Seddon-Holland, which may put young people off entering the industry. "We do have an image of being middle-aged and crusty, but that's far from the truth," he says. "It has a negative image it doesn't deserve."

There is a lot of job satisfaction to be had for someone entering the profession and, in some hotel chains, the possibility of fast-track management roles. And no two days are ever the same, he says.

The new butlers at The Grand will receive on-site training from a man who has trained some of the most respected butlers in the world and has done his bit to set the UK standard for butlers. Seddon-Holland's stints abroad and around Las Vegas are testament to the possibilities being a butler can present. But being a butler in a hotel rather than in private service can offer more job security and better working conditions. "I used to work for the third richest man in Russia," he says. "He got four hours' sleep a night and I had to go to bed after him and get up before him."

As an in-service butler, Seddon-Holland got used to working 21-hour days. "If you're in a hotel, you can do shifts and you get to meet different people. If you're in service, you never get to go home. The challenges are different and the rewards are different, but you are covered by laws which say how often and when you can work."

How to become a butler

You rang m'lord? Ways to get your foot below stairs

* Academic qualifications aren't necessary, but most butlers have at least basic training or qualifications in hospitality or catering. See www.cityandguilds.com/ 4315.html for details

* You can study for a City & Guilds Level-2 diploma for butlers. See www.accreditedqualifications.org.uk/qualification/ 50015138.seo.aspx for details

* Visit the British Butlers Guild website for details on training, www.britishbutler guild.com/index.htm

* The Butler-Valet School in Oxfordshire offers short courses and bespoke courses in how to be a butler. Visit www.butler-valetschool.co.uk for more details

* The Cedar Court Grand in York is still recruiting trainee butlers. For more information, visit www.cedarcourtgrand.co.uk/ work-at-grand-hotel-york.aspx

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer - Entry Level

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Software Developer i...

Guru Careers: Graduate Print Producer / Account Executive

£18 - 25k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Graduate Print Producer / Account Execut...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Digital Marketing Assistant - Wimbledon

£18000 - £19000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate Digital Marketin...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

SPONSORED FEATURES

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works