Held at:

Private collection






Domestic Service at Michaelchurch Court in Victorian Times

Place name:

Michaelchurch Escley




The 1901 census paints an interesting picture of the lifestyle and social history of Michaelchurch Court and its estate at the end of the Victorian era. Things were very different from today. The Lord of the Manor of Ewyas Lacy in residence at the Court commanded the lives of many in the local area, whether as his tenants on the Michaelchurch Estate, tradesmen who depended on the Estate for the majority of their income or more directly as his workmen and domestic servants. This meant that he and his family were held in respect, if not awe, by the local people and were looked up to in an almost feudal manner that has no real parallel in the modern world. The Trafford family based at the Court had held the Lordship for the majority of Queen Victoria’s reign and were also influential more widely, with several members serving as Lord Lieutenants of Herefordshire and enjoying the status and recognition that went with such a position. And although the Estate never seems to have been more than marginally profitable, an inherited trust fund passed down the generations still enabled them to live in considerable style in the latter part of the nineteenth century, in keeping with the times and their own rather grandiose opinion of their self-worth.

The 1901 census returns reveal details of their domestic arrangements. There were seven people living in the servants’ quarters at the Court; a cook with a kitchen maid and scullery maid, two housemaids, a groom and a footman. Living at the nearby lodge at the bottom of the Court drive were a lodge keeper/ caretaker, another footman and another gardener. Just down the road at Eskley Cottage we find a coachman, almost certainly serving at the Court, and resident at nearby Wilderness farm is the Gamekeeper for the Michaelchurch Estate.

In addition, a butler and a gardener lived in a cottage provided by the Estate adjacent to the Court, bringing the total full-time complement of domestic servants in 1901 to fourteen. This substantial building, referred to in the census as ‘Gardner Cottage’ - perhaps a transcription error for Gardeners Cottage or for the modern ‘Garden Cottage’ - does not appear on the 1877 six-inch Ordnance Survey and so was presumably built between then and 1901 at what must have been considerable expense. This implies that in earlier years the servants’ quarters in the extensive attics at the Court were either fully occupied, or that status had demanded better accommodation for a Butler and perhaps a Head Gardener. Either way, the cost of providing a new dwelling does not seem to have been an issue.

Many other local people would no doubt also have had greater or lesser roles to play at the Court as the occasion demanded, although it is difficult to identify such activities or their extent with any degree of certainty from the census returns. In addition there was almost certainly a Steward to manage the Estate’s day to day affairs and tenancies - although this may not have been a full-time role, perhaps fulfilled by a professional Land Agent from Hereford who would certainly have seen himself as socially a considerable cut above the domestic servants. And all this at a time when according to the census Guy Trafford was in residence ‘upstairs’ at Michaelchurch Court alone. One can imagine that in previous years when a Lady of the Manor had also been in residence with children the number of full time servants employed would have been considerably greater.


The relevant extracts from the 1901 census data are shown below:


Folio 63a Page 1

Schedule No.1: The Court


Guy R TRAFFORD : Head : S : 38 : Farmer : Own a/c : Tenby : PEM

Ada May MADDER : Serv : Wid : 35 : Cook Domestic : Worker : Orlingbury : NTH

Emily SLATTER : Serv : S : 20 : House maid Domestic : Worker : Lanvyhangle : MON

Emily G PROSSER : Serv : S : 19 : Kitchen maid Domestic : Worker : Preston : HEF

Sarah E SAUNDERS : Serv : S : 19 : House maid Domestic : Worker : Eardisley : HEF

Sarah CORBETT : Serv : S : 16 : Scullery maid Domestic : Worker : Stokesay : HEF

William PRATT : Serv : S : 17 : Groom Domestic : Worker : Thornbury : HEF

William E GAINES : Serv : S : 18 : Footman Domestic : Worker : Dindor : HEF


Schedule No.2: Gardner Cottage [now Garden Cottage]


William COOK : Head : M : 45 : Butler D [for 'Domestic'?] : Worker : Aylesbury : BKM

Ann COOK : Wife : M : 49 : Gareington [Garsington] : OXF


Schedule No.3: Gardner Cottage [now Garden Cottage]


Arthur HAWKER : Head : M : 52 : Gardener : Worker : Eckington : WOR

Rhoda HAWKER : Wife : M : 42 : Roads : SOM

Margaret F HAWKER : Dau : 9 : Michaelchurch Eskely : HEF

Arthur A HAWKER : Son : 8 : Michaelchurch Eskely : HEF

Winnefred S HAWKER : Dau : 7 : Michaelchurch Eskely : HEF

Edgar J HAWKER : Son : 5 : Michaelchurch Eskely : HEF


Folio 64b Page 4


Schedule No.21: Lodge Gate


Amelia WILKINS : Head : Wid : 52 : Lodge Keeper ['Caret' added. Possibly = Caretaker] : At home : Ewyas Harold : HEF

Ernest WILKINS : Son : S : 22 : Footman Domestic : Michaelchurch E : HEF

Edith WILKINS : Dau : S : 17 : Michaelchurch E : HEF

William WILKINS : Son : S : 16 : Gardener Domestic : Michaelchurch E : HEF

William MATTHEWS : Father : Widr : 80 : Gardener Retired : Beckford : WOR


Schedule No.22: Eskley Cottage


Mary HOWELL : Head : Wid : 73 : Living on own means : Munsley : HEF

George POTTIECARY* : Son-in-law : M : 39 : Coachman Domestic : Worker : Wellow : SOM

Mary POTTIECARY* : Dau : M : 35 : Michaelchurch Eskley : HEF

Howel POTTIECARY* : G'son : 5mths : Michaelchurch Eskley : HEF

Grace S WHEELER : Niece : S : 24 : Dressmaker : Selly Oak : WOR

[* surname probably meant to be POTHECARY]


Schedule No.43: Willderness [Wilderness]


Horace SMITH : Head : M : 39 : Game Keeper : Bradfield : BRK

Emily SMITH : Wife : M : 38 : Hardingstone : NTH

Maggie SMITH : Dau : 12 : Tiberton : GLS

Edith SMITH : Dau : 8 : Chipstead : SRY


Top - Back

Ref: rs_mic_0665