Saturday, February 11, 2012

Below Stairs

I'm a big fan of Downton Abbey on PBS Masterpiece Classic which I believe is a lot like the 1971  PBS series Upstairs Downstairs. I'd like a chance to see those run again on TV or maybe we can even get them for the library at some point. I know it was a long running series and the set looks a little pricey. I'm putting in my wish request though.  Anyhow, when I saw the book "Below Stairs" advertised as the memoir that inspired Upstairs Downstairs, I was excited to read it.

Margaret Powell wrote the book and as I read,  I felt that I was sitting at the knee of an older relative who was telling me about life when she was young. She had quite a sense of humor and definitely wasn't afraid of writing what she thought. The book was published in 1968 when Margaret was 60. The book was a success but she was a larger success on her television appearances.  She started work as a kitchen maid because the kitchen maids were the only maids in the household who didn't have to sew, and she was a terrible seamstress. She talked about spring cleaning and how it was a long, dreadful chore where you were scrubbing everything covered with coal soot from the fire places and there were no vacuums at the time.  She thought the best job of the staff was the cook as they had more freedom and didn't have to stick around the house in the afternoons.

The book was way too short for me and I wanted to know more about Margaret. I tried looking her up on the Internet - and what do you know - she wrote several other books including a cookbook.  (She did later become a cook on staff). There is a very interesting article about the book and the history around it at  It does give away a lot of the book, however, so I'd read the book first.


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