Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- For the architecture of great houses, see Mansion.
A great house is a large and stately residence; the term encompasses different styles of dwelling in different countries. The name refers to the makeup of the household rather than to any particular architectural style. It particularly refers to large households of times past in Anglophone countries (especially those of the turn of the 20th Century, i. e. the late Victorian or Edwardian ages in the United Kingdom and the Gilded Age in the United States), such as the English country house, the "stately homes of England" and the homes of various "millionaires' row" (or "millionaires' mile") in some U.S. cities such as Newport, Rhode Island) with luxurious appointments and great retinues of indoor and outdoor staff. By some reports, the summer homes of the wealthy at Newport averaged four servants per family member. There was often an elaborate hierarchy among staff, domestic workers in particular.
It was considered declassé to refer to one's own townhouses, estates or villas (or those of friends) as mansions and modern etiquette books still advise that the terms house, big house or great house be used instead.
Today's great houses are limited to the very well-to-do; royalty, aristocrats and people whose professions demand that they entertain, such as those in the diplomatic service and chief executive officers. The International Guild of Butlers estimates that the annual salaries of a 20-25 person household staff total in excess of US$1,000,000.
In countries with supplies of cheap domestic labour, the middle classes are still able to afford household help, but not approaching the numbers involved in the running of a great house.
Management of a Great House
On large estates or in families with more than one residence, there may be a steward (or estate manager, a more modern expression) who oversees direction of the entire establishment. Today it is not uncommon for a couple to split the duties of mangagement between them.
Practices vary depending on the size of the household and the preference of the employers, but in general the staff is divided into departments run by the:
- Butler--the head of household staff in most homes; in charge of the pantry, wine cellar and dining room. In a small house the butler also valets for the master of the house. Male staff report to him. The butler is often engaged by the master of the house but usually reports to the lady of the house or sometimes to the housekeeper.
- Cook--in charge of the kitchen and kitchen staff. Sometimes a chef is employed with several subordinate cooks. The cook usually reports directly to the lady of the house but sometimes to the housekeeper.
- Housekeeper--responsible for the house and its appearance; in charge of all female servants. In grand homes the butler and cook sometimes report to the housekeeper.
- Companion - (Lady's Companion)
- Lady's maid
- Valet (Gentleman's gentleman)
- Between maids (also called Hall girl particularly in the US)
- Hall boy
- Maids -- chamber maids, parlour maids, kitchen maids, laundry maids , nursery maid, scullery maids
- Useful Man also called houseman
An Estate Manager may have charge of the maintainance and care of the grounds, landscaping, and outbuildings (pool, cabana, stables, greenhouse etc.) which is divided into departments run by the:
- Head Gardener -- responsible for the grounds around the house; in charge of any additional gardeners or seasonal men and women brought in at times of harvest or planting.
- Stable Master, Stud Master, Master of the Horse, Master of the Hounds , Gamekeeper - various titles used for the individual responsible for the keeping of animals, particularly those used for recreational pursuits such as horseback riding, fox hunting or dog fancy.
Depictions of great houses
- Backstairs at the White House (miniseries)
- The Edwardian Country House
- Gosford Park
- The Remains of the Day (film)
- Servants (BBC television series)
- Sense and Sensibility (film)
- Upstairs, Downstairs
Notable great houses
The household is divided into departments: G-branch, general household staff comprising valets, butlers, under-butlers, 13 footmen, and drivers. Other footmen work for F-branch - food and drinks, which has five chefs - and H-branch - housekeeping and cleaning.
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