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Below Stairs

The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey"

Below Stairs by Margaret Powell
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Brilliantly evoking the long-vanished world of masters and servants portrayed in Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs, Margaret Powell's classic memoir of her time in service, Below Stairs, is the remarkable true story of an indomitable woman who, though she served in the great houses of England, never stopped aiming high. Powell first arrived at the servants' entrance of one of those great houses in the 1920s. As a kitchen maid – the lowest of the low – she entered an entirely new world; one of stoves to be blacked, vegetables to be scrubbed, mistresses to be appeased, and bootlaces to be ironed. Work started at 5.30am and went on until after dark. It was a far cry from her childhood on the beaches of Hove, where money and food were scarce, but warmth and laughter never were. Yet from the gentleman with a penchant for stroking the housemaids' curlers, to raucous tea-dances with errand boys, to the heartbreaking story of Agnes the pregnant under-parlormaid, fired for being seduced by her mistress's nephew, Margaret's tales of her time in service are told with wit, warmth, and a sharp eye for the prejudices of her situation. Margaret Powell's true story of a life spent in service is a fascinating "downstairs" portrait of the glittering, long-gone worlds behind the closed doors of Downton Abbey and 165 Eaton Place.
St. Martin's Press; January 2012
192 pages; ISBN 9781429952446
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Title: Below Stairs
Author: Margaret Powell
  • News
BOOK REVIEW: 'Below Stairs' - Washington Times
Tue, 20 Mar 2012 08:12:45 -0700
Washington TimesBOOK REVIEW: 'Below Stairs'Washington TimesFor a view of what such a life actually was like for the ...
'Downton Abbey' draws inspiration from cook's memoirs - Chicago Tribune
Fri, 10 Jan 2014 12:39:56 -0800
'Downton Abbey' draws inspiration from cook's memoirsChicago TribunePowell's memoir, "Below Stairs," ...
Life Downstairs - New Yorker
Thu, 02 Jan 2014 15:10:34 -0800
New YorkerLife DownstairsNew YorkerLucy Lethbridge, in “Servants,” a history of domestic service, lists many such memoirs: ...