11. The Status of a Female Farmservant (Welsh audio)

St Fagans Castle, 1890s.
The servants at St Fagans Castle, Cardiff, in the 1890s. These were probably the travelling staff, not the permanent household.

Well, what was the local people’s attitude towards the maids as a class? Did they think that they were respectable or ... ?

Oh, they were - They were the class … the class below the farms. People who lived in little houses were considered lower than the farms. And perhaps they were quite as good as some of the farms, you know.

Did they consider them to be irresponsible at all?

Oh well, as people, you know, who were a little bit beneath them. They weren’t of such a high status as them.

Did they consider that owning land meant you were of a higher status than someone without land?

Oh, yes. And well, they considered that farms - any kind of farm, even if they were poor - they tried to be of a higher status than people who lived in little houses... those who served beneath them, you know.

What happened regarding marriage? Did a servant sometimes marry the master’s daughter?

Oh, not often. Very infrequently. They wouldn’t be pleased at all if that happened. It has happened of course. And usually, now, see, when they got married - say that a farmer married the daughter of another farm - he would go to ask, before asking for the daughter’s hand, and ask how much they’d give with her. I remember men doing that, although they weren’t willing to admit it. They’d ask what they’d give with her, you know. And I don’t know what they called that now. I can’t remember, and it’s on the tip of my tongue - Ooh - rityddia, they used to go to rityddia. You know, they’d go to ask for a girl’s hand, you know, - that they were willing. They’d ask how much they’d have with her.

But as a rule, then, a maid would only marry someone who was in service himself?

Oh no - only marry a servant. Yes.

Mrs Kate Davies, Llandysul, born 1892.

MWL archive no.: 3929. Recorded 1973.