Margaret Powell’s Below Stairs, a servant’s firsthand account of life in the great houses of England, became a sensation among readers reveling in the luxury and subtle class warfare of Masterpiece Theatre’s hit television series Downton Abbey. In Servants’ Hall, another true slice of life from a time when armies of servants lived below stairs simply to support the lives of those above, Powell tells the true story of Rose, the under-parlourmaid to the Wardham Family at Redlands, who took a shocking step: She eloped with the family’s only son, Mr. Gerald.
Going from rags to riches, Rose finds herself caught up in a maelstrom of gossip, incredulity and envy among her fellow servants. The reaction from upstairs was no better: Mr. Wardham, the master of the house, disdained the match so completely that he refused ever to have contact with the young couple again. Gerald and Rose marry, leave Redlands and Powell looks on with envy, even as the marriage hits on bumpy times: “To us in the servants’ hall, it was just like a fairy tale . . . How I wished I was in her shoes.”
Once again bringing that lost world to life, Margaret Powell trains her pen and her gimlet eye on her “betters” in this next chapter from a life spent in service. Servants’ Hall is Margaret Powell at her best—a warm, funny and sometimes hilarious memoir of life at a time when wealthy families like ruled England.