Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Plan of work for a small servantless house in the 1930s

I'm reading a book called 'The Wartime House: Home Life in Wartime Britain 1939-1945.  In it the authors include a Plan of Work for a Small Servantless House from The Housewife's Book, 1937.

It looks like quite a busy day for the pre-war housewife. :)

(3 or 4 in family)

7-8 am          
  • Get up : dress
  • Strip the bed and air the rooms
  • Unlock the house
  • Stoke the boiler
  • Light living-room fire if necessary
  • Prepare breakfast
8-9 am
  • Have breakfast
  • Clear away, wash up breakfast things (Accompany child to school when required)
  • Sweep porch and steps
  • Lay sitting-room fire if needed
  • Do dining-room and sitting-room carpets with vacuum cleaner.
  • Mop the surrounds and dust

  • Make beds
  • Mop and dust upstairs rooms and W.C.
  • Attend to bathroom.
  • Wash out bath and lavatory basin.
  • Sweep and mop bathroom floor and landing.
  • Sweep stairs
  • Look over larder.
  • Prepare vegetables or pasty for midday or evening meal.
  • Shopping when required and special weekly duties

  • Finish off cooking and prepare lunch.
1-2 pm          
  • Serve lunch or dinner
  • Have lunch, clear away
2-3 pm
  • Wash up, tidy kitchen and scullery
  • Change
3-4.30 pm    

  • Recreation, resting, visiting or special duties such as ironing, gardening, needlework according to weather and season. Minding young children if necessary.

4.30-5 pm    
  • Prepare and serve tea
5-6 pm         
  •  Wash up tea things
6-7 pm        
  • Prepare food for supper or dinner, and cook the meal
7-8 pm        
  • Put children to bed
  • Serve and have dinner
8-9 pm        
  • Clear away meal. Wash up if liked, but this can be deferred until the morning.
  • Reading, recreation, letter writing, accounts.
As meal-times vary considerably in different families and in different parts of the country, according to the nature of the husband's work the principal meal is sometimes taken in the middle and sometimes at the end of the day.  As a general rule, when the husband's work is near at hand and he can take all meals at home, the principal meal is taken at midday, and the housewife's morning will be necessarily busier, but she should have more leisure between tea and supper.

From 11.30 to 12.30


Brush all clothes used over the week-end and put away. Collect large articles and send to laundry or do laundrywork at home. If family laundry is done at home, help may be necessary. Wash silk and woollens first, followed by white things. These can be done in alternate weeks if preferred.


Turn out dining-room. Clean silver.


Special turning out of two bedrooms each week.


Special turning out of sitting-room.


Thorough weekly clean of bathroom, W.C., landing and stairs. Baking.


Special cleaning of hall, kitchen and scullery. Extra cooking for weekend.


A few things struck me.  The children going to be before dinner.  Did they eat separately?  In 1937 most middle-class families used a laundry service for their clothes washing, a job previously done by the servants.  However, home laundry was becoming more and more common.  I really can't imagine that all the household laundry could be done in 1 hour a week, though, as my Mum pointed out, they didn't have as many clothes then neither did they change their clothing as often as we do now.  I was also interested that Saturday was a housework day, I wondered if most men worked on those days?  Or would the man be lounging around the house with a newspaper whilst the wife carried on working?  I always try to get as much work done during the week so that there isn't much to be done at weekend.


  1. Replies
    1. No, I suppose it hasn't much. I don't know many who have a scullery these days or have their main meal midday though :)

  2. I LOVE reading stuff like this, but boy does this put me to shame, they worked *HARD*.

    Does 'turning out' a room, mean completely cleaning it?

    Your mum is right, they had MUCH less clothing than we do and it said they brushed out a great deal of it. They probably washed undergarments and spot cleaned and/or brushed the outer garments.

    My guess is that in the 1930's the men worked 6 days a week.

    This was fun to read!

    1. It's exhausting just reading it isn't it? LOL I think you are most likely right about the laundry. My dad said that many boys would be sewn into their thermal winter underwear and it wouldn't get changed all winter!! Ew! :)

  3. did you ever watch "the 1940's house"? that was really interesting. it's basically a reality show and they put these people in a situation that was common during WWII and after.

    1. I did see it advertised but didn't watch, was it good?

    2. It was! I thought anyway. :)

    3. 1940's House is my FAVORITE! If you're able to watch it, you MUST. :)

  4. is hard to understand clearly from our world...such a different perspective...

    1. ...and no social networking for company! LOL :) Seriously though, it could seem quite lonely work, but my mum tells me that neighbours would be in and out of each other's houses all day.

  5. I loved this list! Ladies of those days really took their homemaking professions seriously and worked SO hard!