Domestic Life: Ann Bennett

Ann Bennett, Lady's Maid to Agnes Greg

Lady’s Maids held an unusual position amongst servants. They were well educated and often apprenticed in dressmaking and hairdressing before being hired into service. In the servant’s ranking Lady’s Maids held a similar position to Butlers and Housekeepers, and had close relationships with their mistresses who often treated them as personal confidantes.

This elevated position meant that these women occupied a position between the family and the servants without truly belonging to either.

Agnes Greg was the daughter of Samuel Greg. She lived at the family home in Bollington, Cheshire. Ann Bennett was her Lady’s Maid and, thanks to the collection of letters written home to her mother and sister, we've been able to get some insight into the reality of life for women in domestic service. Ann and Agnes appear to have had the close relationship that was so common between a Lady and her maid. Ann was taken on holidays with Agnes in order to attend to her every need and even writes about outings she took with ‘Miss A’.

" Miss Agnes treated me the other day to St Georges Hall to hear the grand organ played I suppose it is one of the largest organs in the world it was played an hour and I think I never heard any thing so grand it is in a fine spacious room and seemed altogether delightful sometimes it seemed loud like thunder and sometimes so faint you might have thought it the sweetest of music."
- Ann Bennett in a letter to her mother

Ann’s letters also refer to her relationship with a man named Alfred. These enable us to trace her journey from paid domestic labour to planning for the role of wife. Lady’s Maids like Ann were paid well and were often able to save a small nest egg. This, along with her domestic skills, made her the perfect wife for a young man looking to settle down. The close relationship between Ann and Agnes continued right up until her departure, with Agnes facilitating Alfred’s visits and even gifting the couple oil paintings for their marital home.