Sunday, 5 January 2014

The footman and the kitchen maid

Holland Park, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, is now one of the most expensive residential areas of London. This mews is a pretty cobbled street sandwiched between two roads (both called Holland Park) lined with grand detached double-fronted Victorian villas. Construction started in the 1860s and finished in 1879.

When the 1871 census took place, around 35 houses were already occupied, with more still in construction. Half of the people living in those houses were servants, and there were more servants, such as coachmen and grooms, living in the mews buildings.

One of those servants was Louisa Atkinson, a kitchen maid aged about 19, from the wonderfully named Follifoot in Yorkshire. She was one of 13 servants listed at 18 Holland Park, the home of a metal merchant and his large family.

Not far away, in Pimlico, footman David Waller and nine others served the Wyvill family at 22 Warwick Square. David was 24 and he came from Norfolk

Somehow, the two of them met. In 1872, Louisa and David married. They settled in Cambridgeshire, where David became a fireman with the Great Eastern railway, and they went on to have a family.

I know this because they are my husband’s great great grandparents, and we have been researching our family tree. It’s taken us to some interesting places, and it’s always exciting if the buildings our ancestors lived in are still there. I wonder what modern day servants are living in those beautiful homes of the excessively rich today?


  1. Wow, it was a fascinating tale anyway, and I love the family connection.

  2. Hi Sue, I came across your interesting blog via a post by the Ghost signs group on Facebook. I live in Stockport so am familiar with a number of the signs you've featured. However, I was particularly interested in this post as I know someone who lives at 22 Warwick Sq and would be happy to try and put you in touch with him if you'd like? Kind regards, Natalie

    1. Hi Natalie, thanks for getting in touch. That's an interesting coincidence! I wonder if he knows anything more about the history of the building? Please do ask him if he know anything and if he'd like to get in touch. Thank you! Sue