Servants at Emo Court


Servants were an integral part of life at Emo Court. The house had over 60 rooms and required a small army of servants to clean and maintain. Before the 20th century, with no water upstairs, no bathrooms, and only fires for heating, housework was labour intensive. In addition to cleaning rooms, making beds and emptying chamber pots, servants had to carry coal and cans of hot water upstairs to the family rooms, fill, trim and light oil lamps throughout the house, and light, clean and sweep the many fireplaces and chimneys. Four separate sets of meals had to be prepared at each mealtime for the family, children, upper and lower servants, leaving four different sets of dishes to be washed. When guests came to stay or parties were entertained, the workload increased enormously.


With so much work to be done, the Earl of Portarlington kept a large staff of indoor servants, as well as a range of outdoor men who maintained the park and gardens. The number of indoor staff at any given time depended on whether the Earl and his family were at home or away. In 1911 for example, when only the three year old Viscount was home, there were eight staff present including two nursemaids; the rest of the servants were undoubtedly travelling with Lord and Lady Portarlington.


A full house-staff probably consisted of 12 or more servants, including a butler/house steward, housekeeper, lady’s maid, valet, one or more footmen, 3-4 housemaids, a cook, kitchen maid, dairy-maid and, when children were growing up at Emo, a nursemaid, nanny and governess.  See House Staff in 1911