Great house

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Great house in Bristol.
For the novel by Nicole Krauss, see Great House. For the architecture of great houses, see Mansion. For the great house masonry pueblos, see Chaco Culture National Historical Park. For the politically powerful dynasties featured in the Dune franchise, see Landsraad.

A great house is a large and stately residence; the term encompasses different styles of dwelling in different countries. The name refers to the makeup of the household rather than to any particular architectural style. It particularly refers to large households of times past in Anglophone countries (especially those of the turn of the 20th century, i.e., the late Victorian or Edwardian era in the United Kingdom and the Gilded Age in the United States), such as the English country house, the "stately homes of England" and the homes of various "millionaires' row" (or "millionaires' mile") in some U.S. cities such as Newport, Rhode Island, with luxurious appointments and great retinues of indoor and outdoor staff. By some reports, the summer homes of the wealthy at Newport averaged four servants per family member. There was often an elaborate hierarchy among staff, domestic workers in particular. In Ireland, the term big house is usual for the houses of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy.[1][2][3]

It was considered declassé to refer to one's own townhouses, estates or villas (or those of friends) as mansions and modern etiquette books still advise that the terms house, big house or great house be used instead.

As in the past, today's great houses are limited to heads of state, the very rich, or those who have inherited them; few in the developed world are staffed at the level of past centuries. The International Guild of Butlers estimates that the annual salaries of a 20-25 person household staff total in excess of US$1,000,000.

In countries with supplies of cheap domestic labour, the middle classes are still able to afford household help, but not approaching the numbers involved in the running of a great house.


On large estates or in families with more than one residence, there may be a steward (or the modern equivalent, an estate manager) who oversees direction of the entire establishment. Today, it is not uncommon for a couple to split the duties of management between them.

The head of the household is not the butler - it is the house manager - An estate manager manages more than one property, and usually has financial and managerial background.

Practices vary depending on the size of the household and the preference of the employers, but in general the staff is divided into departments run by the[2] [3]

Title Description
Butler the head of household staff in most homes; in charge of the pantry, wine cellar and dining room. In a small house the butler also valets for the master of the house. Male staff report to him. The butler is often engaged by the master of the house but usually reports to the lady of the house or sometimes to the housekeeper.[2] [3]
Cook in charge of the kitchen and kitchen staff. Sometimes a chef is employed with several subordinate cooks. The cook usually reports directly to the lady of the house but sometimes to the housekeeper. If the cook is female, she is always addressed as Mrs regardless of marital status.[2] [3]
Housekeeper responsible for the house and its appearance; in charge of all female servants. In grand homes the butler and cook sometimes report to the housekeeper. The housekeeper is always addressed as Mrs., regardless of marital status.[2] [3]

Support household staff[edit]

[2] [3]

Junior household staff[edit]

[2] [3]

Grounds staff[edit]

An Estate Manager may have charge of the maintenance and care of the grounds, landscaping, and outbuildings (pool, cabana, stables, greenhouse etc.) which is divided into departments run by the:

Title Description
Head Gardener responsible for the grounds around the house; in charge of any additional gardeners or seasonal men and women brought in at times of harvest or planting.
Stable Master various titles used for the individual responsible for the keeping of animals, particularly those used for recreational pursuits such as horseback riding, fox hunting or dog fancy.
Stud Master
Master of the Horse
Master of the Hounds

Support grounds staff[edit]

Depictions of great houses[edit]

The complex hierarchy of a staff in a great house has been portrayed in several notable productions for film and television. Among these are:

Notable great houses[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pakenham, Valerie (2001). The Big House in Ireland. photographs by Thomas Pakenham. Cassell. ISBN 0-304-35422-8. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Evangeline Holland. "Domestic Servants in Edwardian England". Retrieved 2013-01-30. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Bricks & Brass. "Staff Roles". Retrieved 2013-01-30.