Victorian-era household amenities: the Scullery

Happy Victoria Day! For my Honorary Canadian Friends, Victoria Day is a national holiday on the third Monday in May and typically marks the beginning of summer with camping, hiking, swimming at Second Beach Pool... but it's cold and rainy this year. Climate change happened, and will continue to happen, as will technology, but it makes me think of simpler times and remember how we came to this point. Enter the Victorian Era.

The Victorian kitchen was were everything good happened: cooking, baking, cleansing (bathing, sometimes) and washing. But. The dirty work was in the Scullery.

Even the smallest of Victorian homes had a Scullery. It was the smallest of rooms, always at the back of the house, off the main kitchen, and closest to the water supply or well. Scullery Maids (youngest and lowest in the household cast) ran a muck in the small room and it contained the ceramic sink for washing,  cold water, set pot for boiling, cleaning, and laundry, as well as dishes, dish racks, copper pots and pans. It was also the primary egress of the drain and waste lines to the sewer, and an unclean Scullery meant illness was rampant in the household.

Because of illness, and smells from the slop buckets, finishings in a Scullery were of strictest importance. Flooring was generally stone slab or thick tile, and walls were generally tiled, but the most important feature was an operable window, due to aforementioned smells and buckets. More impervious finishes were of utmost importance because cleaning was done with soda, soap, emery powder, or Whitening cleanser for grease - all were abrasive, all needed elbow grease, and all needed scrub buckets and brushes sprinkled with just a bit of the Scullery Maid's determination. Not like today's world in the least.

Today's Butler's Pantry, Wok Kitchens, and Spice Kitchens are similar in function to the Scullery with the exception of the two latter where cooking is taking place, that and the Butler's Pantry is more of a staging and storage area for dining. But the Scullery lives on in those large, stainless steel, 3 tub sinks in commercial kitchens, called Scullery Sinks.

Cleansing and clean-up has simply been re-invented with the modern conveniences of the disposal systems, dishwashers, laundry machines, and insta-hot boilers. The Scullery doesn't need to be, nor has it been, eliminated from today's kitchen.