A great house is a large house or mansion with luxurious appointments and great retinues of indoor and outdoor staff. The term is used mainly historically, especially of properties at the turn of the 20th century, i.e., the late Victorian era, Victorian or Edwardian era in the United Kingdom and the Gilded Age in the United States.


There is no precise definition of "great house", and the understanding of varies between countries. In England, while most villages would have a manor house since time immemorial, originally home of the lord of the manor and sometimes referred to as "the big house", not all would have anything as lavish as a traditional English country house, one of the traditional markers of an established "county" family that derived at least a part of its income from landed property. English country house#Stately homes of England, Stately homes, even rarer and more expensive, were associated with the peerage, not the landed gentry, gentry. Many mansions were Destruction of country houses in 20th-century Britain, demolished in the 20th century; families that had previously split their time between their country house and their Townhouse (Great Britain), town house found the maintenance of both too expensive. Many properties are now open to the public as historic house museums, either run by their ancestral owners on a commercial basis, or having been given to English Heritage or similar organisations. Others operate as hotels and wedding venues. Some still serve as the family seat. In Ireland, the term big house is usual for the houses of the Anglo-Irish Protestant Ascendancy, ascendancy. In the United States, great houses can be found on streets known informally as "millionaires' mile" (or "row") in certain cities. In Jamaica, "great house" is the standard term for the house at the centre of plantation life, what in the United States is called a Plantation complexes in the Southern United States#Plantation house, plantation house. One commonality between countries is that the family occupying the great house were outnumbered, often greatly so, by their staff. There was often an elaborate hierarchy among domestic workers, probably most familiar to people today through television dramas such as ''Downton Abbey''. 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. Nowadays, 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.


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, but 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 following staff:

Support household staff

Sources: * Chauffeur For the master of the house: * Valet (Gentleman's gentleman) For the lady of the house: * Lady's companion, Companion * Lady's maid For the children: * Governess * Nanny * Tutor

Junior household staff

Sources: * Footman * Hall boy * Useful Man (also called ''houseman'') * Boot boy * Maid (see Maid#Types of maid, Types of maid) ** Between staff or Between maids (also called Hall girl, particularly in the US) ** Chambermaid ** Housemaid ** Kitchen maid (domestic worker), Kitchen maid ** Washerwoman, Laundry maid ** Nursemaid ** Parlourmaid ** Scullery maid ** Still room maid * Page (occupation), Page * Seamstress

Grounds staff

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:

Support grounds staff

*Gardener#Gardeners, Gardeners *Groundskeepers *Stablehands *Handyman

Notable great houses

* Belcourt Castle * Boldt Castle * Biltmore Estate * The Breakers * Burghley House *Cheshunt Great House * Eaton Hall (Cheshire) * The Elms (mansion), The Elms * Hatfield House * Hearst Castle * Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, Hillwood * Holkham Hall * Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, Hyde Park *Sir Fisher Tench, 1st Baronet#The Great House at Leyton, The Great House at Leyton * Lyndhurst (Jay Gould Estate), Lyndhurst * Mansion House, London * Marble House * Moore Hall, County Mayo * Moszna, Opole Voivodeship, Moszna * Rosecliff * Rose Hall, Montego Bay, Rose Hall * Syon House * Old Westbury Gardens, Westbury House * White House * Woburn Abbey

Depictions of great houses

The complex hierarchy of a staff in a great house has been portrayed in several notable productions for film and television. Among these are: * Backstairs at the White House (miniseries), ''Backstairs at the White House'' * Brideshead Revisited (TV serial), ''Brideshead Revisited'' * ''Downton Abbey'', ITV television series filmed at Highclere Castle, a real-life Great House * ''The Edwardian Country House'' * ''Gosford Park'' * Rebecca (1940 film), ''Rebecca'' * The Remains of the Day (film), ''The Remains of the Day'' * Upstairs, Downstairs (1971 TV series), ''Upstairs, Downstairs'' * ''You Rang, M'Lord?''

See also

* Real estate * House society * Master of the Horse, a courtier, i.e. a royal appointment, now only ceremonial * Master of the Hounds, in charge of and financially responsible for a hunt, usually a foxhunt


External links

The Domestic Staff Citizen
{{Room, great, state=collapsed Domestic work House styles House types Dwellings of the Pueblo peoples