Primary Resources

This resource gallery has been developed to be used for pre visit preparatory work and for post visit reference. You will find a range of primary documents and material here that links to the themes in each unit. By clicking on any image below you can access background information on the source and also find out where it came from and where it is currently held.

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Sketch of a Maid

Early 19th century sketch of a house maid: William Brocas 1794-1868
National Library of Ireland
Pencil on paper


Those who lived and worked in and around a large country house like Fota formed a community of people with closely inter-related careers and lives. As such the house, farm and gardens existed as a self sufficient and insulated unit.

The interdependence between those who lived and worked at Fota meant that the Smith Barry family relied on their servants and vice versa. For example there are over seventy fireplaces in the house and in wintertime, especially if the house was full with family, guests and their servants, most of these had to be cleaned every morning and tended throughout the day. This would have involved cleaning the grate and polishing brass fire-irons and fenders and carrying endless scuttles of coal.

In the 19th and early 20th century tending fires and a host of other tasks were carried out by the house maid. Her day could often start at six am, with few breaks, and might not end until the family retired in the evening. Even if she did manage to take an hour or so to rest in the afternoon, a housemaid could be expected to engage in some productive activity such as sewing or mending in her room. As the 20th Century progressed fewer servants were employed as the big house and the leisured Ascendancy lifestyle began to decline.

More images can be found in the Library collection by using the following link:,+William,+ca.+1794-1868&page=1

Open Resource