Thursday, July 26

History: Registry Office

In 1851 domestic service was the second largest occupational group in Britain with over one million servants.

Registry Offices were places where servants would place their particulars in the hope of being employed by a suitable household.

They were divided into three classes.

1. Those which take fees from both servant and mistress.
2. Free registries, where the mistress pays the fee and the servant pays nothing.
3. Registries for foreign servants. Lodgings are provided until they obtain situations. Sleep five or six in a room, two or three in a bed, for sixpence a night.

Some of the registries were respectable and safeguarded servants. However some were only interested in the fee and bundled girls off into situations without inquiries as to where they were going or who is to be their mistress.

Girls were warned against advertisements of situations with high wages and little work.

Scams were rife where a gentleman would keep a dozen good looking girls on the premises to see mistresses. An engagement was made and the fee was paid but the girl did not enter the situation. When the mistress complained and tried to reclaim the fee, the gentleman refused and made excuses saying it wasn't his fault that the girl did not keep to the engagement.

The greatest number of frauds take place in foreign registries.

Advertising English situations with glowing colours, agents would bring girls in from the continent promising high wages and passage money. The girls would sign an agreement and their boxes sent arriving before the girls themselves.

These boxes contain all their worldly goods. On arrival, they are requested to pay for their passage and consequently have to sell their clothes and such to pay for the journey. After a bill is run up for board and lodging, the girls have little choice but to become prostitutes to settle their debts.


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