Before we begin, I know full-well that the answer changes based on the time-period, size of the estate, number of people being taken care of, amount of money available, and so forth. A correct answer would be able to give a [resident:staff] ratio or an accurate algorithm/formula to give an easily adjustable answer for needs beyond my own, both solutions offering a simplified break-down of what roles would be held by the staff.

What is the minimum number of staff members of each role (butler, maid, cook, groundskeeper, etc.) to keep a Medieval estate running smoothly?

The following should be assumed.

  • We are in the European late medieval period (where female staff were now more common than previously in case this makes a difference)

  • Use the modern-day United Kingdom area as a basis for any regional specifications if necessary

  • The estate is actively in-use

  • The estate is of sufficient size to house 100 people in separate rooms

  • Of those residents, assume 50 are men and 50 are women (for the sake of simplicity) and all are equal parts owners of the estate (despite that concept being an anachronism) [Meaning: There are 50 lords and 50 ladies of the estate.]

  • The staff live on-site in shared rooms equipped to house the minimum number of staff, the number of staff per shared room being within-reason for the time

  • The estate has the standard luxuries like a ballroom and so forth

  • The estate has formal gardens, but no farmland of its own

  • Neither money nor resources to finance/support this are an issue

  • No military force (such as knights) is necessary

  • There is no surrounding town, but that is not to say you cannot get to a town if you were to travel a short while by carriage

Staff Roles to consider

(Thanks to Alex P. for suggesting some staff I would never have thought of, and this list is mostly pulled from him/his source.)

Grooms, Maids, Butlers, Cooking Staff, Stable-Hands, Maintenance Staff, Sewers (Servers), Steward (Overseer), Gardeners/Groundskeepers, Cleaning Staff, Carriage Drivers, Secretaries, and Couriers.

I am listing what appear to be the most necessary roles for the core functionality of an estate. That said, an answer that excludes staff from these roles or includes unlisted staff is not inherently an incorrect answer as long as you show a reason for your assessment. I may be wrong in my assumption that all these staff roles are necessary or that only these roles are necessary and this list is subject to adjustment. Please, do not downvote others on the basis of included/excluded roles alone.

Requirements for a correct answer

  • Gives a ratio of [Residents:Staff], algorithm, or formula with a breakdown of necessary staff roles by numbers

  • Should not include any of the following: magic, modern/futuristic technology, demons/supernatural elements, MacGuffins, 7-headed chartreuse ostriches with naturally occurring lizard skin hats, and so on. I just want an as-close-as-possible to real-life view without consideration of these things.

I understand that some of the details I've given would be improbable/impossible from a real-world historical perspective, but I just want an as accurate as possible answer that can be easily worked with. If this question is presently unanswerable or unclear, please leave a comment saying how I can narrow this down and I will narrow it down in my next edit.


Alex P answered an earlier version of this question and his answer will be evaluated to reflect that.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 8:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Abigail For a high class manor of sorts, would that not be within reason? Or are those kinds of amenities more Victorian in origin than I initially thought? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 18:27
  • $\begingroup$ I see. I appreciate that information. I'll have to do some workshopping on how to right that then. Thank you for your help. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 23:56

1 Answer 1


First of all, let's start with a rough classification of the people living in the palace:

  1. The gentlepersons for the use of whom the palace is run. The question gives their number as one hundred.

  2. The personal servants of the gentlepersons, of appropriate sex -- grooms for the gentlemen, maids for the gentlewomen. They number at least as many, but some of the gentlepersons will also have secretaries, aides, and so on. The personal servants of the gentlepersons are not counted among house personnel; they use the services of the house personnel. So up to this point we have some 250 people who live in the palace.

  3. The actual staff of the palace: butlers, cooks (and undercooks, and scullery maids), cleaning personnel, washerwomen, ushers, servers, footmen, stable boys, couriers, carriage drivers, gardeners and so on. Some of them (especially senior perosnnel) will also have families. By and large the palace staff will be about the same number as the gentlepersons and personal servants put together, maybe somewhat (but not much) less, maybe (even probably) more. So up to this point we have some 450 to 600 people living in the palace.

  4. Optionally, depending on local customs and necessities, protection personnel, that is, men at arms.

The everhelpful Elizabethan.org provides a digital copy of the Book of Orders and Rules written by Lord Anthony Maria Browne, 2nd Viscount Montague, in 1595, for the "better direction and government of my household and family, together with the several duties and charges appertaining to mine officers and other servants". This fine piece late 16th century gentlemanly thinking lists 37 distinct roles (most of them for a single person, some for multiple persons), for what was a single-family household: and it includes mainly male staff, his lordship leaving the administration of most of the female staff to her ladyship:

1. Steward of the Household. 2. Comptroller. 3. High steward of the Courts. 4. Auditor. 5. General Receiver. 6. Solicitor. 7. Other principal officers. 8. Secretary. 9. Gentlemen Ushers. 10. Carver. 11. Sewer (server). 12. Gentlemen of the Chamber. 13. Gentlemen of Horse. 14. Gentlemen waiters. 15. Marshall of the Hall. 16. Clerk of the Kitchen. 17. Yeomen of the Great Chamber. 18. Usher of the Hall. 19. Chief cook. 20. Yeomen of the chamber. 21. Clerk of the Officer's Chambers. 22. Yeoman of the Horse. 23. Yeoman of the Cellar. 24. Yeoman of the Ewery. 25. Yeoman of the Pantry. 26. Yeoman of the Buttery. 27. Yeoman of the Wardrobe. 28. Yeoman waiters. 29. Second cook, and the rest. 30. Porter. 31. Granator. 32. Bailiff. 33. Baker. 34. Brewer. 35. Grooms of the Great Chamber. 36. Almoner. 37. Scullery man.

The same web site gives an example of a larger household, namely the Earl of Hertford's embassy to Brussels. It included:

  • "20 Knights, 2 barons, and 7 gentlemen, plus their servants to a total of 90."

    This gives a ratio of 1:2 for gentlepersons to personal servants.

  • "And in the earl's personal train: 2 chaplains, 1 steward, 1 secretary, 1 gentleman of the horse, 2 gentlemen ushers, 1 harbinger, 1 master of carriages, 1 surgeon, 1 physician, 1 apothecary, 8 musicians, 8 trumpeters, 6 footmen, 10 lackeys, 6 pages, 3 wardrobers, 16 gentlemen waiters, 30 yeoman waiters, 30 kitchen, buttery, & pantry staff, 4 gentlemen of the chamber."

    Overall, this example shows the 30 gentlepersons lived with 60 personal servants and 133 staff.

  • $\begingroup$ Well done, sir! A beautiful piece of research too. Interestingly this is a ratio of three support persons per gentleperson.Trumpeters and musicians too. Guess if you don't have a sound system, you need the human equivalent. It gives a fascinating insight into the palatial way of life. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 4:38
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @a4android: "Sound system": For a well-known example, Joseph Haydn "spent much of his career as a court musician for the wealthy Esterházy family at their remote estate". $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 6:41
  • $\begingroup$ Alex, this is a beautiful answer. I just realized I never actually thanked you for this. So, thanks! :) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 8:02
  • $\begingroup$ So the example of a large household shows a ratio of 1 gentleperson : 2 servants : 4.5 staff, give or take, for the "male" train. A grand total of 6.5 servants+staff per gentleperson. For the single family household, 40ish male servants; at the above ratio it would require the family have ~6 male members; that seems a bit high, but I don't know what "single family" means in this context. The families of the servants/staff are not counted here. $\endgroup$
    – Yakk
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 15:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JPhi1618: They most definitely did not spend their time idling. Remember that we are speaking of the time before powered house appliances. Activities such as sweeping the floors, dusting the furniture, washing the dishes, doing the laundry etc. had to be done by hand using muscle power. Not to mention cooking... For a view of how this worked in more recent times I strongly recommend Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 16:48

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .