Ring for Service: Why Butlers’ Bells are the Latest Must-Have Home Accessory
If there is one thing certain to reinvigorate interest in the wonders of the past, it is a period drama: especially one as popular as Downton Abbey, a show that can pull in an average of 8 million viewers during its Sunday evening slot.
It is said that as soon as an episode of Downton airs, there is an instant surge in demand for Art Deco furnishings on eBay, and during a Sunday evening showing of Mr Selfridge, the Victorian drama that charts the life of one of Britain’s most famous department store owners, interest in antique style furniture increases by almost 50 per cent hour on hour.
Why we can’t help but love a period drama
Perhaps it is the intrigue of a bygone era punctuated by beautiful, hand-crafted, bespoke furnishings and fittings that hold such contrast to the mass-produced flat packs of today. Maybe it is the charm of a time when households were split into upstairs and downstairs; where we enjoy a dolls’ house glimpse at two very different aspects of life and cannot help but take our sides, more often than not backing the one which resides in the lower part of the house.
The servants and butlers of these lower floors have been a mainstay of the monarchy, aristocracy and upper classes since medieval and even further back in ancient times, but it was not until near the middle of the 18th century that a system was invented to summon them from their quarters when a requirement arose.
How to summon a servant
Up until around the 1720s to 1740s (historical accounts differ), servants and butlers would either stand on duty outside their employer’s room, or stay with them inside the room. Such a lack of privacy was however clearly not desirable, and so the invention of the butler’s bell system came about which allowed the householder to ring for attention as and when he or she wished.
By the 19th century, almost all larger households would have a mechanical butlers’ bell system installed. The bell worked using a simple pulley system. By pulling a spring, the movement caused the bell to ring: it really was as straightforward as that.
Resurgence of interest in butlers’ bells
Nowadays, in part thanks to Downton Abbey and a host of other period dramas, there has been something of a resurgence of interest in the butlers’ bell as a doorbell. Because there is no need for electric cabling or batteries, and no danger of annoying interference from devices using radio waves, as can be the case with certain types of doorbell, both home and business owners are plumping for this traditional way of being alerted to the presence of a visitor.
Butler’s bells have a sound just the same as those heard on the period dramas. They are easy to install: the bell fits onto the inside and pull is screwed onto the outside. There is a range of designs and finishes, such as polished brass and chrome, so something to suit individual tastes and to complement different styles of décor.
Period style properties are the most obvious residences in which to fit a butlers’ bell, but the contrast achieved by marrying a beautiful piece of traditional history with a contemporary look home can also be very appealing.
Butler’s bells are also virtually maintenance-free and because the bell rings nice and loudly for as long as the spring loaded handle or knob is activated, there is no risk of a caller being uncertain as to whether the bell has worked.
It is clear to see the charm of the butlers’ bell, and why so many people are adopting it for their homes, shops and other businesses.