We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Was a Scullion?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
PublicPeople is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At PublicPeople, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, a scullion was a male servant hired to do menial jobs around the house, especially in the kitchen. After the Renaissance, such servants certainly existed, but they began to be supplanted by scullery maids, and by the 20th century, scullions were essentially nonexistent, replaced by a variety of modern conveniences which rendered their jobs obsolete.

The work of a scullion would have been dirty, grueling, and miserable. By convention, scullions were at the bottom of the complex hierarchy of household servants, and while a scullion would have been officially under the direction of the kitchen maid, he would be expected to obey orders from essentially anyone employed in the house, which meant that a variety of tasks might fall under his job description.

The word “scullion” is taken from the Old French escouvillon, which means “dishcloth,” giving you a good idea of the worth of a scullion in the household. In the kitchen, scullions did the heavy cleaning of pots, pans, and utensils, while finer kitchen items were cleaned by higher-ranking members of the staff. Scullions also took care of the more unpleasant aspects of food preparation, such as peeling potatoes, plucking fowl, pitting fruit for preserves, and a variety of other tasks. They would also have been responsible for scouring the kitchen floors, which could get quite messy after cooking for a major event.

Outside the kitchen, scullions scrubbed floors, cleaned fireplaces and stoves, emptied chamberpots, and performed other menial tasks. Scullions typically remained out of the way of the occupants of the house, and they would not have been entitled to livery. As a general rule, most scullions would have aspired to jobs further up in the ranks, where they might be able to access perks like discarded candle ends, discarded food, and so forth, which they could in turn use, trade, or sell.

Another important job of the scullion was laundry. In the Middle Ages, doing laundry was not a pleasant task. Garments, sheets, rags, and anything else to be laundered would need to be boiled over an open fire in a massive kettle, stirred with heavy paddles, and cleaned with harsh soaps made from lye. Once the laundry was sopping wet and extremely heavy, it needed to be rinsed, wrung out, and then hung on drying lines. Often, the task would require several scullions to manipulate the heavy kettles and damp material, and they risked burns from steam, boiling water, and the fire in the process.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Related Articles

Discussion Comments
By Markus — On Oct 20, 2011

I am the youngest of eight children, two older brothers and five sisters. The two oldest brothers were either out in the field helping our father or in school or working elsewhere, while I was always left indoors to help my mother and sisters.

My sisters were very bossy and always gave me the dirtiest jobs in the house like scrubbing the toilets and cleaning out the litter box.

I can remember my mother telling my sisters to stop treating your brother like a scullion and share the responsibilities once in awhile. I was very young and didn't know then what it meant but I knew my mom was on my side.

Anyway, all that dirty work paid off because today I'm the head chef at a five star restaurant on a resort in the Caribbean.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
PublicPeople, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

PublicPeople, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.