The office of butler is as ancient as it is responsible, and in all establishments, from the largest to the smallest, he is the head of his department, and is answerable for the property placed under his charge, and for the proper performance of the duties of those under him, viz., the footman or footmen.
The butler is supposed to have served his apprenticeship in domestic service, first as under-footman, then as head-footman or under-butler; he is, therefore, able to judge of the amount of work that a footman is equaled to getting through, and how it should be done.
The establishment, being on a large scale, increases his responsibility, and the amount of company kept greatly increases the work of the pantry.
The plate chest is in the charge of the butler, and an inventory of its contents is given on its being made over to him, and he is responsible to his master for its safety.
It is the butler’s duty, every night before retiring to rest, to see that the plate in everyday use is carefully put away, and also give it out in the morning to be cleaned. He also gives out place used at dinner parties or balls, and sees that it is properly cleaned for use.
His next responsibility is the wine cellar. The cellar book is the check upon the butler as to the quantity of wine drunk in a given time. It is the butler’s duty to decant the wine for daily use, both for luncheon and dinner, and to put away decanters of wine after each meal.
Where a valet is not kept, it is the butler’s duty to valet his master.
When two or three footmen are kept, a butler waits at breakfast, luncheon, tea, and dinner, and overlooks the arrangements of the table for each meal.
During the afternoon the butler’s duty is to remain in the front hall in readiness to announce visitors.
It is the butler’s duty throughout the day to see that everything is in its place and in order, in readiness for use in the drawing-room, morning-room, and library; the blinds up or down as the case may be, writing tables in due order, books rearranged, newspapers cut, aired, and folded for use, fires attended to by the footman, etc.
A butler is usually allowed to go out in the morning from twelve to one, and again from half-past nine to eleven, in town establishments.
The Duties of Servants - A Practical Guide to The Routine of Domestic Service (1894)