Maggie smith and shirley maclaine 1415895
Maggie Smith in "Downton Abbey." She lived a fancy life, but what was it like for the staff downstairs? - 

For all the income and wealth inequality we have in this country, it's nothing compared to the England of a century or more ago.

In her book, Servants: A Downstairs View of Twentieth-century Britain, Lucy Lethbridge says the only thing that seperated the poor from the very poor was whether a house had a servant.

"In the biggest estates you learnt your trade as a servant by serving the other servants," she says.

Tips not included, a domestic servant could earn a livable wadge, sometimes even more.

"Upper servants could earn very well," says Lethbridge. "A butler could earn as much as, say, a provincial bank manager."

Follow Kai Ryssdal at @kairyssdal