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It has been argued that domestic service heightened divisions of class and gender, and supported the private nuclear family in late nineteenth-century England. This case study of one urban locality (Lancaster) between 1880 and 1914 uses qualitative and quantitative techniques, particularly longitudinal record linkage, to explore relationships between live-in domestic servants and their employers. It is argued that there were considerable similarities between the backgrounds and life-cycle-related motivations of both servants and employers. Relationships were highly diverse, but service simultaneously depended upon and played a crucial role in sustaining complex, localized networks that extended far beyond the servant-employing household.