The below stairs staff at Polesden Lacey
Mrs Greville employed a number of staff, many of whom moved between the properties at Polesden Lacey and Charles Street in London. Her hospitality wouldn't have been the same without their attention to detail. Butlers and footmen worked at the front of house and a French chef produced exquisite dishes for her guests.
She treated loyal staff well and held an Annual Servants' Ball at Polesden Lacey for around 180 staff from both houses. Dancing took place in the entrance hall and at midnight, supper was served in the dining room.
At the moment, we only carry out occasional tours below stairs, but we plan to open these areas permanently in the future.
Read below for more about the staff who worked behind the scenes:
In 1907, Megan Hill was employed as first kitchen maid at Mrs Greville's London home, 16 Charles Street. An underchauffeur, Jeremy drove her between London and Polesden Lacey in a Rolls Royce. He wore a different uniform from the other chauffeurs because he transported staff rather than house guests. Megan's jobs included cleaning copper jelly moulds and copper pots and pans, which hung on a dresser in the kitchen. She used salt and sand to make them gleam and spent hours cleaning the wooden block floors. Gardener, Ronald Hill courted her at Polesden Lacey staff dances on Friday evenings and they eventually got married. Megan revisited Polesden Lacey in 1980 at the age of 89 years old.
French chef, Monsieur Delachaume, worked at Polesden Lacey in the early 1900s. He made specialist dishes such as 'Oeufs Duc de York' (Duke of York eggs), especially for the Duke of York. Mrs Greville's French cuisine was described in The Daily Telegraph in 1930 as 'unsurpassed anywhere'.
Gardeners produced food and flowers for Polesden Lacey and the house in London from the kitchen garden and estate. Fruit, vegetables, flowers and produce from Home Farm were sent up to London by train. The head gardener lived in what is now one of our holiday cottages. Gardeners worked long hours, typically from 6am to 6pm, with breaks for meals. They also worked as caddies on the 9-hole golf course, which gave them the chance to earn extra money through tips.
In 1901, Mr and Mrs Greville bought their first motorcar, a Serpolet and they employed two chauffeurs and a 'washer'. Cars were kept along with the horses and chauffeurs had a higher status than grooms. However, Mrs Greville sacked one of her chauffeurs for turning up at Bookham station in the Mercedes instead of the Panhard, which she'd requested.
Adeline Liron helped to dress and style Mrs Greville's hair, but her role was also as companion. Beverley Nichols said, ('she' being Mrs Greville):
'Though she loved power, she was not really a snob. This was proved by her relationship with her personal maid, whom she always called 'The Archduchess'. The title was apt; the Archduchess, who was deeply devoted to her mistress, had a natural distinction. One day I walked into the ground floor of the Café Royal and saw Maggie, in a plain black dress, sitting in a corner dining with the Archduchess. There was nothing incongruous or embarrassing about it. Why should there be? The two women were not only mistress and maid, they were best friends.' Beverley Nichols, Sweet and Twenties, 1958
We don't have a photograph of Adeline Liron, but recently her cousin's son contacted Polesden through the house blog and hopefully he'll be sending us one.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Diana Davidson was Head Housekeeper and she did shopping for the house with a Rolls Royce. She married Under Gardener, Jesse Hewins in 1935. Her role included employing and sacking female staff, the provisioning and stores of the household, overseeing the spring clean, managing housemaids; and looking after linen and china stores. She dealt with what we would call conservation, usually differently from how it's done today. Moths were treated with tobacco and camphor and furniture was covered to protect it from dust and light during Mrs Greville's absences.
Mr Francis 'Frank' Bole was Mrs Greville's senior butler. He worked for her for over forty years, sometimes accompanying her on her travels. When she died, he was given the responsibility of destroying her private papers at her request. He married Evelyn Wareham and they had three children.
Mr Bacon had a reputation for being a maverick and for drinking alcohol at every opportunity. He's on the far right in the photograph of the menservants above.