Women of Calke Abbey

Visitors walking to the house at Calke Abbey in Derbyshire

Ever wondered what it was like to work below stairs at Calke Abbey? Or what life was like for a lady of the estate? Find out when you visit the house this year.

As you embark on a journey through Calke’s rooms, you’ll follow the lives of two women who lived and worked at Calke. Discover how Hilda Harpur Crewe became the first woman to inherit the estate, and experience what life was like for Ruth, the Under Parlour Maid who worked in the abbey.

Hilda: the first woman to inherit Calke

Sir Vauncey Harpur Crewe was succeeded by his eldest daughter, Hilda Ethelfrida, who had married the family solicitor – despite her father’s rule that ‘The Misses Crewe do not marry’.

Follow Hilda’s journey around the house and discover what it was like to run the Calke Estate in the 1940s. Discover the challenges that Hilda faced when handling the estate, such as the extensive death duties that needed paying, and the shutting up of some rooms in the house.

Ruth: life below stairs

As Under Parlour Maid at Calke Abbey, Ruth Masson helped with the day-to-day running of Calke Abbey.

Experience a day in Ruth’s life as your follow her story around the house, learning about the jobs she had to do on a daily basis – from scrubbing the flag stone floors in the entrance hall to cleaning the many mirrors and windows in the house. 

A family engaging with a costumed interpreter at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire

Person of the month

Join us on this journey as we discover the people who lived and worked on the estate, and then meet their modern-day equivalents who help to keep Calke alive.

When you come to explore the un-stately home, we can continue to share more stories about the fascinating people who lived and worked here. Thank you for your support.