Courtroom drama for cook-turned-housekeeper

It was the early 20th-century, staff numbers were dwindling and cook-turned-housekeeper, Ellen Penketh’s duties were expanded to include keeping the household accounts.

Accused of stealing

The newly married Mrs Yorke loved to entertain, but struggled to cope with running a stately home and managing finances. When she realised the accounts were in poor shape, she accused Ellen Penketh of stealing from the family.

Visit the dining room and discover portraits of Erddig owners since 1716 hanging on the walls
35059 Dining Room at Erddig designed by Thomas Hopper

Not guilty

The accusation backfired when the Yorkes took Ellen to court for theft and Ellen was found not guilty by the jury; a sign of the times perhaps?

Discover more about Ellen Penketh’s story on our guided tour, ‘A Housekeeper’s Tale’ and decide for yourself who was guilty in this sorry story.

Tessa Boase

Ellen Penketh is featured in Tessa Boase’s book ‘The Housekeepers’ Tale’ on sale in Erddig’s shop which draws on new sources to tell extraordinary stories of women who ran some of Britain’s most prominent households. Besides Ellen’s tale, there is an unwanted pregnancy, a forbidden love affair and a prison sentence.