Preparing for a Christmas party - letters home from Polesden Lacey in 1937

A historic photo of male and female servants at the back door at Polesden Lacey

Creative writing volunteer, Alison Gleeson, has written letters home from the perspective of a housemaid at Polesden Lacey during the Christmas of 1937. This letter is based on research, conducted by the house team, into a housemaid's life and duties in the run up to one of Mrs Greville's famous Christmas parties.

Monday, 2nd December, 1937 - Polesden Lacey

Dear Mum,   

We're right in the middle of all the planning for Christmas and everyone is getting so excited. Mr Bole and Mrs Davidson have a list as long as your arm of all the extra things we got to do to get things ready, but everyone seems in such a good mood today, it must be the Christmas spirit.  

The gardeners bought the Christmas tree into the main hall today and what a fuss - it's 16ft tall! I could hear the commotion from downstairs but it does look very grand.  A few of us are to be allowed to help Mrs Davidson decorate this year. Mrs G's brought a lot of new decorations from London, including some of that new tinsel and ‘lametta’ - we're always in fashion here!   

As usual, she's pulling out all the stops to impress her guests, I think she's invited 12 this year, and you'll never guess what's on the menu. They'll have turkey and Christmas pudding, as you'd expect, but she's also added a 'Waldorf salad', whatever that is. Apparently they eat it in America. But that's not all. She's also having - wait for it - turtle soup!  I've only seen turtles in a book and I don’t want to be going anywhere near the kitchen when they are cooking them up.

Whipping up a storm in the kitchens at Polesden Lacey
A historic photo of three female servants and a male chef in the kitchen at Polesden Lacey
Whipping up a storm in the kitchens at Polesden Lacey

But as you know, I really enjoy my food and the servants’ Christmas lunch will be extra welcome after the extra early start and extra duties for the guests on Christmas morning - we'll be starting at 4.30am. Mrs G also makes a big show of tea at Christmas served up with dundee cake and mince pies. I don't mind this one bit as last year cooked baked extra cakes for us downstairs to enjoy and it marks when we can start to relax a little more into our evening.  

No more for now. I've got bannisters to polish. Send my love to dad, I'll be thinking of you both at this special time of year.  

All my love,  


PS Learn more about how the servants prepared for Mrs Greville's Christmas parties on a visit to Polesden Lacey this festive season.