For the first time since being acquired by the National Trust in 1942, Polesden Lacey has opened up sections of the servants’ quarters as part of their 1930s Christmas event.
Until now, a visit to Polesden Lacey would involve exploring the opulent Edwardians rooms designed by Mewes and Davis, who also designed the Ritz, and used by Margaret Greville to entertain politicians, top authors and royalty. Now visitors can also get an insight into the real lives of the men and women who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that Mrs Greville’s guests had an unforgettable luxury experience at Polesden Lacey.
After enjoying the splendour of the dining room, dressed with lilies and roses, feathers and pearls, or the dazzling gold room leafed in 24 carat gold, visitors can explore the quiet spaces the guests would never see.
In the linen room, the best fresh white linen is ironed and stacked in the cupboard ready for tables throughout the house. Handmade paper streamers in bright colours adorn the back corridor where the servants would hold their own Christmas celebrations when all their duties were finally done.
In a small housemaids’ room the Welsh lilt of Florence Dicker can be heard describing what it was like preparing for Christmas parties at Polesden Lacey during the 1930s and receiving small gifts from Mrs Greville herself. Finally, visitors step into the severy where the smells of cinnamon and nutmeg hang in the air; this is where wine was decanted and food was kept warm before it was whisked into the dining room next door.
This year, Christmas at Polesden Lacey is a sensory extravaganza. 1930s music plays in and around the house putting a swing in one’s step, soundscapes throughout the rooms bring the house alive as if they parties never stopped, aromas immediately evoke memories of Christmas gone by, and everywhere fresh foliage, flowers and Christmas trees glint and sparkle. However, while the life of the party might have taken place around the piano in the gold room, the most interesting stories are those brought to life in the servants quarters. Stories of the men and women who woke unthinkably early to make and serve breakfast, light fires or polish shoes, and who retired late at night after the last of the champagne was long gone.
Christmas opening times, tours and admission prices: For the first time ever the house will be open every day from 11 am on Friday 4 until Wednesday 23 December. Non-member pay standard gardens admission plus adults £4, children £2, and families £10 with a free glass of mulled wine or soft drink with ticket. Members must also pay the additional Christmas event charge. Tours: Available weekdays only from 11am-12.30pm (book on arrival) followed by free flow exploration in the afternoon and at weekends until 4pm. Last entry to the house is 3.30pm. Entry to the house is not possible without gardens admission. Please note, for conservation reasons only parts of the house are open.