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The Fernhurst Society

Tales from the Archives - 19

Christmas at the Big House

Christmas at the Big House was great fun or a lot of hard work, depending on which side of the green baize door you were. Violet Lambert recalled working at Ropes, home of Lord and Lady Riverdale in the 1920s. For her it meant a 19 hour day. She was parlour maid but also ladies’ maid, which meant late nights as well as early mornings.

The Riverdales had five children and liked a quiet Christmas, but everything had to be just right. The best Sheffield silver, linen and crystal glasses polished until they gleamed. The staff of five would spend many weeks preparing for the Christmas period.

Christmas Day began at 6am with housework and taking in the early morning tea, then the family would come down to an enormous breakfast. While the family relaxed and opened their presents the staff were hard at work preparing for lunch. Violet did manage to slip away to attend the service at Haslemere Methodist Church. After the family lunch, and a hurried servants’ lunch, it was time to change uniform and serve tea in the drawing room and receive their presents, usually something like handkerchiefs’ said Violet, ‘certainly never money or jewellery’.

The staff then had to serve a cold supper and clear away after, but were up early on Boxing Day as Lord Riverdale always held a traditional Boxing Day shoot. For the staff it meant lots of guests, lots of picnic hampers, plus all the other meals. Violet counted herself lucky that the Riverdales did not give or attend late evening parties and were usually home by 1am. All Violet then had to do was help her undress and tidy things up before she too could go to bed.

If you would like to know more about this story, or research other local topics, the Archive is open on Tuesdays, 2.30-5pm in the Village Hall. Other times by arrangement.

Christine Maynard
Fernhurst Archive

One of a series of short articles bringing you some of the incidents from our rich village history. Collated by Christine Maynard, based on documents preserved at the Fernhurst Archives, these originally were published in the monthly Fernhurst News.

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