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An Edwardian Christmas at the National Trust's Polesden Lacey

PUBLISHED: 16:57 24 November 2011 | UPDATED: 15:39 20 February 2013

Enjoy a traditional Edwardian Christmas at Polesden Lacey (Photo: John Miller).jpg

Enjoy a traditional Edwardian Christmas at Polesden Lacey (Photo: John Miller).jpg

In this month's column from the National Trust, house manager at Polesden Lacey Paul Dearn explains how they recreate an Edwardian Christmas at the house

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine December 2008

In this month's column from the National Trust, house manager at Polesden Lacey Paul Dearn explains how they recreate an Edwardian Christmas at the house


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For the past few years at Polesden, we have put a lot of effort into recreating a traditional Edwardian Christmas for our visitors to experience and enjoy. We have many records of what Christmas was like during the time of the previous owner, the Hon Mrs Ronald Greville, and so try to be as true as possible to how she would have done things.

Mrs Greville was a legendary Edwardian hostess who entertained at Polesden on a lavish scale from 1906 to 1942. Over the festive season, she would invite a select number of her close friends to the house, where she treated them to the most elaborate menus. Many of her guests described the atmosphere as 'magical'.

As well as entertaining her friends, she also treated her staff, too, and every year she would hold a servants' ball with food, dancing and gifts for all. According to our records, one of the servants remembers receiving a box of lace-edged handkerchiefs one year, tablets of perfumed soap another year and boxes of chocolates, too. She also recalls home-made wine served with the Christmas meal and the gardeners bringing in the Christmas trees, which were then beautifully decorated.

Deck the halls
Today, our gardeners bring in as much foliage from the estate as possible - things like holly, ivy and mistletoe - while our 16ft tree comes from a local nursery. We put the tree in the hall so, after being greeted by the butler, Mr Bole, it is the first thing you see when you come through the door. We have a number of period decorations that we dress the tree with and we are lucky enough to have a team of dedicated volunteers who have made replica period ornaments for it, too. The house is also adorned with traditional fruit and floral displays and Christmas cards, which this year will come from the Polesden Lacey Infant School. In the dining room, the table is laid for dessert - traditionally the penultimate course as Mrs Greville's guests would have finished their meal with a small savoury.

We also fill the house with music - either traditional festive songs from the gramophone or tunes from the Steinway. Visitors can even sit in the chairs in the hall and soak up the atmosphere. To really make our guests feel they have stepped back in time, all the Polesden staff are dressed in Edwardian costumes (also made by our talented volunteers) ready to welcome them with the same warm hospitality that was shown by Mrs Greville.

We would love you to join us and experience Mrs Greville's house at Christmas, so do drop by from Thursday December 4 to Sunday December 7. Oh, and don't miss Father Christmas on various days from the end of November onwards.




  • Polesden Lacey, Great Bookham, near Dorking, Surrey RH56BD:01372458203




Discover more aboutthe National Trust's work and eventsin Surrey every month in their A View from the Trust column in Surrey Life magazine.

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