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What the butler saw at the National Trust's Polesden Lacey

PUBLISHED: 16:54 24 November 2011 | UPDATED: 15:54 20 February 2013

Christopher is perhaps better-known to most as Mr Bole - Polesden Lacey's butler!

Christopher is perhaps better-known to most as Mr Bole - Polesden Lacey's butler!

As our National Trust houses re-open again this month, Christopher Bishop, a volunteer at Polesden Lacey in Great Bookham, tells us about his role

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine March 2009

As our National Trust houses re-open again this month, Christopher Bishop, a volunteer at Polesden Lacey in Great Bookham, tells us about his role


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I had heard various appeals from the National Trust for volunteers but sort of dismissed it thinking it wasn't for me. Then, as a member, I received a letter about a coffee morning at Polesden Lacey for anyone who wanted to find out more about volunteering, so I went along - anything for a free cup of coffee! I had recently retired and was already very much involved in the Rotary Club, plus I am definitely a people person, so it all seemed like a good idea. The rest, as they say, is history and here I am seven years later!

My main role at Polesden is to act as a room steward, which means that when the house is open to the public I welcome them and answer any questions they may have about the rooms or their contents. I knew nothing about the house and its history before I became a volunteer - I hadn't even been here. Now I have built up such great knowledge about it, but am still always learning something new. This place has so many different stories to tell and it's fascinating to listen to the staff talk about it - we even learn things from our visitors. All the staff and volunteers here are great - they are so supportive and we all get on very well.

Bowled over!
One of my more unusual roles, but one that seems to have stuck, is that every Christmas when the house is decorated and opened to the public, and sometimes for other special events throughout the year, I dress up as 'Mr Bole', the butler. I welcome our guests and make them feel at home because that is what Mrs Greville, the legendary Edwardian hostess who lived here, would have had Mr Bole do.

I like to think that rather than play the butler, I actually become him and that our visitors really become swept up in the atmosphere as though they have just stepped back in time. One day, after I had been talking to some children in the dining room, one of the other stewards came up to me and said that she felt the children thought I lived here with Mrs Greville - success! Mr Bole was a true gentleman, one from the old school, and since there are not many of those around any more I hope that when people meet him at Polesden Lacey they are made to feel special.

I have really enjoyed my time at Polesden and continue to do so. I am certainly looking forward to returning for the new season and to seeing the new facilities and, of course, to welcoming our new visitors. I must say that being retired I have less spare time than when I was working!




  • Polesden Lacey, Great Bookham, near Dorking, Surrey RH56BD:01372458203. If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering for the National Trust, whether as a room steward in a house or getting your hands dirty outside, call 01372 453401 or send an e-mail to se.volunteering@nationaltrust.org.uk


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