Diary of a Housemaid: Christmas Special


25 December 1935

It is long past midnight and poor Florrie is looking quite annoyed that I have yet to extinguish my lamp but I am still too excited to sleep. I have had the most wonderful day! Before I can settle my head on my pillow I must write about Christmas Day at Ickworth in my diary. I have never experienced a Christmas quite like it! At home we eat beef or, if we are lucky, chicken, but for Christmas lunch today I ate half a banquet. There was a whole turkey, roast potatoes, gravy, mince pies, Christmas pudding and many other mouth-watering treats. I felt a little guilty eating such a glorious meal with my family sitting around a comparatively empty table at home. I considered saving them some but I do not think that turkey and Christmas pudding would transport very well in my coat pocket and Father was given some venison by the Head Gamekeeper as a Christmas gift.

Of course the Christmas lunch was just one part of my day – though a rather important part according to my often grumbling stomach. My day began as normal; waking up at six o’clock and preparing the fires in the rooms upstairs. I then came down for breakfast and had a very jovial conversation with the other housemaids. We were all experiencing Christmas away from home for the first time and in the morning it did seem as though we were missing out on an important event that should be shared with family. Of course, I realise now that the staff at Ickworth are our family!

Anyway, once everyone had completed their morning duties we were called up to the main hall in the Rotunda – the large cold room that is a nightmare to sweep! I could hardly believe my eyes when I ascended the stairs. There was a huge tree placed in front of that scary statue under the main staircase. It was beautifully decorated; covered in toys and lights. Some families from the estate arrived and Lord and Lady Bristol led us in singing carols. Gifts were then handed to the children of the visiting families. It was so lovely to see their happy smiling faces. It reminded me of my younger brothers at home. I do hope they had a good day as well!

After the communal festivities the cooks prepared lunch. We ate first, Lord and Lady Bristol choosing a late lunch to allow us our little party. Then we performed our afternoon duties. Towards the close of the day the footmen and hall boy cleared the servant’s hall of chairs and pushed the tables to the side of the room. We housemaids had made some paper chains and the boys hung them around the room. We then spent the late afternoon and evening dancing and playing games as one of the ladies maids played the piano. What a night! What fun!

And that is not the end of it. Next week, once the post-Christmas hunting season has finished, Lord and Lady Bristol throw a servant’s ball! A ball! I am so excited. I am told that it is held upstairs in the Library. Miss Edgeley says that food and drinks are provided and that Lord and Lady Bristol attend at the start. Apparently Lord Bristol then dances with Mrs. Seddons, the housekeeper, and Lady Bristol with Mr. Prosser, the estate manager. John, the hall boy, made me laugh. He said that the highlight of the night is not when Lord and Lady Bristol join us but when they leave. He remarked, and I quote, “that is when the fun starts”. I am just so excited to be able to dress-up and go upstairs. To walk those grand corridors and dance in that elegant room as a guest rather than a member of staff in uniform. The promise of this ball will help me through the week – I have been warned that the post-Christmas hunting season proves a very busy time for us housemaids.

It seems as though Florrie has fallen asleep even with the light of my lamp and my furious scribbling with this pencil. It was an exhausting day. I suppose I really should put my diary down for the night as I do have to be up at six again tomorrow and I believe I am not that far behind Florrie in drifting off into a deep sleep. Happy Christmas everyone. I hope your Christmas celebrations will be as enjoyable as mine have been.

Rose Bailey


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