Booking in for dinner with Mrs. G

They may not be as opulent as the gold room, as sparkly as the Faberge or as colourful as the maiolica but the visitor book and the dinner books for Polesden Lacey and Charles Street are among the most vital and valuable items in our collection. Why? Because they are a record of every single person that Maggie Greville entertained both here and in Mayfair.
The Polesden Lacey visitor book, which runs from 1907 with the visit of Edward VII up until Maggie’s Death in 1942, is full of the signatures of Kings, Queens, Maharajahs, writers, politicians, soldiers, you name it; if you set foot in Mrs. Greville’s house your signature went on those pages and you became part of the Greville collection.

 

The Polesden Lacey visitor book

The Polesden Lacey visitor book

 

The dinner books are particularly interesting as they give us an insight into Margret Greville as a hostess. The dishes, the numerous courses, the guests she entertained, who was here with whom; Margret’s parties were the ideal opportunity to introduce people, “oh you simply must meet…” The hostess with an eye on every last detail, she made sure never to serve a dish that a guest had had on a previous visit, unless of course that dish was a favorite in which case the would appear time and again.

 

The Charles Street Dinner Book. The names of the guests are on the left hand page, the courses on the right.

The Charles Street Dinner Book. The names of the guests are on the left hand page, the courses on the right.

 

 

The visitor book and the two dinner books are currently on display in the mansion on the balcony, alongside Margret Greville’s bridge book and a small leather bound book with the words My Pictures embossed on the cover; photos? No, it is a list of all of the painting collected by Maggie with details of artist, auction house and the amount she paid, another record of her collecting habits.

 

As these are so important to the collection we take a great deal of care of them. They are currently in a glass cabinet to protect them from environmental factors and on specially made supports to prevent stress on the spines. We turn the pages periodically to try ensure that the ink is not subjected to the light for too long which will cause fading, however we are aware that even if we can slow the deterioration we can’t stop it. There are some interesting plans afoot for these precious books over the next few years, plans that will help us to preserve them forever, for everyone. Watch this space to find out what the next chapter will bring…

2 thoughts on “Booking in for dinner with Mrs. G

  1. I visited Polesdon Lacey some years ago and was delighted. However, I was disappointed that there was no access to the kitchen area (below stairs) at that time, therefore am delighted to read that this is now in the works.

    Also, have the chef’s cook books ever been located? If so, I would love to see the National Trust develop a “Mrs. Grenville’s Recipe Book” and offer it for sale in future years.

    Keep up the good work.

    • Hi Linda,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I’m sorry that we haven’t been able to reply sooner. There are plenty of servants’ areas that we would love to open up in the future, the kitchen included. We are currently starting a project to work on making more of these areas available to the public.
      Unfortunately we do not have any original recipe books and often rely on reminiscences to help us learn more about what food what have been prepared and how it would have been served.
      For our Christmas event this year we have opened the Servery and the Linen Room. If you get a chance to visit us before Christmas then I would highly recommend visiting so that you can see these ‘below stairs’ spaces for yourself! We are open weekends only from Saturday 6 December to Sunday 21 December.
      Best wishes.

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