Biography Henrietta

Notes on the Servants at Marble Hill House

Whilst sparse, the records and correspondence give us some information on the servants in the house. They are mentioned in letters, and in wills. The following notes are by Bruce Gordon-Smith, an MHS guide.

Susan (housekeeper) / Susanna Graydon (housekeeper)

The earliest reference to a servant is in a teasing letter written to Henrietta by Alexander Pope, the poet. Pope describes to Henrietta a visit, made in her absence, by him and his friends to the partially completed Marble Hill House. The date is June 20th 1726.

“We cannot omit taking this occasion to congratulate you on the increase of your family, for your cow is very happily delivered of the better sort, I mean a female calf. We have given her the name of Caesar’s wife Calpurnia. This Roman lady was suckled by a cow from whence she took that name. In order to celebrate this birthday, we had a cold dinner at Marble Hill. Mrs Susan offered us wine upon the occasion – we could not refuse it. Our entertainment consisted of flesh and fish and the lettuce of a Greek island called Cos. We have some thoughts of dining there tomorrow, to celebrate the day after the birthday and on Friday to celebrate the day after that, where we intend to entertain Dean Swift”.

Mrs Susan is clearly the housekeeper or maybe the cook – or both. The question arises whether this Susan is the same person as the housekeeper Susanna Graydon, given a bequest in the 1758 Will.

Miss Beddingfield (companion)

The next example shows Henrietta showing a very keen interest in the welfare of her niece Dorothy Hobart. Following the death of Henrietta’s sister in law, Dorothy was sent to live at Marble Hill. The year is 1741, the month April and George Berkeley exchanged letters with his wife about a distant relative Miss Beddingfield who was acting as companion or governess to Dorothy.

On April 4th Henrietta writes:

“Miss Beddingfield was much ruffled this morning (by Dorothy). You remember that the night before you went I was under great apprehensions that her little companion would engage her in an affair very improper for her. But I do think it is now perfectly well settled without her knowing anything of it.”

What this was all about we do not know but on April 21, George adds his comments:

“I was always apprehensive that Dorothy might learn ill tricks from Mrs Beddingfield and keeping such constant company with that paralytic woman might in time shake herself, if you did not prevent that bad habit.”

The problem was clearly sorted out – for the moment.

John Finch (valet)

George Berkeley had his own personal valet John Finch. Henrietta must have regarded him with affection because he was given £10 quarterly for life – or £40 a year – in her 1758 Will. This will received probate in 1767/8 so he did receive this money if he was still alive.

Mr Russell (Butler)

No Information

Mr Burrows (Steward)

Mr Burrows was living in a property on the estate until 1768/69. He may have been the Steward to Henrietta since it would be unusual for a servant of lesser rank to be allowed to live in a farmhouse on the estate with six acres of land attached. The land was formally leased out in 1769. Marie Draper states that he worked for Henrietta Howard in her book “Marble Hill House and its owners” (GLC 1970, chapter 8 – page

Elizabeth Richards (Lady’s maid)

Elizabeth Richards, the lady’s maid, faithfully cared for Henrietta during her last years of illness. Henrietta held Elizabeth in such high regard that she gave her a legacy of £100 in the 1765 Will. This was a huge amount to give a servant for the time. However it appears she may not have received it as probate was granted on the earlier 1758 will. The list of furniture in the 1767 inventory for the large servant garret on the second floor far exceeded the sparse furniture provided for the other garret bedrooms. Mrs Elizabeth Richards is the most likely occupant of this room, and the furnishings reflect Henrietta’s high regard for Elizabeth.

Thomas Hurd (Footman to Henrietta)

Thomas Hurd, was given £6 annually for life in the 1758 will.

Other Staff

Junior roles were housemaid, kitchen maid, scullery maid and footman. Outside servants were coachman and gardener. We know the names of the three maids Miss Betty, Miss Mary and Miss Dolly but we are not told which positions they occupied.

Moody the Gardener

Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope thought that Henrietta’s gardener, Moody, passed too much time spending his wages tippling in the Dog and Partridge. Swift commemorated him in poetry, adopting the persona of Marble Hill House complaining about not having its lawns brushed enough:

Him [Alexander Pope] twice a-week I here expect,
To rattle Moody for neglect;
An idle rogue, who spends his quartridge
In tippling at the Dog and Partridge;
And I can hardly get him down
Three times a-week to brush my gown.

Personal Page Boy

William Pyne’s The History of the Royal Residences (1816–1819) suggests that Henrietta Howard’s page is depicted by William Kent clinging to the outside of the balustrade in Kent’s Kensington Palace staircase fresco of royal servants.

Henrietta’s Dog Fop

Lucy Worsley, Historic Royal Places curator, has suggested the small dog which can just be seen peering through the next balustrade might even be Henrietta’s dog, Fop.

Henrietta Hotham’s maid

Henrietta Hotham great niece lived with Henrietta until the age of about fourteen and appears to have had a maid to look after her with whom she had a good relationship. This is evidenced by Walpole’s account of a New Year’s Day party in 1764. Having received a ring as a present she rushed off to show her maid.

Henrietta’s Staff after 1760

On the accession of George the Third in 1760, Henrietta lost her valuable royal pension of £2000 per annum. Consequently she would have had been forced to rely on fewer servants as her financial position deteriorated. Caroline Pegum of English Heritage puts the number of servants during the 1760’s at no more than a dozen including part time staff. Senior servants were steward / butler/ housekeeper/ cook/ lady’s maid. It is possible that housekeeper and cook roles were combined at this time.

Correspondence between Henrietta and Lord Chesterfield

Lord Chesterfield and Henrietta, assisted by Horace Walpole, engaged in a satirical correspondence whereby Henrietta and Lord Chesterfield adopted the persona of their servants. Betty, Henrietta’s maid, is made to sound Irish, supposedly writing to Lord Chesterfield’s footman:

“Blessid fathers, I never writ to a man in my days but our farmer and he can’t read. But I knows he gets the Doctur to read it to him so that’s no sin you know. Well, well. God’s will and my Lady’s be done. We poor folks must do as we are bid and if grate folks makes us do ill, they are ansurable for it. I have bought me a negligee and a few odd things that I wants. And my lady is pure well, only she coffs a little now and then all day long. She is as good a lady as ever trod in shoolether !!!”

Helpfully, Lord Chesterfield, in the persona of his footman, Thomas Allen, explains that servants called Mr, Mrs, or Miss with a surname denotes seniority and those similarly with just a Christian name are of lower status. From this and other sources we can establish that Mr Burrows was the Steward, Mr Russell was the Butler and Elizabeth Richards was the Lady’s maid. Maids of lower status were called Miss Betty, Miss Mary and Miss Dolly.