Barbara's grandmother and great-aunts worked as housemaids at Knole
Interviewed by Daphne Eatwell
Barbara Elgar comes from one of several ‘Knole families’, families with many members all working at Knole in different capacities.
My name is Barbara Elgar, and when I was a little girl my Grandma used to tell me all about this big house that she worked in when she was young. I think she must have been born about 1880, as far as I can work out, so this must have happened in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
My grandmother’s name was Ella Rebecca Neale, and she came from a big family: of course in those days families were big. I think they came from Yalding in Kent, and she told me that all her sisters worked as housemaids at Knole and her brothers worked as gardeners. And I know one of her brothers was called William Mancktelow Neale and another brother called Tom – I’m not sure if he was Mancktelow as well but he was Thomas Neale – and then her sisters were Annie, Lizzie, and Ruth [all housemaids]. And yes, she said they all worked there, and my uncle Will was a gardener all his life: even when he left Knole he was still a gardener and he loved it.
But my Grandma rose to the dizzy heights of becoming a lady’s maid and she went to Gibraltar with the family! Because she used to tell me about the orange trees, and that was another thing I couldn’t comprehend, oranges growing on trees. And the apes in Gibraltar, she told me about those as well. So she must have done pretty well to get to the dizzy heights of lady’s maid!