Lord Sackville visited Knole many times when he was young, but did not expect to inherit the Sackville title from his Uncle Lionel, the 6th Baron Sackville of Knole. Robert has many memories of exploring the house and the workings of Knole Estate from years past, as the old, almost feudal, ways of life were finally dying out.
Robert Sackville-West, Lord Sackville
Childhood days at Knole, 1967-1970s
Interviewed by Marcia Barton and Carol Cheeseman
Roaming the attics and the showrooms at Knole
You mentioned that you loved roaming in the attics and up on the roofs. Were you ever allowed in the showrooms, were you allowed to wander?
RS-W: Yes, I’m sure we were. We could basically wander, in those days, anywhere. We would spend hours on the roofs, nobody really minded or cared, it was terrific. The showrooms we would also go in to, the only constraint there was when the alarms might or might not be on. But apart from that we would wander at will.
You didn’t feel tempted, like Vita was, to pick up the silver hairbrushes or anything like that?
RS-W: No, I think we were relatively respectful of the things. I remember when I was about 15, or 14, and in those days my father [Hugh Sackville-West] every night used to go on a round of the showrooms at about 9.30 or 10 o’ clock at the end of the day, I’m not quite sure why, and he had very bad asthma at one stage, and I remember volunteering and for one of the holidays aged 14 or 15, doing that round on my own by torchlight.
Mrs Hutchinson and her flat at Knole
Mrs Hutchinson was a cleaner who worked for my mother, who was an elderly lady; I mean she was probably in her 70s when she took on the job, or certainly in her late 60s. She was a very genteel woman who had fallen on hard times. Her husband had been really quite a famous writer of the 1930s, I think, called A.S.M. Hutchinson, who’d written this very best selling novel called ’If Winter Comes’, which was great. She was reduced to cleaning and she lived in the little flat just off the north wing which still, in that way that Knole has, still bears her name, just as, for some reason or other, Mr. Mason’s rooms, unoccupied now by him for at least 40 years, still bear his name.