Maria Stevens

Knole Estate servant during the Great War

An incident from a written memoire

Rosamund Grosvenor (right) with Vita Sackville-West in 1913 | Photo copyright-free
Rosamund Grosvenor (right) with Vita Sackville-West in 1913
Photo copyright-free

Edith Maria Stevens worked at Knole early in life, but later emigrated to Australia.  Seeing a picture of Knole shortly before she died, in the 1990s, prompted her to write her reminiscences of her life as a maid.  Her words here are spoken by an actress.

This story concerns Rosamund Grosvenor, an early lover of Vita Sackville-West’s.

One of the guests at Knole was Miss Rosamund Grosvenor, daughter of Lady Grosvenor.  She went to the Red Cross classes twice a week.  The winter was closing in and food was short.  On the night of 28 December 1914 I had a bad cold and chest pains and went to see the doctor in Sevenoaks.  About 7pm a huge storm and torrents of rain and wind blew up.  I was soaked.  My boyfriend met me at the Lodge and as we went up the hill and round the bend we heard cries of ‘Help, Help!’

The Rolls-Royce car was chugging away.  The chauffeur was on the ground pinned down with a branch of an oak tree and Miss Grosvenor had a fractured skull.  We got another limb and lifted the tree off his back.  He was able to speak to me and told me to get in the car and shut off the engine, take the lady on my lap and comfort her.  I sent the lad up to the castle to get help.  There was a big dinner party on that night for 12 guests.  But all hell broke loose that night, because 100 big oak trees were blown down.  The chauffeur had a broken back.  When I went in the guests came out and Victoria [probably Vita] Sackville-West was wringing her hands and sobbing.  I collapsed on the floor in a puddle of water.  I got pleurisy.  Lady Grosvenor rushed down from London to help her daughter, and later gave me a silver watch and five sovereigns.

This page was added by Jonathan Sargant on 03/02/2014.

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