SASSOON: The Mystery in Arthur Hussey’s Diaries

Sasson pic 2

When I had the privilege to be involved in the transcription of Arthur Hussey’s World War I Diaries during 2014, the name of “Sassoon” encountered on the Western Front immediately raised intrigue.

One of the idiosyncrasies of Arthur’s diary entries are that he refers to people only by their surname and almost never giving a first name or even an initial. Thus much research was required to confirm the correct identities of the many people mentioned. And so it was with Sassoon.

The first well-known person of that name to come to mind was, of course, Siegfried Sassoon, the writer and poet. After all, Siegfried had lived nearby at Matfield; his mother, Theresa Sassoon, was well known at Scotney, being a friend and acquaintance of Mrs Rosamond Hussey; and, he had had an illustrious career during the Great War. However, the very first attempts to confirm the identity of whom Arthur referred to as ‘Sassoon’ revealed that it could not have been Siegfried Sassoon.

The two references to Sassoon in the diary were from early November 1914. Firstly, on 7 November when Arthur went to Merville “in a big Rolls Royce belonging to Sassoon”; and, two days later, when he “. . . went off with Amery in Sassoon’s new car to Hinges”. The Sassoon name never appears again in any of the eleven diaries.

Rolls Royce 2

At this time, Siegfried Sassoon was still in England; having enlisted into the Sussex Yeomanry on 31 July 1914, just a few days before War was declared. Whilst undergoing training and being encamped near Canterbury, Kent, around 5 October he was asked to exercise the farrier-major’s horse. He attempted to jump a hedge but did not see the single strand of wire which tripped the horse causing it to somersault, unseat its rider, and roll over on him badly breaking his right arm. The break was slow to heal, later requiring the insertion of a silver plate. This was removed in January 1915 and was followed by a long period of recuperation back home at Matfield. The result was that Siegfried was not finally commissioned into the Army, as a 2nd Lieutenant, until 29 May 1915, and did not arrive onto the Western Front until November 1915 – a whole year after the references in Arthur’s diary.

Although descended from the immensely wealthy Jewish Sassoon family, Siegfried’s father Ezra had married out of the faith. His mother, Theresa Thornycroft, was Catholic and Ezra was immediately disinherited. Although the couple separated some years later, Theresa continued to bring up her three sons at Matfield, albeit in modest style. It is therefore highly unlikely that Siegfried would have been in a position to purchase a Rolls Royce.

So, if it wasn’t Siegfried Sassoon then who was it? I decided to reconstruct his family tree to find a suitable contender.

Little is known of Siegfried’s elder brother Michael, although he does not appear to have had any war service. His younger brother Hamo was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, but does not appear to have served on the Western Front, and died from wounds in Gallipoli on 1 November 1915. So it wasn’t them. However . . . .

. . . . enter Sir Philip Albert Gustave David Sassoon, MP., 3rd Baronet of Kensington Gore.

Philip, just two years younger, was a second cousin to Siegfried. They both shared the same great-grandfather, but not the same grand-mother. David Sassoon (1792-1864) was a member of a rich Jewish trading family, and was the treasurer of Baghdad, when it was part of Iraq, between 1817 and 1829. When the Turkish regime ushered the Jewish community out of Iraq he emigrated to Bombay (now Mumbai) via Persia, and with his sons built a trading and banking empire between Bombay, Hong Kong and Shanghai. They competed in the established triangular trade of Indian yarn and opium to China, Chinese goods to England, and Lancashire cotton goods to the Far East. David Sassoon used his fortune towards considerable philanthropy in many communities, a tradition that was continued through the family.

Philip was descended from David’s first marriage and Siegfried from the second.

Philip’s father, Sir Edward Albert Sassoon, was elected Liberal Unionist Party Member of Parliament for Hythe in March 1899 and had succeeded to the baronetcy of Kensington Gore in 1896. In 1887 he had married Aline de Rothschild, a member of the Paris banking family.

On the death of his father in 1912, Philip was also elected MP for Hythe, and with his considerable inherited fortune set about purchasing the Port Lympne Estate near Hythe, employing the architect Herbert Baker to design an extravagantly opulent new mansion. In 1923 Philip Tilden largely rebuilt another mansion for Sir Philip at Trent Park, Cockfosters, in a more reserved English style. Indeed, Christopher Hussey himself wrote an article in Country Life (17 January 1931 issue, pp. 66-7) most appreciative of the contrast in style.

Sir Philip built a reputation as one of the greatest hosts in Britain, sumptuously entertaining members of British high society with “a dream of another world – the white-coated footmen serving endless courses of rich but delicious food, the Duke of York coming in from golf… Winston Churchill arguing over the teacups with George Bernard Shaw, Lord Balfour dozing in an armchair, Rex Whistler absorbed in his painting… while Philip himself flitted from group to group, an alert, watchful, influential but unobtrusive stage director – all set against a background of mingled luxury, simplicity and informality, brilliantly contrived…” One frequent guest was Lawrence of Arabia.

It was also said he had a fleet of Rolls Royce cars . . . .

Sir Philip became an enthusiastic airman. At Port Lympne, Philip Tilden added a bachelor wing to accommodate young airmen from the local Romney Marsh flying field. He later became Secretary of State for Air, and was Honorary Commanding Officer of 601 (County of London) Squadron – known as ‘The Millionaire’s Squadron’, having six millionaire members. He died on 3 June 1939, aged 50, of complications from influenza.

However, it is his career during the Great War that interests us here.

Sir Philip was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant in the East Kent Yeomanry, but was soon to serve as private secretary to Field Marshal Haig throughout the war.

Following on from Arthur’s ‘Sassoon’ diary entries early in November 1914, a few weeks later on 1st December he describes being invited to the Headquarters of General Henry Rawlinson, Chateau Demont, Merville, for a visit by King George V at which President Poincarré of France unexpectedly turned up together with General Joffre. His Majesty was accompanied by Haig, and it is known that Sir Philip was also present, his social contacts and skills having proved useful. We cannot be certain that Arthur Hussey actually met Sir Philip Sassoon but it seems most likely that they would at least have brushed shoulders.

The famous meeting was some two years later the subject of a painting by the British artist Herbert Arnould Olivier. The painting “Merville, 1 December 1914, the Meeting of King George V and President Poincaré of France at the British Head Quarters at Merville, France on 1 December 1914”, now in the Government Art Collection.

Arthur mentions later being requested to provide a photo of him by the artist, and it is not too fanciful to suppose that there is a subaltern in the background that is Sir Philip Sassoon.

(c) Jasper Olivier; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

John Davies

House Volunteer

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Tria Juncto in Uno


In the Attic, in a black metal container, the volunteers at Scotney Castle discovered what can only be described as ‘an exhibition in a box’. The box contained the First World War diaries of Brigadier General Arthur Hussey, who was third son of Edward Hussey III. Along with his diaries dating from 1914-1919, the box also contained letters, photos and medals, which have all been put on display in the exhibition ‘Arthur’s War’.

On Sunday 21th February 1915, Arthur Hussey wrote in his war diaries that he had “heard about my C.B.”, that he would receive the honour of becoming a Companion of The Order of the Bath. Later in the year, on Monday 12th July 1915 he went to Buckingham Palace and was invested with the C.B. by His Majesty”.

order of the bath

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath was established by George I on the 18th May 1725 as a military order. This was a revived version of an older custom dating back to medieval times when part of the ceremony of knighthood included a ritual bath, with the earliest official document of the bathing and creation of a knight dating back to 1128. The revived order consisted of the Sovereign, a Great Master and 36 Knights Companions. In 1815 the Order was then enlarged to include three classes of knights: the Knights Grand Cross, Knights Commander and Companions. Further changes included the addition of a civil section of Knights Commander and Companions in 1847 as well women being admitted to the Order in 1971.

The Order of Bath is mainly awarded to officers in the Armed Services, with numbers being increased in times of war or for recognition of services in military events. Brigadier General Arthur Hussey was awarded the position of Companion, which is for ranked officers who have been mentioned in despatches for distinction in a command position in a combat situation.

The military badge consists of a gold Maltese Cross, enamelled in white. Each of the eight points is decorated with a small gold ball, with a figure of a lion in between each arm of the cross. In the centre of the cross are three crowns which refers to the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland which is again emphasised on the obverse with the representation of a rose, a thistle and a shamrock issuing from a sceptre. The crowns and the symbols of these three countries are also highlighted in the motto written around the red circular ring: Tria Juncta in Uno-‘Three joined in One’.

As well as having Arthur’s Order of the Bath on display in the exhibition, we also have his miniature medals. Arthur Hussey was a seasoned soldier entering the First World War at the age of 51, his miniatures therefore show his previous military awards from various countries as well as those received for his efforts in the First World War.

From left to right we have: The Order of Bath; Order of St Michael and St George; South Africa Campaign Medal 1902; 1914 Star; British War Medal 1914-1920; Allied Victory Medal 1914-1919; Coronation Medal King George V 1911; Order of Prince Danilo I (Montenegro); and the Order of St Maurice and St Lazerus (Italy).

minatures medal

The exhibition Arthur’s War which shows a very personal viewpoint of one man’s experience of the First World War is running until the 22nd March 2015, and with more letters having only recently been discovered Brigadier General Arthur Hussey is sure to make reappearance at Scotney Castle. The exhibition like the motto on the medal Tria Juncto in Uno ‘Three joined in One’ has three perspectives to offer: the everyday factual diary of events from Arthur’s tour of duty; the personal letters written to his sister Gertrude and finally what is revealed about Arthur Hussey as a person- a distinguished soldier and loving brother.

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Look down, look down, show mercy if you can

Scraped floor 2

You may have seen signs saying ‘Don’t walk on the grass’ or maybe the National Trust favourite of placing pinecones on furniture as a discreet warning not to sit on the collection but you never see a sign saying ‘Don’t walk on the floor’- perhaps you should…

Of all the objects in the collection, an historic floor is the most used and abused. The floors suffer the weight of heavy furniture, thousands of pairs of feet, as well as abrasion and soiling caused by grit and mud being brought in on the soles of people’s shoes. The floors of any National Trust property are also part of the collection and have to be maintained, protected and conserved just like any painting, textile or ceramic.

The wooden floors on the ground floor of the New House at Scotney Castle are parquet flooring, made from square blocks laid out in a geometric design. The parquet floor in the Hall, Garden Lobby and Dining Room are original to the House, installed in the 1840s. This wooden flooring, supplied from Germany, was recommended to the Edward Hussey III by Lord De La Warr. The parquet floors in the adjoining Study and Library date to 1904 and were installed by Howard and Sons, London. The floors therefore are highly significant, from the original parquet flooring from the design of the House, to any subsequent changes by family members adding to the story of the building and possible changes in the purposes of the rooms. So what precautions do we put in place to help look after these historic floors?

Scotney Castle has approximately 90,000 visitors coming around the New House every year, that’s a lot of pairs of feet bringing in mud, grit and causing general abrasion to the floors. There are a few preventative measures that can be used to stop some of the dirt coming into the house, starting outside the front door.

Front door

Historic fixtures such as boot scrapers and brushes were put outside the doors of properties to clean people’s shoes, an historic fixture which is still in use today. Next in the line of defence is a coconut mat, another historic housekeeping fixture to take the grit off of shoes.

Once inside the House, we have strips of protective carpets known as druggets, which are long strips of matting which provides protection for the floor as well as indicating a visitor route. We also have what we call sacrificial carpets, which are possible reproductions or have been brought in with the idea that they can be replaced when needed. Research carried out for the National Trust has shown that it takes approximately up to 3 metres of carpet to remove grit from the bottom of visitor’s shoes! However, from personal experience, this seems to be a bit on the conservative side as on a daily basis the House team have to hoover bits of stone up from all over the ground floor and even up the staircase.


However, even with all these mats and druggets, not all the floors can be covered and there are exposed parts of floors especially at doorways that are in danger of damage. Another preventative method that can help create a layer of protection is waxing the floors. Wax is applied by hand at Scotney for these small areas, working in circular movements to cover the wood and protect the grain. We then leave the wax overnight and buff it in the morning, as the saying goes- wax on, wax off. We will then apply more wax when needed, particularly when we notice the wood getting dry and becoming worn.

Waxing floors

So the next time you walk into a National Trust property, before you become inspired and overwhelmed by amazing paintings and furniture, don’t forget to look down for a moment at what will be some original and fascinating floors with their own unique story to tell.

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Kitchen scene

Since 1915, the buxom kitchen maid has looked pensively upon the Dining Room of Scotney Castle; is she daunted at the prospect of what to cook or is she wondering how to store this amazing produce? Art is never this simple and within Beuckelaer’s many works of kitchen and market scenes, there is a hidden world of messages and meanings to be picked out and understood.

Beuckelaer was born in Antwerp and honed his artistic skills under the mentorship of his uncle Peiter Aertsen. We have to take into account the context of Beuckelaer’s work; the political, economic and theological turmoil of the times in order to better understand what is going on in this painting. Prior to Beuckelaer’s era the majority of art was of a divine or religious genre. So, when Beuckelaer began producing kitchen scenes, experts of the time didn’t consider ‘still life’ to be art in the true sense of the word. However, things were changing at a rapid rate as the Renaissance period began to take hold and changes were afoot, particularly for Beuckelaer and the low countries of the Netherlands.

Spain ruled the Netherlands, however, by 1566 a revolt took place; Protestants began religious riots against Spanish Catholicism with the destruction of places of worship. Eventually, in 1574, William of Orange drove the Spanish from the Netherlands and the beginnings of the Dutch Republic began to emerge.  

So here we have a painting that bucks the trend of all previously acceptable notions of art. Beuckelaer’s food is so realistic that you could almost pick the fruit from the painting or peel a couple of carrots for dinner. His clever use of light shows glass tumblers (expensive items of the time) one of which has been tossed on its side indicating a fragility between the two messages within the work; the divine moral depiction alongside the temptation of everyday life. He draws our eye to the foreground where he has strategically placed a mere kitchen maid to be the prime focal point of our attention. In earlier art forms, working people were often caricatured but Beuckelaer takes the theme of everyday folk and gives them prominence and dignity. He shows a working girl, her sleeves rolled up ready to tackle the preparation and cooking of the venison joint. Next to this are several lemons, which at the time, were an exotic luxury and the maid is resting her hand on a large cabbage, why? According to some experts, the humble cabbage is thought to symbolise excessive luxury and expense. The food in the painting gives rise to thoughts of over indulgence or gluttony and when one considers that Beuckelaer’s work was commissioned by wealthy Italian merchants, it makes sense that they would wish to have their wealth and power on display.

Beuckelaer would make tracings of particular objects in paintings that enabled him to incorporate them into new works and thus increase production; he and his associates were able to flood the art market with works of this genre but he made very little money during his short life.

Scotney’s Kitchen Scene contains objects used by Beuckelaer in other commisions namely The Four Elements held at the National Gallery, London. A crucial factor within this painting is how the biblical message of Martha and Mary has been relegated to the background. Beuckelaer was among a growing band of Humanist painters but perhaps it might have been a step too far not to indulge his appreciative viewers with a divine or moral message, after all it was what society had been used to for centuries. Mary represents the Catholic contemplative aspect to life as she listens attentively to Jesus while Martha, who has been busy preparing dinner in the kitchen, gets fed up and complains to Jesus about Mary’s laziness; Martha represents action and salvation.

So, here we have a painting that reveals wealth and opulence against a backdrop of religious turmoil and economic change. The literary and cultural growth of a world where fish sellers, kitchen staff, grocers and merchant traders are beginning to have an influential role in the emergence of a new Europe, while the virgin worlds of the East and West Indies reveal new and desirable treasures to a growing global consumer market.

I like to think of Beuckelaer’s kitchen as a metaphor for living life to the full, our own mortality waiting just around the corner; as for Beuckelaer’s genius, the following inscription says it all:                       


“This Man painted for a meagre reward, while life remained (to him). But his pictures have no meagre glory, whose paintings and kitchens we honour after his death. Nor is this surprising. A learned kitchen pleases many.”

Lesley McCall

Conservation Assistant

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Hedge Laying

Whilst the house team tackles the world of mould, the complexities of the sandstone and celebrates a fantastic World War One feature, the estate rangers have tackled the world of blackthorn, hawthorn, hazel and celebrated a wonderful day with the South East England Hedge Laying Society (SEHLS).

Hedge Laying on the Scotney Castle Esate

Hedge Laying on the Scotney Castle , Tilers Field, Parkland Trail. SEHLS held a training day at Scotney Castle, and some of the Ranger team came along to learn.

What is hedge laying? – It is when an existing hedge line, having been allowed to grow for at least 12 years, is laid to rejuvenate the trees and shrubs in the hedge and reinstate it’s function as a stock boundary. Each individual living stem to partially severed (or pleached) with a range of hand (or sometimes power) tools, and placed up hill in the same direction.

Here is a volunteer, Tony, using tools to pleach the stems so that they can be laid up the hill. Enough is left attached to ensure the tree survives...

Here is a volunteer, Tony, using tools to pleach the stems so that they can be laid up the hill. Enough is left attached to ensure the tree survives…

Why hedge lay? – Across the country hedges are managed in different ways. Some are neglected, some are flailed with a tractor, some are grubbed out, whilst some are still laid in traditional ways. Laying is proven to be the best stock proof barrier as the stems are laid along the ground, then on top of each other, preventing any gaps in the line. To be extra secure the hedge is also staked every 18″ and binders are wrapped through the stakes to give the height back. It is in fact better than a wire fence because the thorns in the hedge deter stock from trying to break through.

Here you can compare a part of laid hedge, with a part that has only been flail cut over the years. Which one has less gaps and therefore a better stock barrier?

Here you can compare a part of laid hedge, with a part that has only been flail cut over the years. Which one has less gaps and therefore a better stock barrier?

Are there wildlife benefits of hedge-laying? – Yes there are many. Hedges are great wildlife corridors and sources of food for many insects, birds and mammals. The thicker the better, the thornier the better, the more shrub species the better as this provides great shelter for wildlife. Hedge laying encourages all of this. Dormice, Whitethroats, Brown Hairstreaks, Great Crested Newts and Stag beetles are just a few species that thrive in a hedgerow landscape. For more information go to

A Whitethroat is a summer migrant that nests deep in thickets or hedgerows, but the male will sing and display on the top of the hedge during courtship.

A Whitethroat is a summer migrant that nests deep in thickets or hedgerows, but the male will sing and display on the top of the hedge during courtship.

SEHLS have there own website which ( where more can be found out about the history of the society and the benefits of hedge laying.

Here is more of the day in pictures:

A quick smile for the camera... Tony and Paul.

A quick smile for the camera… Tony and Paul.

SEHLS experts show the Scotney rangers what to do, we certainly learnt a lot that day...

SEHLS experts show the Scotney rangers what to do, we certainly learnt a lot that day…

Each trainee was given there own 'cant', a 10 yard section of hedge, to lay. If this was a competition event then points are scored for correct length of pleachers, correct angle of cut stakes and correct height of binders.

Each trainee was given there own ‘cant’, a 10 yard section of hedge, to lay. If this was a competition event then points are scored for correct length of pleachers, correct angle of cut stakes and correct height of binders.

Often a chainsaw is used to pleach larger stems, but traditionally tools such as a billhook and long handled axe would do all of the work.

Often a chainsaw is used to pleach larger stems, but traditionally tools such as a billhook and long handled axe would do all of the work.

Thanks to Martin for arranging the day, standing here by a very neat piece of laying...

Thanks to Martin for arranging the day, standing here by a very neat piece of laying…

We managed to pick up all the tools and equipment before lost in the dusk and mist...

We managed to pick up all the tools and equipment before lost in the dusk and mist…

If you want to see the work for yourself, you will find Tilers' field on the Parkland Trail, just follow the blue way-marker posts.

If you want to see the work for yourself, you will find Tilers’ field on the Parkland Trail, just follow the blue way-marker posts.

Thank you for reading.

The Scotney Castle Ranger Team.

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Every cloud has a silver lining…

photo 1

When you find mould pushing its way through the panelling in a historic room, your first reaction is to panic! However, even though no one obviously wants mould coming through the walls, this event led to a few hidden discoveries at Scotney Castle.

The new house at Scotney Castle has had its fair few problems with leaks and is prone to water ingress due to the building material being sandstone. After a very hot and humid summer, combining this with the damp of the stone, Scotney became the perfect haven for our mouldy little friends. So the House team and Consultancy set out to get rid of a growth of mould in one of the ground floor rooms, the Garden Lobby.

Our first task was to actually find a way to get to the mould behind the panelling so we called in our wood and furniture specialist to come and remove the panelling designed by the architect of the House, Anthony Salvin. This may sound a simple task but that was far from the case- after much cursing at Salvin for his craftsmen not attaching the panelling like a normal joiner would (apparently), our furniture expert then started exclaiming Salvin’s ingenuity and marvelling at the attention to detail. Each piece not only fitted perfectly together like a jigsaw puzzle, this puzzle was extremely elaborate with curved edges slotting into one another, with each piece being unique. The panelling therefore had to be painstakingly removed in the right order which took place over two days.

After the removal of the woodwork and eliminating our uninvited guests from the walls, while sporting some gorgeous plastic suits, another treasure was uncovered- the stonework.

photo 3

The exterior walls of Scotney Castle are constructed from sandstone quarried on site which now has been turned into the Quarry Garden in the grounds. The interior stonework which we exposed when taking off the panelling is made from chalkstone, which was probably quarried locally in Kent or Sussex. This lovely stonework still has the worker’s marks on from the shaping of the stone, showing the unfinished raw state of the stonework behind the panelling which has never been seen since the house was built in 1837-43. As well as exposing the stonework, the structure and support for the panelling is shown; wedges of wood are placed in between the blocks of stone creating a support to which the panelling can be attached.

photo 2

Now all we need to do is wait for the stonework to dry out, which on average will dry at one inch per month! So the stonework and exposed construction of the house will be on display to our visitors for at least the next year.

So although we had a rather unpleasant surprise of mould growing through the walls, this set back allowed us to expose the stonework of the house and furthermore see Salvin’s design and ingenuity of constructing not only the house but the decorative interior design as well.

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Conservation, Coats and Country Life

flower room

The New house at Scotney has lots of textiles from curtains and upholstered furniture to dresses as well as Mrs Hussey’s outdoor coats. To help look after this wealth of textiles, we have started a new volunteer Textile Conservation Group, and the first project that the group tackled was the Flower Room.

The Flower Room is located on the ground floor, in a corridor leading from the Butler’s Pantry and Kitchen towards the Hall. This little room was, as the name suggests, used to arrange flowers which Mrs Betty Hussey was very fond of. This is a tradition which is still kept up by our volunteers today with freshly cut flowers being displayed in the rooms. As well as the multitude of vases, the room was also used as a cloakroom where many of Betty’s coats, hats, scarves and boots are on display, just as she had them when she lived at Scotney.

So how do we go about looking after our textiles? Textiles are normally vacuumed to remove any dust from their surface and the frequency of their cleaning depends on how delicate the fabric is, and where it is on the visitor route- as the closer to the visitor route the more likely dust is to fall on it.

We use small vacuums, known as museum vacs, which allow the suction level to be changed, as hoovering a delicate fabric on a high suction is obviously not a good idea! Another tool of the trade is netting. If you spread a net over the top of a textile or attach it over the head of the hoover, it will stop any stray fibres from entering the hoover and therefore prevent you from unravelling the fabric.

Before starting any textile cleaning, we have to look at the fabric, check for any damage and any possible fragility. Also before hoovering a whole piece of textile, it’s always best to check if it actually needs cleaning! We check this by doing a dust sample. If you put a piece of muslin between the hoover tube and the head and do a test patch on the textile, you can see how much dust has come off. If your dust sample looks something like this picture, it is very much in need of a clean.

 dust sample

[Dust sample taken from a tapestry stool in the Hall]

As well as the dust sample allowing you to see if the piece needs cleaning, it can also be used to check if any fibres have come out of the fabric and then we can adjust the suction level on the hoover accordingly. This simple method helps to protect textiles by not over cleaning them as if we hoovered a fabric too often we would cause more cumulative wear and abrasion, so just by doing a little test patch we can stop any unnecessary damage.

The textile group started their work by hoovering a blue padded overcoat which hangs at the side of the Flower Room. This coat we noticed is also found being worn by Betty in a picture hanging opposite, taken at the front of the New House at Scotney Castle. This is really nice to have not just the jacket which Betty wore but also the evidence that she wore it out into the grounds, in this case with people preparing for a shoot. This to me really hits home that Scotney Castle is a home that was lived in, not just in Victorian times but right up to modern day- and is left just as Mrs Hussey had it as if she has just popped out for a walk in the gardens.

Mrs Hussey

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