Diamonds at Dinner: My Life as a Lady's Maid in a 1930s Stately Home
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A fascinating memoir of life as a lady's maid in a big house in the 1930s, covering the beauty of the house, the housing of royals escaping the Nazis, the hard work of staff, and the experience of joining the army to serve a Countess
Hilda Newman was a maid to Lady Coventry at the Worcestershire stately home of Croome Court in the 1930s. In her fascinating memoir of life below the stairs (as well as glimpses from inside the big house), she reveals what it was like living and working in the 18th Century Neo-Palladian mansion surrounded by parkland landscaped by Lancelot "Capability" Brown. During World War II Croome Court housed the exiled Dutch Royal Family, who escaped the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. It was also the top-secret RAF base Defford, where radar was developed and repairs were carried out on aircraft fighting in the Battle of Britain. Hilda remembers life both upstairs and down, from the grand long gallery designed by Robert Adam and the tapestry room (since removed and transferred to the Metropolitan Museum in New York), to the hard labor demanded of serving staff and what it was like in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), the women's branch of the British Army, which she joined to serve the Countess in 1940.