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The Mountbatten Connection

Visit the Sale Brochure of 1906

Sir Ernest Cassel

Florence, Baroness Ebury

Click here to see the Sale BrochureMaudie and EdwinaFollowing the death of Eliza Brightwen The Grove estate was put up for auction by Farebrother, Ellis, Egerton, Breach & Co., on Thursday, 12th of July 1906. It was to be sold in two or three lots comprising of in total nearly 94 acres. Visit the Sale Brochure.

The entire Grove estate was purchased by Sir Ernest Cassel, for £17,000, as a gift for his daughter Maudie and her husband Wilfrid Ashley. Maudie and Wilfrid had a daughter, Edwina, aged 5 and Maudie was pregnant with their second child at the time of The Grove's purchase. In the February of 1906, Maudie went with Mrs Cassel, Sir Ernest's sister, to Biarritz. Maudie's pregnancy was not going well and Sir William Broadbent, who was the former doctor to Queen Victoria, recommended that she left England for somewhere warmer. As Edwina's father, Wilfrid,  was spending most of his time in London, it was decided that Edwina should go to Brighton with her nurse.
Wilfrid Ashley

After a while Sir Ernest went out to Biarritz to check on Maudie, and found she was well enough to come back to England as her health had improved. Maudie came to stay at The Warren House, in Stanmore, the country home of Mrs Bischoffsheim, who was known warmly as Mrs Bisch. On 22nd July 1906 Maudie had a baby girl who was named Ruth Mary Clarice. An incubator had to be rushed from London to Stanmore as it had been a difficult birth. Later on Ruth was first known as Mary, and then as she grew up decided herself to be known as Maria.King Edward VII arrives at Warren House 1907

Edwina was delighted  to have a sister. She was also pleased in the fact that it meant that she saw more of her mother,as Maudie stayed at Stanmore. They were together until mid-August, as Edwina was then sent off to her cousins in Ireland, whilst Maudie remained at The Warren House. Maudie had the responsibility of over seeing the purchase  of The Grove as Wilfrid was away for much of the time  in Scotland.   Edwina was taken from one place to another as there was very little to do with a young child in London, Maudie and Wilfrid would not have her at their home in Bruton Street. She was therefore taken to Mrs Bisch and Mrs Cassel at The Warren House. At The Shaftesbury's house, St. Giles, Edwina had two cousins who were almost the same age as herself, Lady Dorothy and Lady Mary Ashley-Cooper, and she would often be taken there to play. Another place where she would be taken was Wherewell Priory where Mrs Cassel's daughter Anna and her husband Colonel "Teddy" Jenkins had one daughter, Marjorie, later Countess of Brecknock, eighteen months older than Edwina. Wherewell Priory was only twelve miles from Broadlands, so Edwina and Marjorie often played together. When later on, Anna and Colonel Jenkins were stationed with the army in places not suitable for a small child, Marjorie and Edwina would share each other's governesses.
 
 

Edwina spent part of each spring and winter at The Grove but it was a place from which she set off to visit other people and  not a real home. This was because her parents were always arriving or leaving to go to different places. Knowing that Edwina was fond of animals, Sir Ernest would bring her kittens, puppies, rabbits. Unfortunately Edwina saw less and less of her parents who were rarely together, especially when the House of Commons was in session, as Wilfrid was in London, and Maudie at Stanmore. Wifrid was away shooting and fishing when he wasn't in London, and if Maudie ever accompanied him to his constituency or to stay with friends, Edwina always remained behind with Mary. `Hide and seek' was a favourite game with the girls that they played with Mr. James Leversuch, who worked in the stables at The Grove until he was 80 years old. James Leversuch had been retained at The Grove as coachman after the death of Eliza Brightwen.

Researching The Mountbatten Connection lead me to the Hartley Library at Southampton University, where the Mountbattern family have placed many of their photographs for safe keeping. With great help from the archives staff I was able to locate many of the photographs for this section of The Grove's history. This includes the following photographs from the The Grove's Visitors Book, and Edwina Ashley's own photograph album.

The Grove's Visitors BookThe Grove's Visitors Book
In researching the unpublished history of The Grove written by A E Phillips in the early 1980's he located a lady in Pinner, Mrs Windmill, who at that time was in her 80's, she was the daughter-in-law of one of the Ashley families maids at The Grove. Mrs Windmill remembered her husband's mother spending many long hours with a hot iron and wet clothes, steam pressing the layers of underclothes and embroidered pillow cases. Her father-in-law to be, as she was still courting, was a gardener on the estate and the couple lived in a cottage, now demolished, on the estate.

The picture below shows Edwina, Mary and John Odell as he grooms a puppy on the lawn at The Grove. The picture was originally titled `Mary, Edwina and Odell the gardener'. John Odell was not a gardener, he was the land steward for The Grove, a position he retained following the death of Eliza Brightwen. John was also on the Stanmore Parish Council.
 
 

On the Lawn at The Grove with John OdellIn the January of 1907, Sir Ernest took Maudie and Wilfrid to Egypt, where they visited the reservoir and dam on the Nile that he had funded, and from there onto Luxor and Cairo. Wilfrid went home after a short while,as he could not get on with the heat in Egypt. From Alexandria Maudie and her father sailed onto Naples and  Biarritz where Sir Ernest had rented a house and where he had invited the King and his mistress, Mrs Keppel, to stay. Maudie sent for Edwina who stayed for two weeks, before returning to England. Edwina stayed with her grandfather in July at Villa Cassel, Sir Ernest's home in Switzerland, and in August her father took her to Classiebawn Castle, Ireland, as her mother was recovering at The Grove. Edwina returned to The Grove in September, while Wilfrid was hunting elk in Sweden, and Maudie was busy buying clothes in Paris. In October, Wilfrid was in Scotland shooting birds, and Maudie stood in for him at Blackpool. As Wilfrid's father, Evelyn, had collapsed and, in late November, died, her parents were at Broadlands with him, and Edwina remained at The Grove in November and December.
Edwina, Morjorie and Nary playing Tennis at The GroveMarjorie and Edwina at The Grove

When his father died, Wilfrid inherited the Broadlands estate, finding that money had become tight, he was forced to let out their house at Bruton Street, London, and in 1909 he let out The Grove for one year in order to pay for work on both the properties. During this period Edwina and Mary stayed at Broadlands. I have not been able to find out to whom The Grove was leased in 1909.

In the years 1908 and 1909, it would seem that Edwina had seen her mother for no more than a total of twelve weeks during that time. Maudie became ill and in 1909 specialists in Paris recommended a warm climate and a strict diet. Just before Christmas Mrs Bisch took Edwina to stay with her at The Warren House and Sir Ernest rented three floors at the Mena House Hotel in Egypt for Maudie. In the spring of 1910 Maudie was back at The Grove where she stayed for two weeks lying in the garden on a day-bed, and Edwina was content as she was allowed to read to her in the afternoons.
Mary,Edwina and Marjorie on the lawn at The GroveMaudie was moved to Broadlands in late May and as there was an election looming, the children followed their father to Blackpool, and then went on to stay with Sir Ernest for the summer at Moulton Paddocks. Edwina and Mary returned to Broadlands in September but Wilfrid took them to a hotel in Cleethorpes in October and on to Wherwell for November and December to cheer them up as they were concerned for their mother's health. With winter approaching Sir Ernest moved Maudie from Broadlands to Bruton Street, where she had plenty of nurses to look her her. Wilfrid was re-elected to Parliament and joined Maudie in London for Christmas, but the children stayed at Moulton Paddocks until the end of January, and then went onto a hotel in Bournemouth. Maudie died on the 5th of February 1911 and the children did not attend the funeral which was held at Romsey Abbey.

Auntie Grannie On The Lawn at The Grove.Sir Ernest gave £50,000 in Maudie's memory, to be shared between King Edward Vll's Hospital Fund and hospitals in Hampshire and Blackpool. In memory of the late King, he also set up a foundation to help distressed British people in Germany and Germans in Britain, launching it with a gift of £210,000. A further £30,000 was given to a fund for workman in Swedish mines. Further donations were £10,000 in 1912 to the Deaconesses' Hospital in Alexandria , £50,000 in 1913 for the relief of the sick and needy in his birthplace, Cologne, with another £20,000 in 1902 for the King Edward Vll Sanatorium Sir Ernest had founded.

Feeling more settled and living for most of her time at Broadlands with her sister, Edwina took it upon herself to be her sisters guardian. A governess, Laura Deveria, was appointed in September 1912 for the girls, and they met her, at Branksome, after a holiday cruise with Wilfrid and Sir Ernest.

Wilfrid married Molly Forbes-Sempill on the 28th of August 1914, Molly had been divorced from her first husband Commander Lionel Forbes-Sempill earlier in that year. She asked the children to call her 'Madre' and they both took an instant dislike to their new stepmother. According to Janet Morgan in her book `Edwina Mountbatten, A Life of Her Own',``Molly was a dragon, breathing fire and smoke upon the staff, family and guests. Visitors were warned that, on arrival, they should ring the bell no more than once as the servants are well trained.'' Laura Deveria as sacked as governess by Molly, and Miss Attwood was employed in her place. Wilfrid was away a lot of the time doing his bit for the war effort and so the children stayed at Broadlands throughout most of 1915 .

Mary was sent away to school in 1916, which left Edwina on her own being taught at Broadlands by Miss Attwood. Also in 1916, she went into a London nursing home to have an operation on her toe and Sir Ernest bought her needlework, grapes and chocolates when he came to see her. She was allowed to leave after three days with her foot bandaged in cotton wool, but she was not able to walk. After this, Edwina and Miss Attwood went to stay at The Grove instead of going back to Broadlands, where Sir Ernest, Auntie-Grannie, Uncle Felix and Aunt Helen tried to make things enjoyable by taking Edwina to tea at Fuller's or Gorringe's after her appointments with the doctor. It was some time before Edwina in her surgical boots, was able to hobble about, or begin to walk properly.

Mary went to The Grove in April, straight from school and according to Edwina, they had a marvellous time, although apparently Mary had far too many cakes and often made herself sick. After great shopping trips to Swears and Wells, Harrods, Debenham and Freebody, lunch at Brook House with Granpapa and in South Audley Street with Mrs Bisch, and more tea outings to Gorringe's, Edwina and Mary managed to get away to Branksome for Auntie-Grannie's Easter party. This was most likely the very last time that The Grove was used by any of the family for any length of time. From then onwards, except for the servants, the house remained empty for long periods, except for being used over the years by friends and acquaintances of the family. According to Mrs Windmill it was not unusual for friends of the Ashley or Cassel families just to `drop in' often unannounced to stay at The Grove or even just to come and change their clothes on their way to somewhere else.

Edwina and Mary were both sent away to The Links school at Eastbourne in September of 1916 where there were 37 girls in the school. The school was run by Miss Jane Potts, who had been the governess to Queen Victoria's grand-daughter, Princess Alice. Mary returned to The Links alone, in 1919 whilst Edwina attended Alde House, a domestic science training college in Suffolk. After this in 1920, Edwina went to work for her grandfather at Brook House. While at Cowes she was introduced to Dickie Mountbatten for the first time which was the same year as she 'came out'.

Mountbatten and the Prince of Wales, 1920.The Wedding of Edwina Ashley and MountbattenBoth Dickie Mountbatten's father and Sir Ernest Cassel died in 1921, within two weeks of each other. Sir Ernest, who had made his will in 1920, had an estate which was estimated to be seven and a half million pounds. This he divided into sixty-four parts leaving Edwina twenty-five sixty-forths, and Villa Cassel left jointly with her sister, Mary. Mrs Cassel's was left all the furniture, glass, pictures, fixtures and fittings, Brook House, Moulton Paddocks and Branksome Dean to enjoy which were all passed to Edwina after her death. During that same year Dickie Mountbatten had already made plans to go to India, with his cousin, The Prince of Wales. He and Edwina exchanged letters every day, so there were always letters from her awaiting him in every port. Edwina went out to meet Dickie in 1921 in India, where he proposed to her, and the couple were married on the 18th July 1922 after his return.

The Grove House, grounds and lakes were leased by Wilfrid Ashley to Florence, Baroness Ebury, in 1923 widow of Robert 3rd Baron Ebury. In 1924 the farm was leased to an Albert Marsh.

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