A real treasure trove of information on some of the women of Sevenoaks who worked as nurses during the war is the archive of material left by Kathleen Mansfield, Commandant of the Cornwall Hall VAD Hospital.
She was born Kathleen Lilian Clark in October 1885 in Portadown. Kathleen attended Sidcot Quaker school and went on to train as a nurse at Almondsbury Memorial Hospital, north of Bristol. In 1910, she married Dr Percy Mansfield, a family doctor in Sevenoaks and they went on to have four children.
The Voluntary Aid Detachment, commonly known as VAD, was founded in 1909 to provide field nursing services both at home and across the Empire. Kathleen Mansfield joined in 1912 and soon held the post of Lady Superintendent. When a VAD hospital was set up at Cornwall Hall near where the couple lived, Kathleen joined and became the Commandant, joining husband Percy who was already working as the Medical Officer. Other hospitals were established locally at St John’s Hall in Hollybush Lane, at Wildernesse and on the Combe Bank estate. Vita Sackville West of Knole worked at St John’s, together with (Bridget) Aurea Lambarde, of Bradbourne Hall.
Staff and patients at Cornwall Hall
Kathleen and her husband served throughout the war, tireless in their work to care for those that arrived at Cornwall Hall, from the Belgian refugees who began to arrive in Sevenoaks in late 1914, to the wounded servicemen who were sent to convalesce throughout the war. Fortunately, Kathleen kept meticulous records, including photographs and letters from the servicemen, with names and service numbers carefully inscribed. The archive also includes some wonderful photos of the nursing staff, who were mainly drawn from the local upper and middle class families of the town, as well as photos of sports days, fancy dress parades, Easter and Christmas celebrations. All of this material, including the glowing testimony of many of their former charges now returned to the Front and recalling the care and comfort that they had received, speaks of the dedication and compassion of the Commandant and her nursing team. Kathleen was awarded the Royal Red Cross in 1917 in recognition of her service.
Staff and patients congratulate the Commandant on her honour
Telegram from Buckingham Palace regarding her investiture
Kathleen Mansfield died in 1962, surviving her husband by twelve years. Thanks to her family, who have carefully preserved her scrapbooks and given permission for the material to be shared in support of the Nursing Memorial, I will be researching many of those nurses and patients featured within its pages and sharing stories on this website.
One of the nurses featured throughout the archive, is Emma Snow Crump. Emma was born in 1873 in Devon and the 1901 census for Wales shows her working at the Monmouthshire Lunatic Asylum. Ten years later, the 1911 census shows that Emma is as a nurse at Sevenoaks workhouse in Sundridge. Emma Crump joined the staff at Cornwall Hall as a night nurse in October 1914 and stayed there throughout the war, becoming Sister in 1915, Matron in 1918 and Matron in sole charge, 1919. According to her records, she was paid 30/- per week in 1914 and by 1919 this had increased to £2 per week. Emma married in 1926 and lived on until 1952.
Emma Snow Crump
I’ll be sharing more photos from the Cornwall Hall archive over the coming weeks. As ever, please do let me know if any of your family worked at or had a connection to Cornwall Hall VAD or any of the hospitals in Sevenoaks during the war.