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Maud Messel c1905. ©The Messel Collection at Nymans Gardens, The National Trust.  

Maud Messel 1875-1960 

'Wonderfully Picturesque'

Maud Messel (née Sambourne) began her long and happy married life with the stockbroker and collector Leonard Messel in 1898. Her marriage lifted Maud into wealthier upper-middle class society. Her three children, Linley, Anne and Oliver, were born between 1899 and 1904.

Maud entertained friends from the world of art, connoisseurship and business at her home in Lancaster Gate, London. In Sussex, first at Balcombe House and then at Nymans, she organised an Embroidery Guild, fancy dress balls and revived the May Day Pageant at Staplefield. She also created a local Shakespearean drama group, making the costumes herself.

Maud's delicate beauty and petite figure hid her determined character. Her romantic fashions and homes, her collecting and gardening interests, were all influenced by mediaeval to early nineteenth-century design.

Maud believed she was descended from the late eighteenth-century classical singer Elizabeth Linley, whose dress style influenced Maud's own fashion and fancy dress choices. More than 200 of Maud's fashionable garments and accessories survive and form the majority of the Messel Dress Collection at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.


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