Laura Freeman Laura Freeman

The Angel of Charleston, by Stewart MacKay – review

‘Grace Higgens in the Kitchen’ by Vanessa Bell [Getty Images/Shutterstock/iStock/Alamy]

Above the range in the kitchen at Charleston House is a painted inscription: ‘Grace Higgens worked here for 50 years & more, she was a good friend to all Charlestonians.’ The words are those of the art historian Quentin Bell, once one of Grace’s young charges.

Grace was taken on by the Bloomsbury group painter Vanessa Bell in 1920 to be nursemaid to her three children: Julian, 12, Quentin, nine (by her husband Clive Bell) and one-year-old Angelica (by her friend and lover Duncan Grant).

She was the heart and hearth of...

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