Friday, September 14, 2007

The Garden of England


Story contd.



William’s new job meant a move from Surrey to Kent. All I knew about it was it was meant to be ‘the garden of England’ and there were lots of oast houses for the brewing of hops. Traditionally East Enders would move lock stock and barrel to Kent for the hop- picking season.

The house I had seen advertised in the Daily Telegraph was situated betwixt Tunbridge Wells (spelt with a u) and Tonbridge (spelt with an o). It had schools, shops, woods and a pretty green with church so William thought the area would be ideal. I couldn’t believe how different it seemed from Surrey and this worked in our favour because incredibly this house was in our price bracket.




Eileen – one of my girl friends was happy to have # 1 son whilst we went to inspect the house. First impressions were good – Tunbridge Wells (Royal TW as it liked to be known) was a spa town with lots of history, the famous Pantiles and a large hilly common. About two miles south was Southborough and we drove up a quiet cul de sac where the house was. It was Victorian, painted a pale grey with turquoise trimmings. By the side, on a cobbled path was a stable with an apple loft above. It was flanked by large holly trees and there was an unattractive, high laurel hedge in front. It was what they called a town house with the briefest bit of garden in front and a large walled garden at the rear.



I was delighted to see on the far side of the house was a path leading to a lockable door – ideal for taking the pram to the rear entrance. Daily walks were the norm in those days for mother and child. We walked down the path and let ourselves into the garden. It was very neglected but there was a large old pear tree which gave dappled sunlight and old apple trees. The garden was divided by an enormous yew hedge and there were rose beds and flower beds all tangled and full of weeds. Behind the hedge was an old vegetable garden. It was all a bit daunting.



The last person to live there had been an old lady and her housekeeper. A speculator had bought it, redecorated and put it on the market. I couldn’t wait to see inside. We returned to the front entrance and went through heavy double doors to a glass paned door. The entrance hall had a central staircase; the drawing room was on the left and the dining room on the right. They were both large with fireplaces and the dining room had a hatch to the kitchen. Behind the drawing room was another room which looked out onto the back garden and there was also a fireplace here. At the end of the hall was another entrance with an inner and outer door and all doors had heavy bolts top and bottom. Clearly the old lady had been very security conscious



There was a loo with the requisite bolts inside and outside, a larder and then the door to the kitchen where an ideal boiler was situated. Another door led down two steps in
to the garden room which had another little room off it. The remaining door in the hall went down to the cellar which the people next door with a similar house, had converted into a basement flat. Ours was given over to what seemed a lifetime’s store of coal and coke. There were also fire places in the bedrooms.



Half way up the stairs was a large bathroom and separate loo. The bathroom had a pretty old fireplace and would have been the* tweenie’s bed-room* On the first floor were five bed and dressing rooms- as they put it, and outside the rooms were mahogany let- down side tables for the maid to put the breakfast tray before opening the door. I always meant to count the doors in that house and never quite made it.



We were exhausted by the time we got back in the car.



‘What did you think?’ I asked William.



‘It’s a very good house.’ He said positively. I sighed regretfully.



‘It’s just too big.’



‘I suppose so.’ William knew his limitations and he was never a DIY man.



By the time we reached home I had mentally moved in. That house was crying out for a family. My family. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.



‘On the other hand William…’



*tweeeny – house maid who lived between stairs.

20 comments:

Sim said...

Oh my Pat! That home looks glorious - in fact Girlpants is green with envy. Apparently it's his ideal of the next house...

PI said...

Sim: Girlpants has excellent taste - I'm sure you'll agree. I last saw the house a couple of years ago and its been 'done up' - they've ruined the stable and made it into a sort of granny flat and lost all the lovely old cobbles - spent thousands no doubt and lost a lot of it's charm. I'm sure we couldn't afford it now.

FOUR DINNERS said...

Love old styles hate modern. This looks magic to me.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Oh Pat, what a BEAUTIFUL house and your descriptions of everything made it come so alive! I longed to see pictures of everything you mentioned...(Maybe they wil be forthcoming after you've moved in...) From that one picture, it looks like a beautifully built home, too...and perfect for your family!

PI said...

4d: the one we live in now is younger - twenties - and has an attic rather than a cellar. The big difference is lower ceilings which makes decorating easier. Not that we EVER do any. Gripe gripe!

Naomi: I wasn't really in to much photography then- sadly - but I expect the odd snap may materialise. It was a great family house - as this is too. I never wanted to leave the other one and I never want to leave this.

sablonneuse said...

What a lovely house. But did you have help with the housework?
It must have been wonderful for the children to play hide-and-seek in.
You must have had mixed feeling about seeing it again. We saw our old house in England a few months ago. The new owner has spent a fortune on it and it looks very posh but I wouldn't want to move back - even if we could afford it.

PI said...

Sablonneuse: I sure did! It was more the custom then and I started with my first child. Over a period of many years I have had two first rate ones, one dud and one who did her best. Since MTL and I have been together we have avoided having anyone in the house other than family and friends as we still value our privacy even more with the passing of years.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Michele sent me back again, dear Pat....I do dearly hope the odd snapshot is posted....!

PI said...

Naomi: I'll do my best.

R. Sherman said...

Here we would call such a house, "a mansion." Did it come with a title of some sort?

Cheers.

PI said...

Randall: sadly no - I was just plain Mrs M. And when my life changed I became Mrs M again.

f:lux said...

Wow. Just... wow!

PI said...

f:lux: I hope there is a family living there now.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Michele sent me to you once again, this early A.M. here in L.A. It is about 1:30am here....I'm off to bed soon, dear Pat, and you are just beginning your day, which I hope will be lovely!

PI said...

Sleep tight Naomi!

kenju said...

On the other hand - you leave us hanging like this???!!!

Michele said to stop that!

granny p said...

Ah Pat - our footsteps seem to cross and re-cross. To this Kentish maid (meaning born in West Kent as opposed to East Kent= maid of Kent) the difference between Ton and Tun was feature of my childhood. I think we know where you moved to, don't we? Good.

PI said...

Judy: what me leave you hanging? Never:)

Penelope: I was trying - without success - to remember the difference. So son # 2is a Kentish man Son # 1 always regretted he wasn't. And you are right about the move but don't tell anybody:) I wonder where you were born?

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Just back after a two-week blogbreak - and lovely to catch up with you. Wonderful house, I look forward to hearing about your life there.

PI said...

Zinnia: great to have you back.