By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 2 days ago
RACE DAY PARTIES: My dad used to be a racing driver so he was often invited to parties and open days at various racing circuits. He naturally knew lots of racing people and on this particular occasion he was invited to an Open Day at Donington Park. Tom Wheatcroft, a local entrepreneur, had bought Donington Park in the 1970s as he owned the largest collection of Grand Prix cars in the world at that time. In 1973 he opened a museum there to house them all and called it the Donington Grand Prix Exhibition. Donington became the favoured home of the British round of the MotoGP motorcycling championships but he was really hoping to bring Formula 1 racing back to the track and a bid was put in in 2007. Unfortunately the 2008 global crash put a stop to this as they lost financial backing and the bid went to Silverstone who now host the Grand Prix every year.
However, in 1977 he re-opened the track for cars and this was the Open Day that we all went along to. There were lots of different races with old cars as well as new. My dad used to race his motor bike there before the war and he was invited to join in with the historic bike racing – he jumped at the chance of riding a bike again and did really well, at the age of 61!
Kev and I went along with my brothers and we all got dressed up in our Sunday best, Kev wearing a jacket and me in a large floppy hat and heels – we looked as if we were going to a wedding not a race meeting! But dad assured us that we needed to look the part as there was a big party afterwards in a marquee with all the top racing people in attendance – ‘racing royalty’ we called them. People like Bob Gerrard, who was one of the top racing drivers of the post war era – he and his wife were always very expensively dressed and hosted one of the marquee parties. There was also a VIP marquee which we managed to sneak into when no-one was looking. After ordering our drinks at the bar, Kev asked how much they were and was told in no uncertain...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 23rd November 2020
WHODUNIT IN THE LIBRARY? When we first moved to Hoar Cross Hall, growing up in a stately home seemed an idyllic way to live – and lots of fun if you’re a child. This rambling old house full of empty rooms and secret doors, wild gardens and woods to explore, was in some ways a dream come true for our family, certainly for my dad. But as we turned from children to teenagers the isolation and lack of public transport was frustrating. Coupled with this was my parents fighting and subsequent split, living at each end of the house and battling for the house and business through their solicitors.
The effect this had on me, as the eldest child who perhaps saw more of it than my brothers, was that I started to have awful pains in my stomach. Whenever Kev and I were out I would often double up in agony and once I was in such pain in a local bar that the landlord rang for an ambulance and I was whisked off to hospital with suspected appendicitis. After a full examination I was told there was nothing wrong but that it was probably my nerves affecting me. After a visit to my GP he told me it was nerves and prescribed Valium tablets (now known as Diazepam) which was a drug to relax you when you felt under stress. Both my parents were already on this medication and we would often borrow each other’s tablets if one of us ran out! I now realise what a ridiculous situation this was – Valium was a powerful drug to be taken for 2-3 months but back in the 70s I was freely given it (aged 17) and was not monitored at all by the GP. I took it for well over a year and mixed it with alcohol totally oblivious to the effects it might have on me – one of them being that I frequently had horrendous hallucinations. My dad was already visiting a psychiatrist each week and my mum took me to see one too! Our family really was falling apart at the seams!
However, the feud went on and my dad was still selling items from the house unbeknown to my mum. He had a beautiful wooden music...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 16th November 2020
THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT: Life carried on at Hoar Cross Hall as best it could in difficult circumstances. My dad continued to go to Arms and Armour Fairs to buy and sell antiques and we also went to a mediaeval banquet in Cheshire one night, although it wasn’t anywhere near as good as ours! Once or twice we took my dad out with our friends to Derby, where he originated from, and that seemed to cheer him up. But he really needed to get away from the house for longer periods of time and when he saw a boat advertised for sale at Caernarvon he decided to buy it. It was an ex lifeboat called The Bembo so quite sturdy, although in need of a lick of paint and a bit of TLC. The town of Caernarvon is in Wales and is host to a huge castle where the Prince of Wales (Prince Charles) had his investiture in 1969. The Bembo was moored by the harbour and the town was full of quaint, narrow streets which we loved to explore. Once he had bought the boat he would go away at weekends and usually took Gavin or Piers along with him. My mum jumped at the chance of making me go as well so she could keep me away from Kev, but after a couple of times on my own Kev decided to come along too, and was able to help fix the electrics on the boat amongst other things.
Mum and I at a typical antiques fayre selling armour
When my dad went away at weekends during the summer months Kev and I would open the house to the public. As well as a bad atmosphere between my parents there was also a bad atmosphere between me and my mum and mum and Kev, so we were all trying to avoid each other! My mum had taken over the West Wing apartment when the tenants left, leaving my dad with one less rental income. She was also putting Yale locks on all the rooms that she used in the house as well as any storage rooms used for the banquets. This infuriated my dad who obviously didn’t have access to them once the locks went on. One of these rooms was the cupboard off the Entrance Hall which held the m...