By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 2 days ago
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/cramps 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 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...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 16th February 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 jumped at the chance and bought 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.
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 meter boxes, so we now had...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 07th February 2020
SUITS YOU SIR! When we moved to Hoar Cross Hall in 1970 the organ in the private chapel wasn’t working as the house had been empty for 20 years. It was such a shame as it had been designed by Bodley, the famous organ maker of the 19th century. The chapel itself had been added about 25 years after the house was built at the staggering cost of just under £1000! When one of the visitors to the house said he could fix the organ, my dad readily agreed. This chap really loved organs and volunteered his services free of charge just for the love of mending this musical work of art; my dad was over the moon! Alas, after removing all the pipes and laying them out in the basement, he found that he couldn’t carry on with the renovations and we never saw him again!
When Kev saw the organ in pieces he offered to try and fix it and we spent many an hour in the chapel and basement trying to work out which pipe went where and how to make it play again. But it was quite complicated and it was an ongoing project for some time – still, it kept us busy!
The divorce was getting quite bad by now and I had to accompany my dad to the solicitors on more than one occasion, mainly for moral support but also to back up what was happening in the house between my parents as I witnessed quite a lot of arguments and fights. The solicitor explained to my dad that his antique collection would be classed as ‘chattels’ in the marriage and my mum would be entitled to half of it. My dad went berserk as usual and vowed that she wouldn’t have any of his antiques as they were his means of earning money and not part of the domestic furniture. However, as he was classed as self employed, his collection was deemed part of the family belongings. The Mediaeval Banquets business was now in my mum’s name as a limited company and she ran them herself, separate from my dad. My dad still got the rent money from the apartments and the takings from the house when it was ...