Wednesday, 22 January 2014


Stables and coach house, packing sheds and tractor shed at our Essex Regency home awaiting restoration!
   As I completed the furnishing of my Regency house in the late 50s. and my husband had laid his plans for a large new garden on the site of old and derelict  fruit (peach) glasshouses, we decided to make a small business out of these two features, not exactly a stately home, but a well furnished house and interesting garden.   I had grouped all my embroidered silk pictures on the blank walls, used colourful textiles on the beds, Persian and Paisley shawls were cheap and beautiful, and displayed my collection of feather bird pictures, large and Victorian, and others, small and Regency.   Some of the curtains were new Warner designs from the nearby weaving town, Braintree, and I remember my top price limit was 27shillings per yard.  But my best curtains for the drawing room were a wonderful golden silk damask set, probably Spitalfields, early 19c. bought in Milsom Street, Bath, which had been used in the ballroom of Cricket St.Thomas, Som. a true stately home!  And they were my greatest bargain ever @ £80 the lot, complete with cords, tassels, silk fringes all round and hall-marked silver tie-back hooks!  I still have them!  I found an 18c. Hepplewhite mahogany 4 poster bed covered in cream paint in an advert in the Exchange and Mart trade magazine.  It was in Maidstone and we collected it on our way back to Essex from a French holiday, and found that there were in fact two beds, all for £10!  It took me a year to strip and re-polish the bed.  Those were the days, if you had some energy and time to search.  I was quite patient and collected very slowly, waiting for the bargains!
     The gardens were planned to be minimal maintenance, with wide paved paths and a big mix of flowering shrubs and perennial border plants, and masses of  ground cover ( a new feature in those days).
     We decided to open the gardens and part of the house to groups every day during the summer season and keep it private to one coach party at a time, with a really good home-made cream tea.  In no time, we were fully booked and the modest charges were a great help to pay for the labour we needed to complete our plans.
     Our parties were mostly from outer London, female,  and they enjoyed looking at 'real' bedrooms where my 3 daughters slept in the holidays, and there were many who knew a lot about handwork and embroidery.    They were delightful groups, mostly W.I.s and over 60s  and we did not have to advertise after the first season.  They were able to buy plants similar to those seen in our gardens and I added my own marmalade and honey from my beehives to the sales table as everyone wanted to take something home!.
        With all these modest enterprises, we were able to finance improvements over the years, and when we sold up 25 years later, the whole small estate was in excellent order and we were able to sell it well, and move to a Georgian house near Bath.  (To be continued,see post BLOG BIOGRAPHY)


  1. what an interesting life you have lived and still are. I enjoy your stories so much. I can just see your garden and parties in my minds eye
    I have never experienced the life with a husband who wanted to same goals as me

    1. When we go to France we have different goals - my husband does the route plan, selects the hotels and fairs that fit the diary and I do the buying (and most of the packing of goods in our transport ). We both share the interest of going to new places and dealers and both enjoy the beautiful countryside on the way.