Monday, March 10, 2008
My parents bought Harvestgate Farm in 1970 from the Biles's when they retired, as it was good land and closely adjoined Stocks. The Biles's stayed on in their cottage nearby, but Harvestgate famhouse, which had lain empty for several years, was given to Herry on his marriage to Prue in December 1971.
The house consisted of two small flint and brick cottages with a milking shed with a fine beamed roof at one end. The upper floor of one of the cottages was a hay store, with a hatch from which one could throw hay down into the milking shed. The house stood on one side of a courtyard. The second side was a stable and the third, a large flint barn. An old flint wall closed the courtyard off on the fourth side and there was a a large pond outside the courtyard at the end of the barn. The buildings were roofed in Welsh slate but were simply constructed without damp proofing; the ceilings in the cottages too low for modern useage.
To begin with we had to clear the buildings out and take down a massive concrete wall dividing the courtyard. In this Herry was helped by Nick Duke, and they did it by lighting bonfires beside the wall and then battering the now friable concrete with sledgehammers. The broken concrete and remnants from the cottages were used to fill in a deep well which lay just outside one of the cottage doors. Later, huge quantities of fresh soil were brought in to fill the courtyard and create the garden, which was designed by Georgie Wolton.
The buildings were done up up with the help of Adrian Gale, an architect who was a friend who Herry's parents had met in the South of France. The milking shed became a large drawing room with a high beamed ceiling and French windows down one side looking out into the courtyard garden, with a full length tiled slab the other side incorporating a fireplace. The whole of the ground floor was tiled, but to soften the effect we had two large rugs designed for the drawing room and the family room, one echoing the ploughed fields surrounding the house in autumn and the other, a soft green, the land in spring.
The stables were turned into guest rooms and a bathroom. The passageway between held a generator, to produce electricity should the mains fail - this being the time of the Arab-Israeli war and the 'oil shock'. Next was a laundry room containing an enormous red oil-fired boiler which could have heated a castle.
Upstairs there were four bedrooms and two bathrooms - the main bedroom being at the end overlooking the drawing room. All had views of the garden and over the barn to Old Winchester Hill, and some of the woods and fields above Stocks.
We moved in in December 1973 shortly before Radha was born on 29th December. Edward arrived in April 1976 and Charles in April 1979. Radha had a proper 'nanny' - Nanny Reid - for the early weeks and Norland nannies were taken for Edward and Charles. Local nannies then helped with the three children. One of them was Gill, who later married Stephen Horn who managed Stocks and Harvestgate in Patrick's later years. Ernie - who worked on the farm - and Sylvia Stiles lived in the cottage at the end of Harvestgate with their children. Syliva too was very helpful with the children.
See here for a note about our friends and social life and the children's friends and early schooling.
Herry and Prue rarely stayed at Shouldham St in those years and instead, Herry commuted to the City and his job at Thomas Miller from Winchester (and later Alton or Petersfield), taking about two hours each way. For one year, he commuted with Tim Cocks, who, with his wife Libby, rented one of the cottage on the down from Patrick, while working with Herry at Millers.
Click on the heading for some photos of Harvestgate Farm from those days and here for photos of the family at Stocks
Click here for more recent photos
and photos inside taken in January 2009.
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