Thursday, November 17, 2005

CERNE ABBAS 1940-1945. (10)

Although it was to be another six months until V.E. Day, my father was already making plans for our future after the War was finally over, including arrangements for me to start at the City Of London School For Girls the following September, then in Carmelite Street just outside the Temple and very convenient; so plans for us to move into 5 Paper Buildings must have been under way by then too. He and my mother had also begun looking for our future weekend/holiday home in the Dorchester area, as by now my mother was anxious to move from Cerne as soon as possible.

By March 1945, the search had been narrowed down to four possibilities: The Pitchmarket, Belfield House, Radipole Manor, and Wollaston House. My mother wrote to my father:
"If possible I don't want to spend holidays in Cerne after the War. I should always be making excuses about not coming! I would dread the end of term and having to go back to all that 'to all that'. Especially in the Long Vacation. You would be away so much then."

Wollaston House, built in 1786, stands in the centre of Dorchester at the junctions of Church Street, Durngate Street and Acland Road. Whatever garden it once had has now long gone, and it is surrounded by busy roads and car parks, including the Waitrose one. My mother continued:
"Wollaston was a better thing in the War times than in peace. Time saved on your journey, easier food. But it is much less easy to run without servants than Belfield. And in peace, it would be difficult to get up much holiday spirit about coming to such a queer locality! I cannot feel it's the right place really."

As for Radipole Manor, built in the 16th century and standing only a few feet away from the church and graveyard, my father once told me that my mother refused to live there because of the close proximity of all the gravestones, although he could not see why that should have been a problem!

In the same letter she went on:
"We must have, I'm now sure, something small enough to run without servants. But the average 4 or 5 bedroom house is so undignified. Radipole was a fluke and so was Belfield, only still more (I think Radipole would have been as hard to run as Pitchmarket: think of those polished floors and all the leaded lights)."

They even discussed the possibility of a flat, but there were none on the market and anyway they wanted a garden. Belfield seems to have been my mother's number one choice from the start: "I wouldn't have missed seeing Belfield for anything", she wrote wistfully after their first visit, and continued:
"I liked everything I saw at Belfield but it would break my heart to think of an excessive unreasonable £75 a year going down the drains on Schedule A and rates. They are about double what they should be ar'n't they?"

Belfield had been requisitioned by the Army during the War, and was still in occupation when my parents were shown round the property on their first visit. Whether their guide was an officer or the estate agent I am not sure, but when he opened the upstairs bathroom door they found a soldier in there having a bath.

They seem to have made their final decision before March 20th, as my father referred in one of his letters to the research he had already begun into the history of the house. This was to culminate in his writing a booklet called Belfield and the Buxtons, which he had printed privately in 1954.

The Contract Agreement is dated 4th April 1945 and the Completion Date was on 16th May, only eight days after V.E. Day. The house had been valued at £3750, but it was finally bought for £3000; the same price that Abbey Cottage had fetched the previous year. But this price must have taken into account the tremendous amount of renovation needing to be done after five years of Army occupation.

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