Thursday, January 12, 2006


As well as the Portland expedition, we went on others to both Cerne Abbas and Abbotsbury. I remember our picnic on Giant Hill when we went to Cerne, and trying a sip or two of cider which I did not like very much, but pretended I did in order to appear "grown-up".

We went to Abbotsbury by train from Weymouth via Upway Junction: one of the small stations between Weymouth and Dorchester which no longer exist. The first station was Radipole Halt, followed by Upway Junction, Upway Wishing Well Halt... and I think the last one was called Winterborne Came Halt. The branch line from Upway Junction also stopped at Portesham, but it terminated at Abbotsbury. It had never continued on to Bridport which, together with West Bay, was served by another branch line from Maiden Newton.

I expect we visted the Swannery, but the part of the day clearest in my memory was our walk up to St Catherine's Chapel; the first part being along a very muddy and deeply rutted lane, before the long and steep climb to the Chapel at the top of the hill. Once there, the view down to the Fleet, and along the Chesil Beach stretching to Portland in the distance, has always remained most memorable and is just as impressive as it was that first sighting.

We would have returned home to Belfield at the end of a long day, perhaps enjoying a cream tea on the way, and as we all sat around the dining room table for dinner, Elizabeth B--- was once heard to murmur: "Ah, gracious living!"

Belfield had remained a place of pilgrimage for various members of the Buxton family who, from time to time, used to call at the house and introduce themselves to us. They were always made to feel welcome, and we enjoyed learning more about the family and their historical connections with Belfield.

In August 1946, a Captain R.H.V. Buxton and his wife made such a call on us whilst they were in Weymouth for the day. We happened to be out, but Mr W----- the gardener was there and had taken them on a tour of the house and garden. After returning to his home in Romsey, Captain Buxton, who had last visited the house twenty years earlier, wrote a letter of appreciation to my father, commenting on how pleased he was to see everything in such good order despite the Army's wartime occupation. His great-great-grandfather had been Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton Bt. (the grandson of Isaac Buxton, the builder of Belfield). Sir Thomas, with William Wilberforce, had been a prominent campaigner for the abolition of the Slave Trade.

Another quite frequent Buxton visitor was Miss Howell. She was rather elegant in an almost 18th century manner, with her white hair swiped up into a loose bun on the top of her head. To me she looked very like the portraits of Queen Charlotte. The last time I saw her was when she came to see us, only a few days before we left Belfield in July 1957. She was almost as devastated as I was over our impending departure.

Not long after the end of the War, my Whittaker grandparents and Auntie May left Grange-over-Sands and moved to Bournemouth. They bought a house in Winton at 51 Norton Road called "Monksrest", a name which gave my parents cause for great mirth. However they were not so amused when the Whittakers all came to stay with us at Belfield for a few days. On being asked which train they intended returning home on, they said, with some indignation, that their tickets were valid for a month, so why the hurry to get rid of them?

Indeed, Grandpa meant to make himself useful around the house, and had brought his screwdriver with him. He used this to dismantle most of the door handles, which he decided needed repairing, but managed to leave them in an even worse state than before.

If there was any friction amongst the adult - and there always was between my mother and her family - I was blissfully unbothered by it. Whenever we went to stay at "Monksrest", Grandpa would always give me a stick of Bournemouth Rock when seeing me off at the station. I accumulated quite a lot of sticky half-eaten sticks of rock in my bedroom back in London.

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Blogger klinsmann said...

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about your time at Belfield. Thank you.
Do you happen to have any recollection of a house called Milton Croft situated at the end of Buxton Road by Ford's Corner?

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