Sunday, 4 March 2012

The end of an era ....

The end of a very long era came on Friday when a house that had been in hubby's family for over a century eventually passed into new hands - for the first time since it was built  more than 120 years ago.

The story starts way back & was told in a poem by my late father-in-law in his book
"Jurassic Coastline and Dorset Verse" by John Snook

“Who’d a Tho’wt It”
I know the house where I was born
Has foundation walls built upon
A wayside plot of common land,
Where in the seventeen eighties,
Samuel Bagg and Henry Barrett
Two Dorset born farm labourers,
Of very humble origin
Set out one night to claim the land.

I sense the wily pair had found
A way to take advantage of,
A law defined as “squatter’s rights”,
Based on a dwelling being raised
And built within the hours of night
With proof of occupation shown
At dawn when smoke had to be seen
Emerging from a chimney stack!
It’s said a stage coach driver came
Upon the pair at work one night,
And stopped to ask,  “What’s going on?”
And when told cried,” It can’t be done!”
But changed his mind the next morning
When from his stage he saw
Smoke rising through a make sift roof,
And cried aloud,  “Who’d a tho’wt it!”
Before his early morning eyes,
There stood a house built in a night,
And being stunned by what he saw
The stage coach driver once more gasped,
“Well bless my soul” Who’d a tho’wt it!”
And when a passenger learnt why
The driver seemed so mystified,
He too exclaimed, “Who’d a tho’wt it!”
Later the driver’s evidence
Endorsed a “Who’d a Tho’wt It” claim,
That gave the pair a right to throw
An axe to eastward of their goal;
And where it fell was recognised
As “Who’d a Tho’wt It’s” boundary,
With hedges grown when it was sold
In Nelson’s time for five guineas.
But more importantly I found
The eighteen fifty one census,
Record a Hutchings family
Residing at “Who’d a tho’wt it”
Where dressing flax once provided work
Until the dwelling walls collapsed;
Upon a site where later on
The house where I was born was built.

When the original house collapsed an Irish builder called Mr. English built the existing house but for some reason never took occupation; he sold the new house to these elegant ancestors - this photo taken close to the house ...

... and so from around the 1880's the house became a family home for a long line of family members and the grounds were extended as the local farmer paid great grandfather, a tailor & men's outfitter, in land for clothing him ....

The house was sited on the old road (the stagecoach route to Dorchester) and it was a quiet road then with the occassional horse or stage coach passing ....

When the first model T-Ford cars came about, the grandfather had a garage built behind the house for his new car while great grandmother planted the red roses at the front door.

The house has been a landmark on the road - a tall, elegant three storey abode with lovely views from the two apex attic windows.  Originally named "Who'd a tho'wt it', great grandma renamed it Fairview and that is the name we all know it by.

My late father in law was born in Fairview in the old oak bed in 1921 and he was absolutely fixated on his family home. Even though he travelled the world working, lecturing, writing or holidaying, Fairview was home for him.

When his mother, grandma Ethel Maud tired of climbing all the stairs, she did what any sensible lady would and called in the builders - instructing them to build her a bungalow with identical room sizes "so all my furniture would fit" and so another house was built on her higgledy piggledy land ....

The family divided themselves between the two houses for decades as overflow visitors were put up in the 'old house'.  Father & mother in law eventually moved into the bungalow themselves but he visited the house (right next door) almost daily, sometimes in winter he would light the diningroom fire & he would read by the fireplace as he had done all his life!

During a visit from abroad in 1982, we were met with the news that the old slate roof was crumbling and repairs quoted were astronomical, so being on holiday, we persuaded a local builder to give us roof tiling lessons (I kid you not) and we set out to do the roof  ....

Two weeks of sunshine & the roof was done - saving tens of thousands of pounds and getting a sun tan up there too .... I may not be good at putting up picture rails but I can put up a roof!

When we returned to live in England permanently, Fairview became our home until we moved north then it remained 'our space' to visit several times a year, a home from home; our duvets, clothes, towels etc all cluttering up the house so we could just pop down to visit - a generous gesture from the in-laws which allowed us so much freedom to visit.

The girls loved running up the three flights of stairs to the attic rooms with their hidden cupboard, sloping roof & large windows looking up & down the road ...

Following the death of father in law, Fairview needed some expensive repairs as she was looking rather tired after more than 120 years so the scaffolds came up for weeks as builders came in to repoint the house back to her elegant self and replace the numerous roof bits at the back  ....

It was then that the family came to the difficult decision that since we all have our own homes, and as attached as we all were to Fairview, it was time to let her go to a family who would once again enjoy her all the time and so the boards went up for the first time ever ....

...and this week she finally passed into new hands. It will be strange visiting next door & not being able to run through her back garage door into the house or park the over flow cars in her drive as has been done for the past 120 years but ... farewell old house, you have served the family well!

I hope you have enjoyed this tale ... please feel free to leave a comment
Dee ~♥~


  1. A lovely story and sad to see Fairview go, but as you say we all have or own lives and homes!!XXK

    1. That is true Kath, the end of an era indeed x

  2. A lovely blog Deirdre - what beautiful memories you must have of this house and loads of photos too.

    1. Thanks Liz, there are naturally lots of photos from the past - I hope I did it justice! x

  3. what a lovely story....the saga of a house which holds so many memories for you going into a new chapter in it's own history!! thanks for sharing xxx

    1. Thanks Li - you were fortunate enough ♥ to visit the old house ... a new chapter for her!

  4. Hi Dee, I enjoyed reading the about your family history and how the family home was so lovingly enjoyed by generations. Thanks for sharing your story. I'm your newest follower, and I'm so happy to meet you. Thanks for stopping by.

    The French Hutch

    1. Hi Emily, thank you for taking the time to read the story & to leave a comment. Your blog, The French Hutch is so lovely that I will be a regular reader so welcome to mine. I am not as proficient at this as you are but I hope I have paid a fitting tribute to the "old house."


♥ Hi - thank you for your comment, I hope you enjoy your visit♥.