Our first Field Trip, to Lymington, was held on Saturday 16th July.
Thanks to our reviewer- in-chief, Steve Patton, for providing the official report.
Ann & I left home at 10am on Friday 15th July 2011. The weather was fine and all was well. The M40 loomed large and we were set for a busy day as we had scheduled a couple of extra stops before eventually arriving at our first ever 'team expedition' to Lymington, Hampshire.
Our first stop was an unofficial visit to Wytham Abbey in Oxford in order to continue the search for the site of the DW Grail….Cardinal's Folly. Phil Baker's book (page 252) states that this was the probable location for it.
So with brimming optimism, I knocked on the door and as luck would have it, the owner came to the door.
"Are you Michael by any chance" I asked. "Yes" he replied. "I'm Steve" "Ah! Dennis Wheatley" he said. That saved a lot of explanation!!
Michael led us to the main entrance of the beautiful 13th century abbey and suggested that we wander around the very substantial grounds. On our return leg we met with Martine who was very welcoming & invited us inside. Her knowledge of the previous owners proved very useful as she pointed out that the connection with Feld Kenwick and Whytham Abbey was wrong as no Fenwick's had ever lived in the Abbey (At least certainly not in the 192O's).
However, not to be deterred, I am now on to another excellent lead. (To be continued).
Our next stop was a family visit in Hartley Wintney and very soon after we were back on the road heading Southwest on the very busy M3. We arrived at Lymington at six o'clock and after eventually managing to locate the car park and trying to get the car park barrier open were wheeling our luggage into the reception area of The Angel Hotel. http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g190774-d619243-Reviews-Angel_Inn-Lymington_New_Forest_Hampshire_England.html#REVIEWS
Although the weather had become a little overcast it was still dry and so we quickly unpacked and then knocked on the door of number 8 to say hello to Charles, Nat and Alex (Beck Junior) plus another addition to the family ….. a new handbag (a present for Nat's birthday) in luxuriant blue with gold trimmings. Hidden away inside on the clasp was the name "Marc Jacobs". I can't wait till October!!
Ann & I then went for a tour of the town. We returned to the Angel, ate two excellent different fish dinners accompanied by the obligatory alcohol and finished off with strawberry Pavlova & coffees. And so to bed.
The next day (Saturday) got off to a bad start!! We awoke to torrential rain and swirling winds. The poor store holders in the High Street were providing excellent entertainment for those of us who were watching the varied antics from the window of the Angel.
Whilst they tried to fight the deluge we were tucking into a traditional English breakfast. It would have been rude not to!! We then met up with Duncan & Christine West who were also staying at the Angel.
Then it was our turn to be on the outside. The intrepid 'Angel' group were gathered together in the foyer. Our DW troops were reinforced by the addition of Ken & Mary Gallagher and Ken C & Vivien G who had joined us from their hotel in the nearby village of Sway. We were ready to combat the elements and go in search of DW memorabilia.
Charles had done a brilliant job beforehand by researching the route that would be most suitable to follow and organising the walk to coincide with texts from the various DW books relevant to Lymington.
Our first reading was in the Angel itself; Charles read the passage from The Launching of Roger Brook (‘TLORB’; Lymington edition, page 61) where Roger leaves his horse at the Inn, and writes a farewell note to his mother before setting out on his adventures.
We then ventured outside and 'swam' up the High Street. With multiple brollies aloft we cut a swathe through the Lymington 'high Street' hordes.
Our second stop was the Nat West Bank where DW kept his mysterious deed boxes; We then proceeded as follows;
Moore & Blatch, his solicitors. Cecil Blatch was one of his principal business advisers and a close friend.
Then on to Ashley Lane, which features in TLORB (as Aishley Lane, TLORB, p67), which leads/led down to Grove Place;
Opposite Church Lane is the churchyard of St Thomas's Church, which features in TLORB (p 67);
At the mouth of Church Lane is Monmouth House, which also gets a mention (TLORB p67)
Then, down Church Lane, past a serpentine wall (possibly built in Napoleonic times) on the right, to DW's famous 6 bay serpentine wall on the left, which he built bay by bay, as a result of which it was in his opinion too wavy (illustration in Saturdays with Bricks opposite p 64 with title "A little over half the length of the wall that is too wavy"); the building is described on pp 96-7, which Charles read out. It finished modestly "When I had finished it did not look anything like as attractive as its predecessor".
Charles informed us that DW spent £1,100 on the new home and garden improvements rather than
the then legal maximum of £50; (Drink & Ink pp 233-235). The builder Mr Bower had apparently not
heard of the war time regulations and a local dealer, who had been using Grove place as a
storehouse threatened DW that he would inform the police of this misdemeanour unless he was paid
to keep his mouth shut. DW asked him for some time to think about it and asked him to come back
the next day. He arranged with Mr Bower to secretly listen to the conversation from an adjacent room.
The next day DW managed to get the dealer to repeat his threat and DW then called Mr Bower in and DW
told the ‘old crook’ that “he had attempted to blackmail him and he could now call Mr Bower in as a
witness if he said one word about the decorations and if you do, I’ll have you in jug”.
That was the end of that.
Then down and left into Grove Road where we arrived at the southern boundary of DW's estate; and then round into the modern development that has replaced Grove Place. Here Charles talked about what the house looked like.
Charles talked about how Roger Brook described it in TLORB (p 25), and how it looked in DW’s day, with the terrace DW built on the south, front door on the west (DW took the prospective purchaser who eventually bought the house and demolished it straight upstairs from the front door to see the view of his Botticelli Garden from the upstairs loo); rockery, kitchen garden and maze to the north, and sunken rose garden and stable yard to the east (all reconstructed from Saturdays with Bricks and Drink & Ink).
Going into the modern development, we looked at a remaining fragment of another DW serpentine wall, and a surviving arch which DW built in 1960 (description of building this, his second arch, in SWB p 105; also a photo entitled "an arch in a four-and-a-half-inch wall supported by thirteen-and-a- half-inch pillars (Built 1960)"); Charles also showed a black and white photo of DW wheeling bricks through the arch.
Ken C recalled how as a boy he saw Grove Place through the railings as it awaited demolition. For Ken's recollections, click here.
It was still rather wet so we decided to look at the various photos of 'DW at Grove' during lunch at the Ship Inn. A lovely pub/restaurant strategically placed overlooking the harbour.
After lunch the weather had improved significantly and the sun came out for the reminder of the afternoon.
Charles showed us the rather fine door and door frame from Grove in a house in Elgar Court and told the story of how Mr Elgar bought it from the firm which demolished the house. He also mentioned that the house is further described in Blake Pinnell's "Country House History around Lymington, Brockenhurst and Milford-on-Sea”, now out-of-print.
We then headed to the village of Sway; some five or six miles away in the New Forest to the north west of Lymington.
Ken, Mary, Ken & Vivien were staying at Tower Hall http://www.towerhall.co.uk/ which was on the outskirts of the town and attached to this was the Sway Tower Folly. This was a smaller 50-foot prototype to the much larger Sway Tower (or 'Peterson's Folly') built in 1879 which was located just across the road.
Despite DW placing the tower in Highcliffe in TLORB, and despite it being built roughly a hundred years too late, Sway Tower is almost certainly the inspiration for the tower in which Roger Brook and Georgina Thursby's activities on the sofa take place in Chapter 4 of the book (‘The making of a man’). Indeed, as Ken G pointed out in a recent post , DW identifies the tower in which Roger seduces Georgina (or vice versa) as Sway Tower in the last chapter of the last book in the Roger Brook saga, Desperate Measures.
Tea, coffee cakes and biscuits were very kindly provided by Mary and Vivien in the large conservatory attached to Tower Hall. The sun was beating down on the conservatory and in this tranquil setting we relaxed.
A few of us decided to take a closer look at the Sway Folly and in a moment of rashness, Ken Gallagher, Charles and myself decided to ascend the narrow concrete winding steps. The steps were quite deep with pigeon droppings near the top and the presence of parent pigeons protecting two young birds didn’t help our cause. However we arrived at the top and the views of the surrounding countryside were excellent.
We returned to the party downstairs and after a short while Ann decided to walk in the direction of the larger tower. This turned out to be quite fortuitous as she happened to meet up with the lady that lived in the house next to the 200 foot high Peterson tower. The lady said that we could all get a much closer view of the tower by climbing through the electric fence that surrounded the field!!!! Fortunately it wasn’t turned on and so we all clambered through, whilst we were being watched by a pair of Peregrine Falcons swooping overhead.
More photos were taken and afterwards we headed back to the cars for a return trip to The Angel. Some decided to go back to the hotel rooms; some continued their shopping and some watched a street carnival that was being held in the High Street.
We all assembled for dinner at 8 pm at The Angel and enjoyed ‘even more’ food.
After dinner Charles produced a note from Steve Whately which he read out over dinner (a copy of this note is shown below). Steve W. also sent a specially produced book mark to the group to commemorate the trip which was very much appreciated.
Good Evening Everyone,
I trust you’ve all had an enjoyable day in and around Lymington. I hope you won’t mind Charles interrupting the proceedings on my behalf, but when it became apparent that this weekend gathering was going to be well-attended, I started wondering what other DW-related trips we might be able to plan.
Ever since Charles announced on the website that the former winery of Herr Julius Kayser had become a museum of Buddhism, I’ve wanted to revisit Traben-Trarbach and see inside the building where Dennis Wheatley worked and gained experience of the wine trade. Jean and I visited the town – as I believe Charles (and Nat?) did – some years ago, and (from the outside at least) the building looked just as it did in the illustration in DW’s biography. But to go inside would be something special, even if it is no longer recognisable as a winery.
We might also look around for other buildings; Julius Kayser’s house on the Traben side, and his brother Fritz’s house on the Trarbach side, where DW lived during his time there. Also the railway station where DW completed his journey to Traben-Trarbach, and outside the town, the ‘Gymnasium’ where Julius Kayser’s sons were educated, and perhaps the tennis club of which DW was made a member.
I thought that we might all plan our holiday schedules so that we could meet for a few nights in T-T. It could be near the start, or the end, of a longer motoring holiday in Europe (as Jean and I might well do), or you might prefer just to come for a short break. If we time it right, perhaps Iwan and Margareta might be able to stop off on their annual journey from Spain to Sweden, or on their way back. This would mean the trip would take place at either the beginning or the end of summer.
To give you all plenty of time to organise your schedules, and to allow for anything perhaps already planned for next year, so that you’ve no excuse not to come, I propose that we go in 2013. Those keener students of DW amongst you will realise that 2013 will mark the centenary of the year in which DW spent his six months in T-T. What better time to go? Perhaps we might prepare a suitable framed photograph of DW – who, after all, was a student of world religions – to present to the Museum of Buddhism in the hope that they might hang it somewhere in the building.
Well, that’s something you might like to discuss tonight, and at forthcoming Conventions. Charles, we won’t ask you to make a reconnaissance trip to Traben-Trarbach!
I’ll leave you in peace now, with the hope that you’ve all had a splendid time, and that you’ll like the little souvenirs which Charles is going to hand out for me.
I’m very sad that Jean and I couldn’t be with you all this time, but look forward to seeing you all later this year in Elstree.
All Best Wishes,
Steve & Jean
After dinner we said our goodbyes to the two Kens, Mary & Vivien whilst the Angel occupants climbed ‘even more’ steps to bed.
In the morning after ‘another’ cooked breakfast we all departed to our various locations throughout the country. An excellent time was had by all.
By the time our next trip has been organised I may have lost some of the numerous pounds that I have accrued.
On behalf of the entire DW group I’d like to say a big thank you to Charles for all his hard work in organising this very pleasant weekend.
As I walked out of the door of the hotel I half expected to see Roger Brook to be outside the door of the hotel astride his steed doffing a stylish hat for our farewell.
Ken and Mary stayed on after we had departed and very kindly tried to find the Georgian beach house that features at the start of The Ka of Gifford Hillary. Peter Elgar had earlier told me that there were no beaches in Lymington, which meant we would have to look further afield, and suggested we try Keyhaven or Milford-on-Sea. Ken and Mary looked but subsequently advised me that most of the coast line looks as if it has been changed to stop coastal erosion so if it did exist it may have been demolished. They have however ticked another box in our list of things to look for and for that we're thoroughly grateful.
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This page last updated Copyright © 2002-2006 Bob Rothwell. 2007-2020 Charles Beck.