FROM BARFORD HOUSE TO PIERS COURT


How long has it taken to drive from Piers Court to Barford? Not long, thanks to my driver, the mysterious Mr. Wilson, and his gleaming BMW.

The first thing we notice is that work has been done on the wall skirting Barford House. This is a big surprise. Cotswold stone has been placed on top of the brick. No big deal, you'll be thinking, but it goes on for a hundred yards. I smell new money.


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We walk up and down the length of the wall. The little, white, Alice-in-Wonderland door has been replaced and painted. Work is going on in front of the house itself, which I don't feel I can take photos of. And a gate has been put over the entrance that John and I took advantage of in 2014 in order to gain access to the temple.

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That gate is clearly not an invitation to enter. So we don't. We go round the property in a big anti-clockwise circuit until we are back where we started.

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I have this to report. A number of houses have been built on what was Barford House land. Some of them have gates exactly like the one above. Clearly the sale of these houses has enabled the renovation work to be done to the external wall and, I'm thinking, to the house itself. So what about the temple at the bottom of the garden? That is the outstanding question. In contemplative mood we pack up and buzz off.

Back at home I post my piece on the
Scoop talk, then write my pieces on Piers Court, then get a new Mac allowing me to update Rapidweaver with which I build my websites. The new Mac allows me to add 'Stacks' pages and that is what this page is. Hence the slightly different look compared to all the pages so far uploaded onto this site. And before this page is finished, I hope to reveal some of the possibilities of this new type of page.

Now someone who was at the
Scoop talk, has written to me saying he has read my Piers Court Revisited and looks forward to reading my Barford report to which I refer. This Tim Jones has quickly become a friend, in my mind at least, and after reading my Barford update in an email (much the same as the above paras) Tim's done a little research of his own and sent me some images.

First, a Google image of Barford which was made just before the new houses went up, showing up as brown earth to the right of the red pin.


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To the left of the red pin is Barford House and you can see the back garden with the straight line that goes from the back of the house via the pond to the temple. See how tiny the temple is compared to the new housing site? Surely the money from B will allow A to be made glorious again. As glorious as it remains in my mind.

Tim also brought my attention to images that have been posted by Barford Heritage having had access to Warwicks Records Office. Several images of Barford House that show the grounds when Evelyn Waugh, as inseparable friend of Alastair Graham, would have known them.

Actually, this first one is plan of the grounds in the nineteenth century. An avenue of trees leads from the house to the gazebo.

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Below, a fine view of the gazebo or temple from the house, before a pond was installed.

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Evelyn’s first attempt at a book, which he destroyed in 1925, was called ‘The Temple at Thatch’. In his early published short story ‘The Balance’ (1926), Thatch is referred to as a house fairly handy for travelling from Oxford. On page 233 of his autobiography, ‘A Little Learning’, Waugh recalls that: ‘The Temple at Thatch’ concerned an undergraduate who inherited a property of which nothing was left except an Eighteenth century classical folly where he set up home and practised black magic. Inspired by this setting, let's face it.

By the time the pond was installed, the tree to the right of the temple had grown somewhat. Waugh wrote about the pond being dug in September 1927. And in October an enormous lead statue of Mercury was installed there. So the photo below is from September 1927. (Correction: given the growth of the fir tree, it's likely that this photo dates from after the statue's removal.)


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In any case, the image that most intrigued me was this next one, showing a formal garden in the vicinity of the temple, which can be seen on the left of the image, again flanked by the imposing fir tree.

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The above brings to mind images from the film The Scarlet Woman, made by Evelyn Waugh and Terence Greenidge in summer 1925, when Waugh and Alastair Graham were still great friends. Although the pics that follow were taken in the garden of Waugh's father's house, Underhill, in Golders Green, and feature John Greenidge with Evelyn Waugh, I feel Barford and Alastair inspired Waugh's acting.
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Still from The Scarlet Woman, directed by Terence Greenidge.

Evelyn is wearing a blonde wig in the film. Isn't his expression warm? And he can't keep his hands off his pal.

Evelyn kept returning to Barford even when his affections had been transferred to Evelyn Gardner. There are two photos that Alastair took of the Evelyns together in the grounds of Barford in the vicinity of the temple, which I've already reproduced on an earlier page called
Barford Revisited. Below is one of them again.

He-Evelyn (staring at the statue of Mercury) doesn't look anything like as interested in his partner in this photo. But, hey! - transferring one's affections from the male gender to the female takes time! At least it did in those days.


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Courtesy Waugh Archive, Milverton Farm.

There are no pictures of the Evelyns, or of Evelyn and Alastair, in or beside the temple itself. Maybe Alastair held on to them. Other photos were given by Alastair Graham to Michael Davie, the editor of Waugh's Diaries, from whose estate Alexander Waugh later obtained them.

Let's leave Barford with the classic view from the house that Evelyn Waugh and Alastair Graham knew so well.

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Courtesy Waugh Archive, Milverton Farm.

I'm now going to suggest that when Evelyn Waugh settled at Piers Court with his second wife, he went some way to recreating this inspiring view. Though not straight away.

Below is a photo that Evelyn sent to Nancy Mitford in October 1948, with the words 'here is a funny picture of my patriarchal home circle'. Five children (Mary having died at birth and Septimus still to come). And ten servants (unless the older woman in the front row is relative of Laura's).

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Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

But the thing to notice In this context is that there is no statue in the background. By 1949, there was
a statue at the far end of the circular lawn.

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Sketch Duncan McLaren, 2019

In June of that year, Waugh mentions, in a letter to Lady Mary Lygon, driving to Wolverhamption to see 'a hideous statue'. He also tells her that he is having the garden made 'much uglier at terrible expense'. He's joking, of course. At this stage, what he was designing in his garden was more ambitious than anything he was writing.

It really has to be emphasised how little Waugh wrote between
Brideshead Revisted and Men at Arms, between 1945 and 1951. The two novellas, The Loved One and Scott King's Modern Europe, constitute a couple of months work each. The slim Helena was begun in 1946, abandoned for three years and then returned to in 1949 when Waugh would write, by his own estimation, about one sentence of the novel per day.

He had nothing big to say after
Brideshead, in which he'd given fictional form to his relationship with Alastair and his rejection by Teresa Jungman. I'm going to suggest that, consciously or not, the work he did in the garden recreated the essence of the grounds of Barford House.

Here is an artist's impression of the view towards the house from The Ruin that Waugh designed and built in 1948-49.

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Sketch Duncan McLaren, 2019

In letters to Nancy Mitford throughout 1949, Waugh kept referring to the work in negative and ironical terms, even though it was clearly important to him.

Actually, first mention is August 1948: '
I am laying out a little garden of cobble stones and evergreens.' A funny way of saying he was yearning for the Temple at Barford.

In April 1949, work got underway again: '
My Gothic fernery [that's the edifice built behind the house] under construction at great expense, is a fiasco. It looks like Lancing College War Memorial 1914-18. So I am making a serpentine walk with a serpent's head and eye but you have to go up in a balloon to see it.' It's a Barford effect he really wants. Not Lancing. Never Lancing.

2 June 1949: '
The architectural effects in my garden are ruining it and me.' I suspect that it was at this time that the statue of Raphael by Ceccarini was sourced. As I say above, he mentions driving to Wolverhampton to look at a statue with Cyril Connolly. The placing of the statue In front of the house and in view from the pillar feature - which could be referred to as The Temple at Piers Court, though Waugh called it The Ruin - parallels what was going on at Barford. After all, the statue of Mercury could be seen front-on from the house, back view from the temple. Though because of the different set-ups at Barford and Piers Court, a straight line becomes an L-shape and a triangle. Like so:
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There is no question that the view to die for is the one from Barford House looking down over the pond towards the temple. But the Piers Court set-up gives more sight-lines. And there's something to be said for that.

I've just realised I've drawn a seat in the temple at Piers Court. That's me getting a bit ahead of Evelyn's masterplan. Back to 1949:

28 July 1949:
' 'Just got my bill from the garden contractors who had laid down a yard or two of gravel and put up a pillar. A cool thou.'

Now a thousand pounds in 1949 is worth £35,000 in 2019. It was five full-size pillars he was paying for. Plus a couple of short ones. Plus steps leading to the 'Ruin'.

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Sketch Duncan McLaren, 2019

Plus the serpentine walkway that I suspect culminated in the Ruin through the woody area behind it. Plus the ambitious Gothic edifice at the back and side of the house.

Back to the statues. The one installed at Piers Court in 1949 and the one installed at Barford House in 1927. They even have something In common - the outstretched arm. The fact that the outstretched arm of Raphael was lopped off at the wrist has that ironic flavour that all Waugh's references to the garden architecture at Piers Court have.

I'd suggest that Waugh was desperate for the Barford connection to remain secret. To be accused of sentimentality was what the author of the icy cool
Loved One least wanted.

Having looked long and hard at the two images below, I have come to this considered conclusion. It's a statement that comes out of Evelyn's mouth:

"Alastair was one of history's great mutual masturbators. I have no wish to be reminded of that when looking out of my library window here at Piers Court. Me being a committed family man these days."

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Did he not wish to be reminded of Alastair? Evelyn kept a photo that Alastair sent him in their shared youth. In it, Alastair's naked body echoes the pose of Mercury in the pond at Barford. Or is that outstretched arm just my imagination?

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Reproduced from Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited by Philip Eade.

Time moves on. Septimus was born and looks about one year old in the next photo. Which means it was taken in the summer of 1951. In the two years since the pillars were put up, Evelyn has had the builders install a seat in the feature.

A subsequent photo reveals that some work was also done on the steps leading up to the Ruin. In other words, the front edge of the feature is not the same as it was in 1949. Perhaps the extra work was done at the same time as the seat was installed. Evelyn kept no diary in the period and I have checked the letters to Nancy Mitford in particular, but have come across no more references.


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Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

Why the seat? There was no sitting in the temple at Barford. But that was then, drinking and frigging with Alastair. This is twenty-five years later, with the fruit of his loins all around him.

It seems to me that James is a sweet little boy. And it seems to Laura, Teresa and Margaret that Septimus is a darling. Hatty, in the foreground, is the one that Evelyn lovingly referred to as being 'mad'. And there sits Bron on his best behaviour, lest he infuriate his temperamental father.

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Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope of the copyright holder.

Time passes. Men at Arms gets written (it may have been started by the time the above pics were taken) and so does Officers and Gentlemen. And Evelyn has the nervous breakdown that will be written up as The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold. These next photos were taken one day in July, 1955. Evelyn was beginning to look old. Not quite the same force that you sense he was in the 1951 photos.

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Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder, Getty Images.

What have we next? Evelyn united with Alastair at the Temple at Barford? Well, no, that's just an interviewer with him. Evelyn is puffing away at the latest in an endless stream of cigars. Full of self-satisfaction, with Officers and Gentlemen having gone down well. Or is it more complicated than that?

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Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder, Getty Images.

Anyway, that's what I wanted to say. Except for what follows. Take it away, Edward Lear, Kevin Maddison and me.
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THE QUANGLE WAUGHNGLE'S HAT






One


On the top of the Piers Court Tree
The Quangle Waughngle sat,
But his face you could not see,
On account of his Barford Hat.
For his Hat was a hundred-and-two feet wide,
With ribbons and pillars on every side
And bells, and buttons, and props, and lace,
So that nobody ever could see the face
Of the Quangle Waughngle Quee.

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Two


The Quangle Waughngle said
To himself up the Piers Court Tree:
“Jam; and jelly; and bread;
Are the best of food for me!
But the longer I live up this Piers Court Tree
The plainer than ever it seems to me
That very few people come this way
And that Alastair lives so far away!”

Said the Quangle Waughngle Quee.







Three


But there came to the Piers Court Tree,
Master and Miss Canary;
And they said, — “Did ever you see
Any spot so charmingly airy?
May we build a nest in your Barford Hat?
Mr. Quangle Waughngle, grant us that!
O please let us come and build a nest
Of whatever material suits you best,
Mr. Quangle Waughngle Quee!”

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Four


And besides, to the Piers Court Tree
Came the Stork, the Duck, and the Owl:
The Snail, and the Bumble-Bee,
The Frog, and the Fimble Fowl;
(The Fimble Fowl, with a Corkscrew leg;)
And all these kids said: “We humbly beg,
We may build our homes in your Barford Hat:
Mr. Quangle Waughngle, grant us that!
Mr. Quangle Waughngle Quee!”






Five


And Sir Graham Greene came there,
And the Powell with dancing toes,
And a wise Orwellian bear,
And Cyril with a luminous nose.
And the Betj Baboon, who played the flute,
And the Randolph Calf from the Land of Coop,
And the Fleming Squash, and the Mitford Bat,
All came and built in the Barford Hat
Of the Quangle Waughngle Quee.

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Six

And the Quangle Waughngle said
To himself up the Piers Court Tree:
“When all these creatures go
What a wonderful peace there’ll be!”
And at night by the light of a Stinchcombe moon
They danced to the Flute of the Betj Baboon,
On the broad green leaves of the Piers Court Tree,
And all were as happy as happy could be,
‘Cept the Quangle Waughngle Quee.

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'Cept the Quangle Waughngle Quee.

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'Cept the Quangle Waughngle Quee.



Barford update, June 7 2019. Tim Jones has been in touch with the Principal Conservation Officer at Warwick County Council, stating his concerns about the state of the gazebo at Barford House. He was told:

'The Council does reserve the right to issue urgent repairs notices under S.54 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as an immediate interventionary measure when we are concerned about the building’s structural stability and state of repair.

'We have been in touch with the owner previously and visited the site last year. Some repair work was carried out by the owner following this, however we will be visiting the site soon to assess the structure’s current condition and whether repairs are still ongoing.'


Which is encouraging, especially combined with the observation that there appears to be lots of renovation going on around Barford House, presumably linked to the sale of new houses built on ex-Barford House land.





Acknowledgements

Thanks to John Wilson for driving me to Barford on three occasions now.

Thanks to Tim Jones for taking an interest and getting stuck in.

Thanks to Alexander Waugh for those Barford pics taken during Alastair Graham's era.

Thanks to the Roberts family for keeping the Barford temple upright. Long may their efforts be encouraged and be successful.

Thanks to Kevin Maddison for not objecting to my use of his Quangle Wangle's Hat images. His website is
here.