Sea-Change:  Wivenhoe Remembered   

Wivenhoe Hall

Spitler Abbot – Glendower Jackson

The Head Gardener in Wivenhoe Hall always wore a bowler hat, and he smoked a pipe and the pipe was always hanging from his mouth, be it lit or not, and because of it hanging from his mouth it always had a dribble underneath the bowl that ran down out of his mouth, and he was called ‘Spitler,’ Spitler Abbott! Funny little man! But the Head Gardener at the Wivenhoe Hall, nevertheless.

Corrie Lawton, Lord of the Manor –Hilda Barrell

My granddad was very friendly with the Lord of the Manor, Corrie Lawton. But he was living at Ballast Quay and he used to come and call for my granddad and Dr Squire, and they used to go to the Rose and have a drink and a game of billiards. And his wife had a baby and he had a sister-in-law who was a nurse, and she came and nursed her sister, and she had a daughter. She came to my granddad one day and said could I go and play with Evelyn? So I used to be up there every day, and play there, until Corrie came home, and then I used to run! He kept bloodhounds in the back yard. Poor Corrie, he came in the First World War one night and called for my granddad, in the dark, he never looked like a Lord of the Manor! And they went and had a drink and a game of billiards and that was the last – he was killed in the War.

Then they didn’t seem to have much money and the estate was sold. I can remember, I was 12 when they had a marquee there, and Reginald Beard sold it. And I knew him because he was a friend of my granddad’s, and it was my granddad told him that this was for sale. And I think my back garden is a part of what they cut up because this stands in an acre of ground, it goes out to Ernest Road, and that was out there somewhere where this marquee was, and there were a lot of men from London down, buying little bits. A pity when it has to be sold like that, isn’t it.

The end of Wivenhoe Hall – Hilda Barrell

My cousin Leslie has got a painting of the old Hall. I know it burned down, I think it burned down in the night and no one was living there then. And when it was sold, before the person had it, my sister-in-law and I went and had a look over it, and we went upstairs, the third flight, where the servants’ quarters were, I think, oh, poky little bedrooms! I said to my sister-in-law, ‘This is a death trap.’ A dreadful place for them to live.

Hall fire – Freda Annis

The Hall had this fire on a Saturday night, and I don’t know because I was only about eight years old myself, I suppose, but it was a mystery I think. That was the Saturday evening and they used to have a rocket go off and the fire, well, it was the occasion of four or five years, perhaps! And they opened those big gates at the top here for the fire engine. Well, the fire engine! When you saw it, it was pathetic! I mean, though I was only a kid, they only had an old hand cart, but when they unrolled – it was hilarious! Afterwards, you could see the funny side when you got older! I mean, talk about a comic turn! They were all old boys, they unrolled this hose, and the water was just spurting out all over the place! You couldn’t get any water through the hose! That was all coming out! I think the police rung for Colchester Fire Brigade. The engine got there but it was alight all over the place.

Whether it was deliberate – people said it was – I just don’t know. But it was never built up or anything. It was rather a funny affair because the people that were living there had gone off during the week, on holiday, nobody seemed to know where they’d gone or when they were coming back or anything. It was a bit weird, I think. Mr Barlow. But I didn’t really know anything of them.

The people that bought it afterwards were a youngish couple. But we had never seen the Hall at all, only just from the outside. But there was this high wall, and there were tremendous great trees. But you never saw behind that. It always seems to have been quite a mystery. But it’s quite interesting to read about the people that did live there.  

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