Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Mountfield House.... walls dó speak!!

   My name is Mountfield and I appreciate you to call me so. No first name, just Mountfield. Although I have a very posh background I prefer to be modest as I found out that beauty is corruptible; soon I might not be here any more.

   Of course I have been very proud of my looks! I was respected and loved, kept warm and comfortable with large fires in the hearths of all my rooms. My first owner had a great eye for detail without overdoing. My bay windows at each side of my majestic front door, my ceilings, staircase..... I can go on and on.
Still, I have not been a very happy home, people did not stay for long and the one who did in the end, suddenly disappeared......

   Real lives are lived within my many walls and how often do people say: “if walls could speak...”? But walls dó speak! If you ever visited me, you might have been too busy wondering about my current state instead of listening to me.
   I hope you don't mind me telling a bit more about myself and my occupants over the almost 200 years of my existence. Yes, I am that old, so old that I have forgotten in which year I was built. I remember it took some time before my first owners the Robinson's, moved in but I do remember the first new life within my walls when their first son baby John William was born. This was in January 1833, only two weeks before one of the wettest Winter months in history when the rain was gurgling through the gutters and flooding down the hills, flooding the muddy streets of Musbury. Horses walked slowly to avoid the mud spreading on the cloths of the poor servants that were sent out to buy food. The carriages of the delivery services were covered in mud and cleaned each day again after already a very long day for the men that drove them.

   When William was still a baby, Mrs. Robinson decided that she did not want to raise her child in this ancient but beautiful village and even before the Summer could change her mind, they put the house up for sale.
Another young family, the Cobham's bought it. The couple just married and hoped to raise a large family and I was with 13 rooms and definitely status, excellent for this. Thomas Cobham was addressed in all the letters to him as Esquire, a polite title appended to a man's name when no other title is used
. Yes, you will learn some history from me!
   And again new life screamed his lungs out right after birth: their first son in March 1834 and their second in May 1835. It left Mrs. Cobham with a weaker constitution and she talked about renting out the house to move to more comfortable and warmer places. Thomas Cobham agreed but not before he and his wife accompanied the Duke of Somerset to the a large party on November the 7th where all influential people were going to meet each other. You would call it 'networking' in this modern world.

   But it was not until November 19 – 1836 that I was advertised to rent out. I can assure you that the time between the party and the renting out, wasn't a happy one. The couple quarrelled. Thomas suddenly had more and more duties to fulfil outside his residence. I felt so sorry for his wife, but what could I do?

   The family left before a new tenant was found and I stood empty and cold on top of the ancient hill, overlooking the village of Musbury where the columns of smoke stood straight in the cold icy blue sky. People wrapped in their warmest cloths, walked by and only a very few stood still to look up to me and to feel sorry. The poor people in the village said it was a waste of money. The built of me had cost so much and had not been without danger; one builder fell of the roof and never received a compensation which left him and his family in great poverty. Another builder, nobody knew where he came from in the first place, disappeared completely. The story was that he left because he was not paid but rumours told something totally different......

   The Cobham's never returned and I was sold to a new owner in May 1837 who rented me out for a longer period, every time another tenant. No one stayed long enough and I felt cheated and lonely. I can assure you that at this early point in my life, I started to dislike people. Alas, maybe it was my dislike that chased them away again, who will tell after all those years...

   In 1851 I was sold to Mr. Mad Mrs. William Trelawney. Mrs. Trelawney gave birth to a son in 1855. Why is it that only sons are born between my walls? But they too sold the house to a very wealthy man called John Loveridge who also had a house in London where he stayed during the Winter. His elderly bones could not stand the cold in Musbury when the wind was hitting the house, chasing the snowflakes around the corner and making the journey down the hill dangerous, despite the servants cleaning the path.
   I have to admit that John (please forgive me for calling him by his first name) was someone I liked very much. During the months he left me alone, there were always people to warm me by keeping one or two fires burning. In return I gave John his much needed peaceful rest when he grew older.
Unfortunately, a few days after he arrived from London in March 1864, he died and I grieved for a long period. Nobody wanted the house or his furniture and everything was put up for sale in September that very same year.

   And again a young family moved in: Captain and Mrs. John Fryer Still and in November 1869 they got a son who unfortunately had a bad health I could not do anything about. After his premature death in January 1871, they rented out a part of the house to Mr. and Mrs. Walter Bourne. Their son was born May 1872. You might think that Mrs. Still would be jealous because her son died and now there was this healthy baby in their home. But this was not the case, she adored the baby and for the very first time there was true love in the house where both couples lived.
When Mrs. Still got badly injured due to an accident in September 1873, Mrs. Bourne helped her where ever she could during the recovery. Both women became very dear friends for the rest of their lives.

   Captain Still, who was a keen gardener like his lovely wife, was fully integrated in Musbury's society and was chosen board member of the local school in 1875. He took this very seriously; I witnessed many meetings where his wife was an excellent hostess.
   They managed to overcome the loss of their son and were socially very active in and around the village. Captain Bourne decided in august 1875 to look for an all round gardener and put an advertisement in the newspaper.

   My happiness with these two couples and all their joyful and busy life came to an end when the house was sold again. My new owner felt like an old friend, he was related to the previous Thomas Cobham and also called Thomas.
   And in 1879, for the very first time between my walls, a daughter was born on January 11, what a wonderful start of the new year! Born during one of the coldest Winters in history with temperatures far below zero.
Fortunately Thomas Cobham did not only inherit the name but also a fortune and managed to keep everyone warm and comfortable inside the house plus the poor people in the village. He and his wife helped where ever they could and were much loved.

   In 1885 they granted him to add the cricket field – locally called the 'Dipping-pan' - to his property but only when 10 acres were made free for local recreation and so it happened.
   But things do not always go according plan and financial problems caused the sale by auction of the complete livestock in March 1888. Used to selling livestock for a living turned out to be different than selling it all. To say goodbye to a part of your life and income was devastating. Everything changed and the house got up for sale again which I hated. Every time I had years of happiness, it came all to an end and I started to wonder if it was me who caused this. Was it the big secret I carried between my walls? The secret all other people managed to keep silent about until they passed away? Did they ever think about me as a witness who sooner or later was going to reveal what happened that dark and rainy night?
   For how much longer will I keep silent? The older I get and the more souls are moving in and out the house, the more difficult it is to find my own peace. My anger about the neglect of my feelings is building up and I am thinking of a plan to become well known in the end. Even after my final end, people will talk about me for years and years.....

  It was not until the end of the 19
th century that it was quiet in the house again. Like in the days of John Loveridge, again an elderly man lived between my walls: Major Lock. A man with an excellent military background and an honest heart that recognized true braveness. It was due to his efforts that a local villager received the Queen Victoria Medal. A party was planned but both military men were too humble to let that happen. They had done their duty and a party was out of place.
   Major Lock was much loved by everyone including me and his somewhat sudden death at the age of 70, just after he finished his breakfast on April 5 - 1909, was a shock to everyone.

   The years that followed were confusing and where my plan to become famous one day was put to a hold, it started to take shape again when all the furniture and outdoors effects were sold by auction. Again I was an empty shell, left alone with that gruesome secret.....

   I continue with my owners in 1921 when Mr. and Mrs. William McKinnel – true Conservatives – looked for 4 housemaids. Imagine, 4 housemaids in a household of 2 people! They lived a very social life and the house was very seldom empty. Meetings were held between my walls and I learned everything about the Conservative Party. Mr. McKinnel was chosen District Counsellor in February 1923 and had so much input that he managed to have the famous Sir (Arthur) Clive Morrison-Bell, 1
st Baronet, a British soldier and Conservative Party parliamentarian, to speak about Socialists Trenchant Criticisms. No, this was not a party! Let me explain: Criticism of socialism refers to any critique of socialist models of economic organization and their feasibility; as well as the political and social implications of adopting such a system. I told you before, I teach you some history!
   I liked Sir Arthur who was very intelligent though modest. His high forehead was the visible witness of his intelligence. The evening of his speaking he was 54 year of age. And although his red hair and light green eyes, he did not have the temper you expected. Either he learned to control it or was wise enough not to give in to it. I never found out.
   Not everyone in the village was happy with his presence and I have seen some dark figures wandering around my outer walls. I needed all my power to scare them off and I succeeded. Of course I knew about my power but got aware of the real strength that very night.

   William McKinnel died at the blessed age (for those day) of 81 on January the 5th 1934. He was dearly missed by his wife, their marriage had always been very good. Mrs. McKinnel and I had a good relationship too. She looked well after me. She also looked after her staff but the financial world was very unstable.
   Her cook and housekeeper both left in 1939, the dark and uncertain year of the beginning of the second World War and Mrs. McKinnel had to look for a cook/housekeeper. She could not afford two separate women any more.

   Please forgive me for this next big step towards my end.
I do not want to talk about the war nor the people that lived in my house after Mrs. McKinnel passed away. I have only once again been a residence for one family; so many different people moved in and out, died between my walls or even lived in poverty. It did not do me good and the signs of wear and tear became visible. My colours and grandeur faded and it was not until 1981 that I was promoted to a Grade II listed building in good hopes this would make me survive in a time that most people could not afford my maintenance any more.

   The last owner I want to talk about lived here with her husband until his death in 1996. His death which was even for me emotional, but it changed the whole life of his wife. She felt extremely lonely and struggled maintaining me. I have seen many tears in my long life and much grief and sadness but here was grief beyond my understanding as a house. Her whole world changed, she lost touch with the safe and loving base her marriage was. And she looked for ways to fill the emptiness.....

   She converted the house into 4 apartments, she lived in one of them. Although she loved me, she lost control over my safety regulations and did not have the energy nor the will to change this to benefit her tenants and herself. She received a fine which she could not pay.

   She also began to hoard a lot of – in my believes unnecessary – belongings.
The couple already loved antiques and inherited many precious items from their ancestors but now she also bought a lot of items in the charity shops. Most of it without any value. But some were worth money she better should have used for me.
  The tenants left and my rooms, first to enjoy living, were filled with her hoarding activities. My astonishment grew by the week by seeing all those items being piled up. In a way I understood her, believe me I did. Seeing her sadness I understood her hoarding but also knew it was not going to be fulfilling and that one day it would turn against her.... and that day would come sooner or later.....
Photo: sean_explore (Instagram)
Back to you Urbexers, the people who walk through me to explore my rooms, to touch the items left by my last owner who all of a sudden disappeared.
I know you treat the house with respect although some of you laugh about it. But many of you though feel the sadness of it all. Wondering how it got so far.
You have all one emotion and many question in common: where did the owner go and how could she leave everything that shows her emotions, behind.
When did she leave and how? Was there another car than the ones in the garage and the garden? Did she take clothes she needed leaving the rest behind? Why are there still so many items that clearly belonged to her husband and her? Very personal belongings like photo's, the WW1 uniform, letters, documents?

Still, none of you ever asked me what happened. No one touched my walls to feel the energy and to interact with me. To talk to me. Maybe you are afraid to hear too many voices, of all those people that lived here? Or are you afraid of the truth? To discover the story of the builder that disappeared in the middle of the night but who in fact, is still here? Afraid to explain me to you if he was found accidentally and that is why the last owner disappeared? Why no one wants to buy me again?

I am beyond restoration; my decay goes fast and that is what I want. I want to die famous and it is only after my total demolition that you will hear the true story.

Yours faithfully,

Note from the author: the dates, and names attached to the dates, are real and found in archives, any mistakes are not my responsibility.
However... the characters, their feelings and thoughts are pure fiction, a figment of my imagination. So are the personal feelings of the last owner who has not been heard off but still might be alive. Please keep this in mind when you read my story or visit Mountfield; pay her your respect. She deserves this.

A big thank you
to my Instagram friend Sean who made a video of his exploration at Mountfield and who triggered my curiosity for it. I have been going through many files and websites and want to name the most important:
*1 www.genesreunited.co.uk births, deaths and newspaper articles
www.revolvy.com information about Sir (Arthur) Clive Morrison-Bell
http://www.pascalbonenfant.com weather in England from 1700 – 1849
Sean Explores the video 'An Urbex Dream – Hoarders Mansion'
Please also visit both Instagram Accounts of Sean: Sean Explores and his Fan Page

: if you want to use any information from my story, please contact me on forehand or refer to me in your article. Thank you :-)