The Bringing Of Buckland Lower Lodge Into The 20th Century.

A Memory of Buckland in the Moor.

I am Jeannette McNicol (nee Elliott). My brother John and I moved there with my parents ,when I was 13 years old and he was 12. I had found the house when we were having a picnic by the Webbern with friends. I had gone skipping off down the lane, and seen the house around the corner, and run back to my parents saying "Mum! Dad ! There's a fairy house around the corner, and it's for sale!" My parents looked at it and fell in love with it, and made the first inroads to buying it.

It took 6 months before we could move there from Plymouth, because there was a squatter there by the name of Mary Caunter, who had lived there for years with her uncle Ebeneezer, until he died there.

Apparently, Ebeneezer was more than a bit of a character--who was known to offer Laurel Berry wine to poor unsuspecting travelling salesmen.

When we used to visit the place , Mary used to hang out of one of the windows and tell us about the "them b***** pixies who chucked water down her chimney, and wet her washing", and "them b***** Germans who were coming down the river (Dart), in their submarines, and bombing her cabbage patch".

Mary was eventually relocated to another cottage on the moor by her relatives, and we left post-war Plymouth to live life in the country.

The Lodge houses still had no electricity, and water was still from a well in the woods, and the toilets were outside up the hill at the back. I remember being utterly mortified one day, when I saw (though the hole in the toilet door), my headmaster (from Ashburton Comprehensive) standing in the lane with tourists that he was showing the house to. I had to stay in there until he was gone. You could touch the ceilings downstairs without standing on a chair, and the doorways were so low that dad had to put rubber on the tops of them,to stop my boyfriends, and other tall visitors from hitting their heads. I loved the country life--and I have done my best to emulate it in the little Australian town of Stirling where I live now, and where I have photos and paintings of the Lodge hanging on my walls.

John and I would walk the mile along the road to Spitchwick common and past Spitchwick Manor, 1/2 mile down the road, where we would sometimes see the royal red helicopter fly in one or the other of the royals., and meet the other kids from the road to Leusdon on the way--among them were the Fielder boys-Brian & Roger (who's dad was a math's teacher's named 'Lofty'), to catch the school bus. We had many oil-lamp-lit curries at the Fielders' place. All the kids walked for miles - unchaperoned.

It always felt as if no children had ever lived there before us, so I am pleased to read that there were. I guess in the 100's of years that it was there, it would have been odd if there hadn't been. However, there were definitely ghosts there when we moved in. I always figured that it was Ebeneezer doing his best to get rid of us in no. 2. Eventually, after my dad (Arthur) ripped out the black wooden spiral staircases, and modernised the place, he must have moved on. My mum, (Marjorie) however, did occassionally see an old man materialise in the lounge of number one. My brother John and I certainly heard and felt a LOT of strange things there in the earlier years .

We had some wonderful memories in that house - Boxing Day parties, and various other parties, and lots of visitors, (and also some 'not so wonderful memories').

Until the house was plumbed with the water from the well we sometimes bathed in the freezing river, or had novel showers which required a lot of effort and we progressed from oil lamps and candles, and an electric generator (that broke down every time that dad went to Europe on business) to REAL electricity from the grid. and a telephone. No more did my homework catch fire from fallen over candles .

The twice a week deliveries of groceries and bread were a bit of excitement, as were Tony Beard's milk delivery. Both caught my mum up with all the stories of the local villages 'goings-on'.

My brother and I had our 21sts from that house, and I came and went for years (bringing home many friends) from boarding at Teignmouth Grammar School, university near London, and 4 years teaching in London, and a year in Jamaica. A lot of people of many nationalities came to stay with us there. Everyone loved it and the home that mum had turned it into. I met my Australian husband in Jamaica, and we married out of that house, in St. Peter's church (the Norman church) at the top of the hill and I left there for Australia, 3 months later.

I bought my children home from Australia to visit, and came home to birth my 4th child (my daughter Bryony) in Exeter General, while my two older boys went to Widecombe Primary school - where they caused much amusement tucking into school dinners (an unheard of thing in Australia) where vegemite sandwhiches were the norm. My youngest son, Lachlan, stayed home with mum and I. They all loved investigating the woods and the river, and playing there with John's children.

My mum spent most of her life there, and eventually died there (way too early) 9 months after my daughter was born.

When it became too much for my father to maintain, it was eventually sold to doctor 'Harry ', (who invented the first mechanical heart) and his wife. They changed it a lot, but never really stayed there much. Now it's current owners have changed it's insides again - and it looks the best that it has ever looked. It is loved again! I am happy that the new owners have regenerated it.

I was terrific being part of the country life there. We knew everyone for miles and made many treasured friends. It was a massive part of my life, and I miss it and the friends and neighbours there-including the Frenches, and the Hutchins (from the manor house - Leusdon Lodge, where we spent wonderful Christmas days and where I had my wedding reception.

The house featured in the English TV 'Nanny ' series, and a film with Vanessa Redgrave, who used to chat to mum while she changed her costumes in our lounge. Another film company tendered to use it for a remake of "The Hound Of The Baskervilles' with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. However, dad said "no" to them, which was very disappointing for us.

I should also add, that one year we had a stream of visitors from London, who came to see the Building that TURNER had sketched, and was hanging with his collection at the TATE Gallery .

So the house was in my family from 1959 to about 2005. John would probably know exactly. I'm not sure exactly when it was built, but I always understood it was from the 16th century sometime. I know it was the place where the Lord of the Manor stopped to change horses before they hauled his coach up the very steep hill up to Buckland Manor.

Added 31 January 2015


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