There were a million kids, all with bicycles, all very loud. The place we rented was attached to another house just like it. The entire neighborhood looked exactly the same. The neighbors had two children. The boy used to bounce his basket ball against the wall of our part of the house for something to do. After a few years of living there and the novelty of living in a foreign country was wearing off fast, it all got to be too much. The man next door was working inside the house all day with power tools and the stereo was up loud enough so he could hear it over the tools. The man across the street blasted his music and was frequently escorted home by the police. To make a long story short, the place was driving me crazy and I very nearly lost it in a very bad way one day.
Just for fun I started looking in the local paper at houses that were for sale or rent. It was something to do to imagine life could be better than it was. After all, we were supposed to have been living in Scotland by then. That, sadly, never happened. I was sad, hurt and getting depressed.
One day I saw a picture that made my jaw hit the floor. I didn't even read about it. I knew I had to have it. Finally I read that it was a Victorian Gothic house built in 1856. There wasn't a lot of detail but I was interested! A friend that I had at the time drove me around one day. We couldn't find it at first. We circled the entire huge block and didn't see it. Had we been going the other direction it would have been right in our face. It was a big block because inside it was a very old cemetery and ruins of two very old churches.
Once we found the driveway we went in slowly. There were signs of people living in the house so we drove up into the cemetery. We got out and looked at the ruins of the churches. The oldest one dates back to the 1100's and part of it is under the ground level. There are a couple stone effigies within the boundries. The second church dated from the 1400's and had large archways. I imagine once they must have had beautiful stained glass windows. Now they were covered by graphitti. There was a tiny round part with a spiral stairway inside but there was nothing on top. I can't imagine what used to be there. There was an iron gate to protect some very old headstones that were housed in that area. I remember being so sad when I returned some time later to find the iron bars had been taken off the hinges and all those incredibly old headstones were smashed to bits. It pretty much sums up this horrible town. There was a knight buried by the newer ruins. He was surrounded by 5 yew trees. Sadly, his grave was often festooned with beer cans, broken bottles and used condoms. I have to ask, what is wrong with these people?
One last thing about the cemetery. Some years back, I really can't remember how long ago, someone thought the cemetery would make a good park. So they took up the headstones on south east side and left the bodies where they were. Some of the headstones were used to make a walkway around the ruins. The ones that were broken were used to patch up broken spaces. I even found some set into the concrete on the porch of the house.... The Lodge.
The Lodge, as I mentioned, was built in 1865 and was the gate house for the cemetery. Across from the house was a small stone building with a blocked up window. That was just inside the huge iron gate. Now it is used to house gardening tools for the grounds keepers. Above the entrance to the cemetery was an old iron walkway that would be our undoing and reason for leaving in the end.
When I laid eyes on that house for the first time I was in love. It was like falling in love with a person. I couldn't get it out of my mind. My friend and I went back another time to see it. I wanted it so badly. I started the long process of driving my husband insane about this house. He admitted he liked it too. To make a long story shorter, after lots of money chasing and dealing with brain deficient house owners, we bought the place. I couldn't have been happier.
It is very deceiving when looking at it. It looks huge from the outside but inside is really very tiny. The place had old metal windows and was very drafty. There were a million things that needed to be fixed, but, as naive first time house buyers, we didn't know what we were doing. We did think it was odd that the owners were so anxious to get out of there. They didn't tell us everything. They didn't even tell us how drafty it was because of the huge gothic front door that didn't fit well anymore. Then they had the nerve to come back and ask for the 15 foot curtains in the living room! But that's another story.
There was a small living room with a tiny fireplace. The people we bought the house from built huge book shelves on one wall with a very large mirror in the middle. The bookshelves had doors on them that were covered with chicken wire. How odd. Next were the stairs and then the tiny dining area. It was too small to actually use for that so it ended up being a computer area. They had also built shelves out of MDF that had some 'Arabian Nights' look to them. They were ugly but very useful. The kitchen was so tiny that two people could fit in but that was it. The floor tiles were broken and some were missing. We found out a couple years after moving from there that there was a small pantry that had been boarded up and it was behind the huge shelves. I couldn't imagine why anyone would board up that much needed space. We always knew something didn't look right from the living room. It had an odd shape. I wonder....
There was one very tiny room that was filled with more MDF shelves and had enough room for a single bed. There were three steps up to the big bedroom which had an amazing view of the church ruins in the cemetery. There were so many trees that it did look like a park. But my favorite place was the tiny room. Looking at the house from the outside, the tiny room was the one with the big pointy part on the roof. In the corner of that room there were windows on both sides and I spent many hours up there reading, writing and listening to the birds. I could open the windows and let the breeze in or open it and smell the rain. It was lovely. I could watch people going to and from town or the train station that was so close. It was relaxing there. The best part of all was that, with all the shelves and space, I was finally able to unpack all the things I had been storing all the years before that. Things that had never been unpacked since I came to the UK. I haven't been able to do that since then.
One day I was washing clothes and putting them away, just going about my business. I had an arm load of things that needed to be put away. I grabbed a hanger on my way to put it away in the small room. It was one of those arch shaped wooden hangers that is just flat with a wire on top to hang it up with. Since the hand rail on the stairs was cheap and made of 2x4's, I put the hanger on the wood rail the long way so it wouldn't fall off. I went into the bedroom, put the clothes away and was greeted with a surprise when I came out the door. The hanger I had put down was now standing up, balanced across the 2x4. Standing up! I wasn't sure what to do. I stood there and looked at it. I could feel my face getting hot. I just stared at that spot then glanced around. There was no one home but me. The cat was there but I'm willing to bet she had nothing to do with this. Finally I smiled and chuckled. I thought to myself that if this is as bad as it gets I can handle it. I took the hanger and put it away. Needless to say I thought of that for the rest of the day. When my husband got home I told him about it. As he started turning pale I realized that this was something he probably wouldn't be talking about anymore.
From time to time I would hear the light switch go on and off in the hall by the tiny room but the lights stayed as they were. Once when I was standing in that spot I heard a man talking. I shouted down the stairs to see if my husband was home even though it didn't sound like him. The voice sounded very close. I only heard it that one time. Also, several times I could smell pipe tobacco as if it was burning right then. Then as soon as I identified the smell it was gone.
We found out after moving in that there was a famous man born in that house. His name was John Arlott. He was a BBC Radio cricket commentator. They called him "The Voice of Cricket". As it happens, that little room that I loved so much was his room. In his autobiography he mentioned reading in that room by candle light because they didn't have electricity then. Maybe he was the one with the fascination with the light switch. A few years later the historical society put a brass plaque on the outside of the house saying that he was born there and all that. I wonder if he smoked a pipe.
Little by little the school kids who passed through the cemetery every day after school started harassing us. It started with shouting, the throwing of small rocks at the door and kids from 6 years old to about 15 hanging around on the iron bridge. Unfortunately, the bridge was even with the large window in the bedroom upstairs and with the little space in the small room where I liked to sit. As things progressed, they bothered us more and more. The teenage girls would stand up there, pull their underwear down and show their naked bodies to all the cars going by. I'll tell you, this town is a serious hell hole. The people are just crazy.
In the back of the house there was a room attached that had the washer and dryer in it. The roof of it was level with the ground in the cemetery since the back of the house was built into a hill. The boys would find big pieces of slate or bricks and throw them down into the court yard where my plants and flowers were. I had a small table and chairs out there. They broke nearly everything. I have no idea how many times I had to call the police but by the time they got there the kids were long gone.
The worst incident was when I was downstairs on the phone with the police and heard a loud crash. One small boy, about 7 or 8 had thrown a brick through the window where I always sat. It knocked a wooden shelf down that had some of my things on it. Things from back home. A large rock followed the brick. There was no way I could have caught him and all I could think about was what would have happened if I had been sitting there. I did, however, manage to get a picture of him. I still don't know what ever happened with that incident.
These sorts of things went on for a year. Even with local adults. I couldn't possibly write everything they did to us. Besides, it brings back too many memories. I still loved the house. It wasn't the house that did it, it was the horrible monsters that live around there. My husband found a house out in the country and we ran as fast as we could to that place. (Station Road)
The final slap in the face was when they put up a gate and iron fence around the property the week after we moved out. I had written to the minister of parliament and told him about it. He wrote back. But it was all too late.
The last I heard about this house was that a man had bought it and the pub across the road and was going to fix them all up. I would love to see what it looks like now but I'm not sure I should try to see it. I know my husband won't go. He won't even say the name of the house. Those kids really ruined us and for some time after we jumped at every little sound. After a year of being tortured it was a wonder we were sane.
The man emailed me and said he accidentally found my website and a picture of the house which I know wasn't true because I had no pictures up at that time. I never heard from him again after asking him if he had any strange things happen there. ;)