Saturday, July 02, 2011

Roddy Llewellyn | Memories of Shrubland Hall

An archived post from the (now-defunct) Shrubland Revisited website... 


(alias Sir Roderic Llewellyn, Bt).
Contributed on 26th January 2009
I remember so well staying at Shrubland – no ‘s’ – when I was about five when the house was lived in by my grandparents. There was swimming in the round pond at the bottom of the 100 steps under Nanny’s watchful eye (Nanny will be 100 this June) and Coggins, the butler, much in evidence in his tail coat. Coggins laughed very easily. My grandfather used to tell funny stories in the dining room and Coggins, in the middle of serving, had to go behind the leather screen in order to subdue his giggles.
My grandparents used to live at broke hall during the summer and Saumarez Park in Guernsey during the winter. Apart from Broke Hall on the Orwell, my grandfather also inherited Livermere Park (now demolished), Nacton and other properties. These estates came into the family via my great grandmother, Jane Broke, who married the 4th Lord de Saumarez. My grandfather bought an enormous house in Grosvenor Square in the early 1930′s for about £8,000 for a 55 year lease so that my mother and my Aunt Vicky could do the debutante season. That end of Grosvenor was flattened during WW11 and I well remember as a little boy seeing the huge spiral staircase stopping short of the vanished ballroom. My grandparents moved to South Africa in the 60′s because of my grandfather’s poor health. He had to have a wounded arm amputated, and his stomach was full of shrapnel, injuries from trench warfare during WW1.
During the War (WW 11) my mother used to have a boyfriend in the Canadian Air force (called Stan, I think) stationed nearby. They arranged a rendezvous one summer’s day. As my mother waved a white handkerchief from the tower he flew around far too low blowing kisses. Unfortunately his plane, that he had ‘borrowed’ without permission from his commander, crashed into one of the Cedars of Lebanon close to the house. Estate workers (the few that were left) rushed out with saucepans, etc, to catch the precious drips of petrol. Stan was killed on a mission shortly after wards. I own a silk handkerchief he gave to my mother, with North Africa printed on one side, and the Mediterranean on the other.
I also well remember my mother telling me of how, during WW11, my mother (then a WREN lorry driver in Portsmouth) was made by my grandmother to weed the garden before breakfast when she was on leave at home! During the war they used to mow the lawns with the help of Suffolk Punch horses pulling an antequated mowing device, with their hooves wrapped in leather, because petrol was so difficult to acquire.
Also I remember her telling me of how she and her sister, my aunt Vicky (the late The Hon. Mrs Llewellen Palmer) used to work regularly in the soup kitchens in a tent in the drive of the Sorrel Horse pub at the bottom of the main drive.
For members of the family, Shrubland lost its soul once it had been turned into a clinic although, as patients, we all marvelled at its beauty. My brother David was recently buried next to my mother in the family plot close to Coddenham church. There, there is a large pink, rough-hewn column of pink granite that my grandmother had imported from Sweden (she was Swedish) for a very sad reason. My Uncle Philip had died after slipping off a rope he was climbing upside down while still at Eton and my grandmother erected this stone in his memory. He is buried there with my mother and several other members of the family. So, we will always be at Shrubland in spirit, and that is a very nice feeling.