Monday, 30 August 2010

A Victorian past

The village where we live is largely Victorian. Its origins are earlier with a 12th century church and a 12th century Cistercian Abbey. Similarly there are 4 or 5 larger houses plus a castle which pre-date the Victorian era together with some 20th century housing including our own. During the reign of Victoria the building of the military hospital was crucially important as it had so much encouragement from the Queen who visited often when staying at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. The railway was extended actually up to the hospital itself. A jetty allowed wounded soldiers from the Crimea and later wars to be disembarked from the naval ships into small boats which could land the wounded close to the hospital.

Not only did the hospital dominate the eastern edge of Southampton Water up to the River Hamble, but its domed chapel became a yachting landmark. Larger houses were built for the army medical staff and smaller houses for the other personnel. The village supplied choirs for the 12th century church, the Victorian church built much nearer the heart of the Victorian village, and the Chapel Royal in the Royal Victoria Military Hospital.

The advent of the station meant people could live outside Southampton and commute to their places of work and so more Victorian and Edwardian houses were built unconnected with the hospital, such as the two next door to us. Long ago the larger house was divided into two and its coach house sold off but pleasingly in recent years it has undergone a real metamorphosis. The house next door to us has had a chequered past. It was owned by a gentleman with other property who abandoned it during World War II. It deteriorated throughout the forties and fifties when village children used to play in the abandoned house and garden.

Later it was bought by a civil engineer who terraced the sloping back garden and renovated the house. When he sold it, it was bought by a man who built our house in part of the large garden. When he moved into the newer building he sold on the Victorian house but in the sixties and seventies these houses were regarded as too large and old fashioned so it became a rest home. When the rest home changed hands it was already in need of essential repairs but the new owners didn’t lift a finger for twenty years whilst the top of the roof blew off, drains collapsed and water poured down the side of the house into the foundations.

When the house was sold a few weeks ago we were convinced yet another Victorian house would be pulled down and replaced by flats as has been the case elsewhere in the village. Yesterday we were surprised to see and hear large objects such as carpets and radiator covers being thrown out of the windows and landing in the garden. Being curious we went round to see our new neighbours who turned out not to be developers at all. They have the vision to see that what appears to some as a wreck, is a fine Victorian house and they are going to restore it. Never have we been more surprised and delighted. Eventually when it is all done and they move in we shall be living next door to a beautiful house and very pleasant neighbours.

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