An Interview with Mrs Le Poer Power

Notes of an interview with Mrs Le Poer Power made by Nicholas Butler in the mid 1980s

These are the notes made by Nicholas Butler who interviewed Mrs P L J Le Poer Power in the mid 1980s as part of the research for his book “The Story of Wivenhoe”.   These notes have been re-typed by Ann Jones from Nicholas Butler’s original notes and posted here by Frances Belsham.

About Mrs Le Poer Power.

Married Charles in 1932, old father Gooch made the place over to Charles when we married.   We were at Frinton when the war broke out.   The house was taken over by the War Department immediately.   Went to Allen’s Farm in 1939.  It was empty.   I organised the furniture and carpets for Allen’s Farm, before the Army moved in.   First regiment was a tank regiment.   Winston Churchill came to Wivenhoe Park when the tank regiment was there.

Gurdon Rebow’s house was modelled on Sandringham, it was a mini Sandringham.   Father Gooch bought the estate probably because of the shooting.

My sons Robin and Charles farm.

What Mrs Le Poer Power told Nick Butler

In my day we didn’t have pop stars so the squire’s wife was always asked to do everything.   Nowadays they’d rather have a broadcaster or a pop star or someone like that.   Everyone went to the squire for anything.   During the war Wivenhoe was choc-a-bloc with evacuees.   They were there during the bombing.   Land-girls worked on the farms.   Charles had a lot of land-girls.   Father Gooch built himself a house in Hampshire where he died.

There were 13 servants when we first got married.  No central heating, no electric light, one bathroom.   In 1935 electric light was put in.   Oil lamps and we went up to bed with candles which were laid on the table.   It took one girl a whole morning just to clean the lamps and carry the coal.

In the kitchen was a cook, kitchen-maid, a boot-boy (who came in to do the boots), a butler, a housemaid, a parlour-maid, the nanny and a nursery-maid.   There was a woman who came in to help in the kitchen.   3 gardeners and the cook’s husband was the chauffeur.   Nothing compared to the days of Father Gooch, they had footmen and coachmen.

Mr Revell was our carpenter on the estate, he still lives in Wivenhoe.

Grandfather Gooch was absolutely charming, very autocratic, he didn’t suffer fools gladly.   He was so kind.   I was very devoted to him.   He was very strict with his children.   He really brought them up.   The great sadness in my husband’s life, he was never allowed to mix with other children.   Went to Jesus College Cambridge which was his first contact with the outside world.   Margeurite was disinherited so was my husband until he married me. Margeurite ran away with Henry Cole.   Charles started this dance band, the Cambridge Nightwatchmen.   He was a member of the Footlights Club.   He made up for lost time at Cambridge.   He had a band at the Cafe de Paris and at a nightclub called Toby’s.  Also a band in the south of France at Pourville sur Mer.   He played the guitar and the banjo, sometimes the drums.   His mother was very musical, a marvellous pianist.

Charles had very few friends.   He read history at Cambridge, where he got his MA.   His father was a great scholar, went to Balliol.   He had the most wonderful library.   He was a Greek scholar.   Jowett came down to Wivenhoe to see him.   There used to be a cartoon of Jowett done by Spy in the house.

Father Gooch farmed the Home Farm.   Ploughing was done by horses – Suffolk Punches.  There were Horsemen, Pigmen and Cowmen.   Charles had a horse.   We had our own forge, blacksmith, carpenters, everything was done by the estate workmen.

During the war Charles took more farms in hand, he farmed Allen’s Farm, Fen Farm and Peacocks.   We lost a lot of men so had to use land-girls.

He was High Sheriff of Essex.   In the thirties horns were drawn in.   During the war it was Nanny, Cook and her husband and a daily.   Things never went back after that.

Wivenhoe Park was not commandeered during the First World War.

We could have stayed on at Wivenhoe Park during the war but decided not to.   There were many different regiments there – SAS.   My husband was in the SAS, that was how I met him.   I left Charles in 1946 and he married my sister in about 1951 or 52.   We married in London in October 1932, in January 1933 we came to live at Wivenhoe Park.   The old boy was a sick man (liver disease?), he thought Hampshire would be milder.   He was buried at Wivenhoe Church at the cemetery.   Robin Gooch now farms Allen’s Farm.

The estate was about 3,000 acres and went into 5 parishes, Wivenhoe, Elmstead, Ardleigh, Greenstead and Alresford.

Story: very socialist Rector – Sinclair Carolyn.   One day old Carolyn got up and was preaching a powerful sermon. “The day is long past when we used to say, ‘God bless the squire and his relations, and keep us all in our proper stations.’   Father Gooch rose to his feet and never went back.

Main social life in Colchester before the war was the garrison and hunt balls.   We had dinners and parties at Wivenhoe Park.   The Essex and Suffolk Foxhounds met there.   There were no hunt balls at Wivenhoe Park in my day.   Father-in-law did not hunt.   Very good shot, pheasants and partridges.   Shooting was with your own friends in those days, no syndicates.   Still shoot all over the estate.   There were wonderful woods before the war (Churn Wood, Home Farm Wood, Thousand Acre Wood)

Wivenhoe New Park Colchester Road is the name of the new house.

I think that he thought he might have to sell Wivenhoe Park but didn’t mind, he was very unsentimental.   I think he rather liked the University he was always giving them things.   Didn’t take the fireplaces out when he went. They made him an honorary something or other, with a mortar board.   He always liked change and he was very keen on his new house.   Raymond Erith designed it.

It was a big house, very difficult to run, never heated properly, always icy cold.   Charles Gooch runs the estate now.   My sister lives at Wivenhoe New Park.   Charles wanted the new house to be the centre of the estate and he always thought Charles would go and live there.   Charles and Pat put it off, finally they built up Tye Farm and now the children are grown up and they do not want to go and live there.   The expenses are tremendous.

He would not have sold Wivenhoe Park if I were still married to him.

Charles Nicholas Gooch is upset that his grandfather sold the house.

Charles looked after his people well, he was very very popular, impossible to live with but awfully nice.   I am still terribly fond of him, an extremely nice man, but not tactful, he put people’s backs up.   He did make enemies easily.   He was very popular with the farmers around.   He was Master of the Essex and Suffolk hunt after the war.   All his men who worked for him were very fond of him.   I have never heard of any farmer who did not like him.

He used to say the most outrageous things merely to shock people.   The people who took it seriously got most upset.

He was good friends with Peter (her present husband) Charles was not like other people, he made a point of being friends with Peter, Charles liked to be different from other people.   In latter years he was lonely.   He could be insulting especially to women.

When his father made over the estate to him he gave up the dance band, just like that, and was wholeheartedly into farming.   During the war he was in the Home Guard, anything he went in for he really went in for.

He died from cancer and was a very sick man during the last years of his life.

His best trait was that he was very good to his labour force, he never put anyone out of a cottage, when their husbands died, the wives were allowed to stay on.

He was not a church-goer.

Son Robin was in the City for 15 years, came back and started farming and he loves it.   Robin and Charles went to Landgrove then to Harrow, all the grandsons were also at Harrow.   Didn’t go to University.   Charles went to Cirencester Agricultural College, another grandson is at Writtle, another at Reading, all doing farming.


This page was added on 04/11/2016.

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