Monday, 1 July 2013

Second homes


Have I shown you this hidden, Bath architectural gem before? It is Ralph Allen's town house and very few visitors get to see it these days, because it is surrounded by later buildings, when once it stood on it's own, a short walk from the first Assembly Rooms from which he could stagger back at night, too tired to go to his proper house up the hill - Prior Park.

Ralph Allen was a lowly, Cornish post-office assistant with very high ambitions indeed, and made more money from Bath than pretty much anyone in the 18th century. This little town house is the size of a large cottage, despite the apparent grand scale. It was the first house I ever worked on as a fledgling mason, and when we entered it, we found the original bell-pull tassels hanging by the fire-places, and the original crystal chandeliers boxed up in small cupboards nearby. I wonder what happened to them.

Every time there is a bit of a blip in the finances of Britain, the sore subject of second homes crops up again, and elderly, rural ladies bemoan the fact that their villages are being killed-off by owners who only visit their houses for one week of the year. The houses are dark and depressing at night, they say.

Ralph Allen came from the biggest, modern-day second home area in Britain outside Wales - Cornwall - when the Cornish were thought of as renegade outlaws by the London central government, so that was just the first mould he broke, at the age of 24.

I would love a second, or even third home. A little gaff in Berkeley Square or Dean Street in Soho would be first choice, and a modest castle in Argyleshire would do for Christmas breaks as well. We are quite lucky to have our only home here in Bath, though.

An old girlfriend of mine owns an entire village in the Highlands, and the estate includes one huge sea-loch and two castles. How - you may ask - did the family acquire the resources to purchase these thousands of acres of prime deer-stalking country, as well as country houses in Cambridgeshire and elsewhere?

Banking. But don't get me wrong - I do not resent them for it, because they were the old-fashioned sort of bankers who were very polite toward you whilst milking docile, little old you. Not like the latest sort. They must have known what they were doing with other people's money to make so much out of it - also not like the latest sort.

19 comments:

  1. I feel that the less said about Banks the better these days.
    You are right in what you say about the old family bankers of yesteryear, for they were exceedingly polite; for I recall being entertained in a managers office when with my father to tea and cake.
    As a family none of us are on the board, haven't been for many, many years however the sign of The Green Horse lives on in my memories as a places of warmth and contentment, similar as to having multiple homes.

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    1. ERROR! for green horse read BLACK HORSE! I must be in my dotage :)

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    2. Cro feels the same way - the less said about Banks, the better. You where probably thinking about the White Horse - Eric - named after the whisky.

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  2. I would like a flat in London (and, if you urge me, a little house in Hythe). As it is, we have a house in Hildesheim, but rent the flat in Berlin. After experiencing that living for a month out of 1 and a half suitcase - in a little room, and a cleaning lady as help, and restaurants instead of cooking - gives me oh so much more free time, I wondered about seconds and third. But then I decided: room (or do you say: space?) is the one luxury in this century that is important to me.

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    1. All is now well - back to the Schloss.

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  3. As I have previously stated; a series of tiny sheds/shacks dotted around the world's most desirable backwoods, would suit me just fine.

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    1. "Your wish is my desire, Master!" (Loud bang, puff of smoke and Cro finds himself in a potting-shed on an allotment in Grimsby).

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  4. A dear old friend, now deceased, managed somehow to retain his hold on a one bedroom council flat in Belgravia! I understand the state of it was dire, nevertheless, it did sound rather a wonderful place to have managed to 'retain'... Who knew there were such things as council flats in Belgravia???!

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    1. Belgravia is a large place - many prostitutes lived there in Holmes's time.

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  5. As an 'elderly rural lady' Tom (quite polite language for you I must say) I can see their point. It doesn't affect us here as being a farm we are remote anyway. But many of the villages in the Dales now have only about two or three occupants (often elderly) in the winter and are there on high ground, often in deep snow, with no-one else about, whereas in the old days every one in the village mucked in in the bad weather to help the elderly.

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    1. By dropping bales of hay and salt-licks in deep snow?

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  6. I think it's not the second home we want as much as the ability to have one. If we could afford one, we would want several. Then the nuisance of upkeep, taxes, renting it in the off season to afford it when wanted (bookkeeping is such a nuisance!).
    It's the wherewithal in the first place that puts a glint in one's eye. A jingling pocket, a chest of doubloons, an entire bank....

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    1. If the kids keep up the good gardening work, then you will be able to afford that in no time.

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  7. Second homes can be headaches and a serious drain on finances. Home groanership × 2. I think it works best if one can afford multiple homes and the staff to take care of them in the homeowner's absence. Otherwise, make do with one and rent a flat for a short stint someplace else.

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    1. Is it you I regularly talk to on the Premium Phone Line entitled, 'Hear Me Moan'?

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  8. We are considering a visit to Bath when we come over on our trip in October. Any suggestions about what is considered a "must see" for folks that don't know a thing about the UK?
    email: okacres@hotmail.com

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    1. Well, there's me for a start. I would be happy to give you and your Beau the tour that Britta did not want, because she had another agenda involving murder.....

      Get in touch, it would be nice to meet up. Also, if you want me to make any pre-bookings, I am here to do just that. ( tjstephenson@talktalk.net )

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  9. What a perfectly lovely idea Tom. We have a pretty loose itinerant, so I may have to email you when we are actually there before I know where we'll be and when we will be there.
    I wouldn't know what to book and when to book it, as I am counting on others to point out places of interest. I think it's grand to let the local people show us around, and skip the touristy things that suck your wallets dry.

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    1. OK - get in touch when you know the date you want to come. It would be a pleasure.

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