by Ian Morrison
When we decided to buy Fleur de Lys in 1968, thinking, like Londoners, that this would be an idyllic rural dream, it took very little time for reality to set in. The vendor, a retired brigadier, had a photograph of his old school on his desk. I volunteered, naively, that I had been to the same school, before offering a figure just below his asking price. He barked in reply, “Morrison – didn’t you say you went to Clifton?” I rapidly offered the full asking price of £12,000.
The estate agents had written that the house dated from at least 1775 but, as with all houses that had been owned by the Marquis of Winchester, there were no title deeds until the forced sale in 1919; the auction details mention that the house was let in 1919 to the Hampshire Constabulary and records show that it sold for £320. There was no mention that it had been the village pub but the 1839 tithe map refers to it as being The Fleur de Lys and certainly that was the general village understanding in 1968. As one would expect, the house has a large basement, unlike other period cottages and we have found an endless supply of churchwarden pipe pieces in the garden. One thing nobody seems to understand, is why a pub should honour the Dauphin at a time when the French were hardly our natural allies. The building which is now The Hawk was also sold in 1919 but that had been the Marquis’s coachman’s house.
We did have a surprise visit, some twenty years ago, from a Canadian family, the Rumblelows; they told us that their grandparents had lived in Fleur de Lys in the 1920s/30s, and that the room closest to the T-junction had been the village sweetshop. This was confirmed by villagers and in the 1919 photograph you can just see the door to the shop and the hedge that separated it from the rest of the house. In an article relating to long forgotten pubs, John Barton-Rumblelow wrote that siblings George (his father) Jack and Margaret Rumblelow had been born in the house and that his grandfather, Francis John Rumbleow, had bought Fleur de Lys in 1916, for £400, leaving in 1948 to go to live in Anna Valley.
In the late seventies, Amport benefitted from the arrival of mains drainage and water. We were relieved to link up to the drainage system so that we could avoid the arrival of the “honey wagon” but were unwilling to lose our garden well water, as it tasted so delicious. Scientific testing proved how wrong we were, when it showed that the reason for its great taste was the old lead piping it passed through! So it was lucky for us that we had been mainly weekenders in our early years here.
Strangely, there were fewer thatchers around in the sixties but we were lucky to have W.J.Lewis of West Winterslow to do a complete re-thatch for £780, which seemed an enormous sum then. We have since re-thatched twice and feel that his figure was entirely reasonable! Outside, in the garden, there have been significant changes since we came. Obviously, there were then fewer cars and people walked far more than they do now. Hedges were much lower and everyone’s front garden was on show, so that there was far more neighbourly chin-wagging. The 1919 photograph of Fleur de Lys shows a picket fence; the 1969 has a fence and a low hedge and now we are, like most houses in the village, invisible from the road. Our large rear garden was newly given over to vegetables, fruit cage, orchard, a small herbaceous border and a small lawned area. Supermarkets had not been invented and home produce was paramount.
When we had lived here for 20 years, we were pleased to hear from TVBC that we had been “Grade 2 listed” (in fact, a rather onerous honour in view of the planning restrictions it entails) but, after living here for another 30 years, very happily in the rural dream we had hoped for so long ago, it is we who are beginning to list.