Saturday, May 23, 2009

The house that May (re)built

May Savidge (1911-1993) was a determined ol' lady. She was also rather reclusive, having been jilted by fate and her fiance (her 1st love died prematurely in 1938, her 2nd gave her up for his cousin after 17 years). So when the council told her in 1953 that her historic cottage in Hertfordshire was to be demolished to make way for a road, she took matters into her own hands - literally.
She fought the decision for 15 years, then - over the next 23 years - she devoted her time and energy to painstakingly dismantling the 15th c. house - bricks, medieval nails, oak beams, hand-cut floorboards, Tudor fireplaces, roof tiles, Elizabethan leaded glass, and all - and moving it to the next county. "I just won't have such a marvellous old house bulldozed into the ground....I've got nothing to do all day, so I might as well do the job myself." In 1981, she moved back into the house, and by then in her 70s was still climbing scaffolding to finish the restoration. When she died 12 years later, she left the house - still a work in progress - to her niece Christine Adams, who pieced the story together from Savidge's letters and prolific diaries. "Auntie May had wrapped her broken heart in a parcel, tied it with string and hidden it at the back of the attic," says Adams, who sold the collectibles her aunt had accumulated in that attic to finance the finishing of the project. Now Ware Hall House is a bed & breakfast in Norfolk, England - 100 miles from its original location.

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