We lived for ten years in that house – the Edwardian former Rectory. It had been built to replace an 18th century rectory, which had fallen into the sea…..coastal erosion in East Anglia is nothing new. In the 1960s and 70s, the Church of England started to group parishes together under the stewardship of one vicar or rector, and so found themselves with more houses than they had priests to put in them. And the rest were large and old-fashioned and expensive to maintain, so most of them were replaced by modern houses and the old ones sold.
My husband was a full-time auctioneer at that time; that is, his firm held one full-day sale of antiques, pictures, jewellery etc and general household effects per month. It was also an estate agency and sometimes held property auctions too.
It was only a week or so after my son was born and we were still staying with my mother. The Sage came home for lunch and said casually “The sale of the old rectory is coming up next week, why don’t you come and have a look at it while it’s empty.” Seemed a good idea to me and I left the baby with my mother and off we went.
I had grown up in a big Edwardian house with its light, airy (= draughty), large rooms and the Sage and I, with our daughter, lived in a house built in the same period, although it was much smaller and the garden had been sold off and houses built in it. We parked in the drive of the Old Rectory, I walked in through the front door, and liked the hall with its parquet floor. My husband opened the drawing room door and stood back for me to go in.
It was a sunny afternoon in April. I went into a square room with a large octagonal bay in the further corner, which made the whole room bright and full of light. I don’t exaggerate when I say that my knees, for a moment, buckled. “Can we buy it? It’s wonderful, I want to live here.”
So we did.
I loved living there. We had the big drawing room which, with its octagonal bay with five windows plus another double window, caught the sun at all times of the day without it ever being too hot, and a sitting room and dining room which both faced south-west. The kitchen was huge and had a separate larder and utility room and the former Rector’s study was used as a playroom for the children. Upstairs there were six large bedrooms and I made a second bathroom out of part of the landing – for unknown reasons the back stairs had been done away with, so that area led nowhere. There were two more bedrooms and another unnamed room on the next floor, but we didn’t ever use them much, though they made a good den for the children when they were older and I stored apples up there too.
There were downsides to living in that house, notably the east wind straight off the North Sea. We used to lie in bed watching the curtains flutter in the draught. Downsides? – no, just that one. Everything else was perfect.