Fettiplace monuments, Swinbrook Church, Oxfordshire.

Many years ago, after a walk in the Cotswolds with Sandy Murray, we stopped at Swinbrook to look at the church where Nancy and Unity Mitford are buried and there are these magnificent reclining ancestors. There are two triple-deckers so it is worth the detour.

Not Mitford ancestors, the Redesdales only moved there around 1920 when they sold Batsford to the Wills’, Fettiplaces. The Redesdales lived in an austere house, Asthall Manor – a much more impressive pile in the village is the moated Compton Beauchamp. The Fettiplaces called Compton Beauchamp home until 1589.

Compton Beauchamp House.

I am reading Vol II of James Lees-Milne’s diaries upstairs and Geoffrey Wansell’s biography of Terence Rattigan downstairs. Rattigan’s father is portrayed as a vain, self-important, gambling, spendthrift philanderer and sadly his sons, Brian and Terence (Terry), seem to have inherited more of his genes than those of their put-upon mother.

I mentioned an overlap between Lees-Milne and Chips Channon in a post last month, Dinner at The Dorchester. Now there is a triple pile-up in 1945. Rattigan had two plays on in the West End: Flare Path and Love in Idleness. He was also working on the film script for The Way to the Stars. Channon was pre-occupied with politics and Lees-Milne with traipsing around country houses.

On Saturday 24th March 1945 J L-M collects Mrs (Daisy) Fellowes from The Dorchester and they motor to Faringdon for lunch with Lord Berners and Robert Heber-Percy before going on to inspect Coleshill. They are shown round by the Miss Pleydell-Bouveries and stay to tea.

We got to Compton Beauchamp at 5.30, exactly the same moment as Chips Channon and Terence Rattigan.

Annoyingly for posterity he then confines himself to this description, which is evocative but hardly gossip column material.

Compton Beauchamp combines so many qualities that are desirable in a country house. It is completely surrounded by a moat, for romance. It has a pleasant, central square courtyard, for shelter. The approach is by a symmetrical forecourt with two detached flanking stable wings, retaining wall, stone piers and magnificent iron gates, for grandeur. The principal façade is classical Queen Anne of rustic simplicity, for cosiness and dignity. The other façades are medieval and Jacobean, for historic continuity. There is an extremely pretty garden at the back with contemporary raised terraces. A box garden behind that; another magnificent iron gate between piers, cut and set askew to the wall. It is a small paradise in a fold of the downs, with tinkling fountains in the forecourt and courtyard. A dream country house in which I could gladly be incarcerated for the rest of my life, and which I would never be tempted to leave.

He doesn’t say whether his incarceration would be as blissy if Chips and Terence were there too.

4 thoughts on “Fettiplace”

  1. Oy, oy, careful….. This is a blissful post in many ways. But it comes close to dissing Rattigan. He may have been difficult. But surely also a fine character? So like Osborne or Agate in some important ways, but each having a distinctive carapace and schtick. I admire them all and am thrilled that you are paddling in these waters. (Well, you are not onto Osborne, at least not yet.)

    1. I think it’s permissible to admire Rattigan as a playwright but have reservations about his character. Perhaps I will get to like him better – I am not even halfway yet.

  2. Compton Beauchamp belonged to my grandmother and your great aunt (I think?) Aline Lloyd Thomas. It is at the foot of what was then the Berkshire downs about fifteen miles from Asthall. If you ever visit I live nearby, come and have a cup of tea, or gin and tonic if the sun is lower.

    1. I seldom let such an easy catch slip through my fingers (bad metaphor as I was a wet bob). I think I met Aunt Aline, maybe at Angela’s wedding, but I did not know her. Angela kept in touch by popping into her box at Cheltenham. I knew my grandfather’s other sister, Aunt Ada (Domvile/Alexander), much better. Reference your invitation – it’s usually 6 o’clock in Kuala Lumpur.

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