Today was to be a day of hunting for an antique wine glass. The venue was set, the credit card prepared, and so we set off for Highcliffe Castle. Not a castle in the traditional sense, but a truly Romantic style house. A good deal of our work is in the immediate area of this beautiful place, and we have on many occasions walked through it's extensive grounds, and enjoyed afternoon tea here, but never been inside. Upon arrival it quickly became apparent that I had got the dates wrong, and missed the antique fair by a week, but we were here, and so took the opportunity to venture inside.
All around the house are the simple but lovely gardens and grounds designed by Capability Brown.
It has served many purposes in it's time,among which are a convalescent home for children, a monastery, and private home to various people. All of this seemingly meaningless to the chain of property developers who have bought it in the past with a view to demolition and redevelopment. Common sense prevailed however, and the local council made a compulsory purchase, and it is now managed by English Heritage, and gradually being fully restored.
If one desires, then a wedding can be celebrated here today as well.
What surprised us both though, was the discovery that for the period 1916-1922 it was the home to Harry Gordon Selfridge, the name behind that most famous of department stores, and whose story is now brought to life in the current television series. What the viewer has not yet discovered however is that although he was the founder of the modern day department store, and became very famous and wealthy as a result, he sadly ended his life penniless and alone.
His wife Rose died a little before him, and alongside her mother (the tomb to the left in the picture below), was buried in the graveyard of a tiny church on the opposite side of the road to Highcliffe Castle.
Gordon ended his life all alone in a two bedroomed flat in Putney, dying at the age of 91, with no money and all alone. His grave is near to his wife Rose, and speaks nothing of this most flambouyant of characters. Simple and untended.....unlike his legacy.