Page 10, 23rd November 1984

23rd November 1984
Page 10
Page 10, 23rd November 1984 — An Englishman's castle

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Locations: Chester, Colditz, Oxford


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An Englishman's castle

ILOOKED IN the other day at Oxford's Pitt Rivers Museum which is just celebrating its centenary. It contains General Pitt Rivers' uniquely interesting collection of ethnographic and anthropological objects. (It is attached to the Univesity Museum in Parks Road and is eminently worth visiting.) The remarkable Pitt Rivers is chiefly remembered for his excavations in Cranborne Chase on the Dorset-Wiltshire border. The sites which he excavated have become classics of their period and Pitt Rivers, in the process, laid the foundations for the modern discipline of archaeology.

The name Cranborne Chase has been adopted as that of a School for Girls which occupies a magnificent mansion once better known as Wardour Castle.

I think I have mentioned it before but ask forgiveness for doing so again in view of an extremely interesting booklet just written about it by Fr Philip, Caraman, S.I.

The booklet is excellent value at 50p (being available from the Sacred Heart Church at Tisbury, Salisbury) and all proceeds will. I understand, go to the Trust which caters for the upkeep of Wardour's beautiful and historic church. (Please add 13p for postage).

I well remember when Fr Martin D'Arcy, not long after the war, bought Wardour for the Jesuits when he was their English Provincial.

He was very sad when it transpired that funds were insufficient to adapt the house for the purposes of the Society. He described it as his "beautiful white elephant."

It was thus that the house was finally rented and eventually bought by Cranborne Chase School. Fortunately they were able, with the help of the Historic Buildings Council, to carry out extensive restoration. Thus Wardour, now open to the public in the summer months, is not to be missed by anyone in the vicinity.

The church is of particular interest since generous contributions, partly from America, enabled it to be restored under the direction of the Soane museum, It can thus be seen today in as perfect a state as its builder envisaged.

Fr Caraman tells the story of Wardour in his familiarly scholarly but crisply readable style. It is a most absorbing period of history spanning many centuries and redolent with recusant romance. But the most poignant part of the whole tale is that which refates to the east Lord Arundel' of Wardour in whose family possession the great mansion had been for many years.

It was, as Fr Caraman so rightly says, a sad day for Wardour when John Francis, the sixteenth Lord Arundell and Count of the Holy Roman Empire, who had succeeded his father at the age of 31 less than three months before the outbreak of the second world war, died in the service of his country, leaving no heir.

In late 1939 he crossed to France with the Wiltshire Regiment and in May, 1940, was wounded and taken prisoner near Douai.

His attempts to escape led to his confinement in the notorious Colditz where 1.500 prisoners were held in accommodation for 600 people.

His health broke down, as did that of so many others, and he contracted tuberculosis. He was repatriated in September 1944.

A memorable and emotive moment occurred when news of his return to England reached Wardour where (and for miles around) he was loved and admired as little less than the most human and likeable kind of saint.

Triumphal arches were erected in anticipation of his homecoming, but, alas, he was never to see his beloved Wardour again.

He died in a military hospital in Chester on September 2, 1944 and was buried, on the twenty eighth in the church at Wardour where he had prayed and heard Mass so often from his infancy.

A fellow prisoner described him as "A really good person whom everyone great and small Liked and admired in every way. His courage was unlimited . . . The most upright man I shall ever know." At Wardour and roundabout, even now, he is remembered for his love of his home, his unfailing courtesy and generosity of manner and spirit, rand the intense personal interest ihe took in the welfare of all who ilived on his estate.

Colditz days

IT IS ironical that Colditz should have become the subject of a series on television that some remember largely for its comedy aspects. For, in reality, there was, of course, little comedy in that grim and forbidding fortress which had been a peacetime mental hospital.

This is brought out in no uncertain fashion by a new book about Colditz, sub-titled, very properly, The Full Story.

It is written by Major Pat Reid who has already written much about a place he came to know all too well, and whose earlier works were adapted for television.

His new book is rather different and covers the history of Colditz both before and during the war and it contains some startling new material.

Among the most interesting revelations is that which tells of the spy network in the town of Colditz organised by the prisoners to gatheil information about the Gestapo and Nazi party personnel.

Pat Reid also tells of the discovery in Colditz of the location of Hitler's Secret Weapon Research Centre at Peenemunde and the ironic fact that British Intelligence ignored this historical evidence. Sad to say there are also some stories of betrayal from unlikely quarters but Major Reid vividly describes the sort of pressures and blackmail that were brought to bear, often in agonising circumstances.

In happier times after the war, with a daughter at one of England's leading Catholic schools for girls, the author found time for successful farming as well as writing. His name was allowed to be put on a very fine malt whisky marketed by Merrydown.

But Colditz is never forgotten.

Maestro Mozart

I WOULD like to be in the sale room at Sotheby's this afternoon to witness the auctioning of an extraordinary item I would dearly love to acquire but almost certainly won't.

It is a single page of music sketches by Mozart for part of his great, but, unfortunately, unfinished, Mass in C Minor, written somewhere about 1793.

Apart from anything else, it contains a very curious reference to the composer's father's dog, for, above a canon, are the words "of Pimberl and of Stanzerl," as if these were the words to which the canon might be sung.

Stanzerl refers to Mozart's wife, Constanza, but Pimberl was the dog. it was one of those wry jokes to which Mozart was attached.

Like so much in his life, the whole episode seems sad. Mozart told his father that he would write the Mass if he could bring Constanza as his wife to Salzburg, and that he wanted her to sing the soprano part. But the Mass was never completed.

It is pathetic to think of Mozart — according to Haydn "the most extraordinary and original musical genius ever known" — eking out his days in miserable poverty.

One day, a friend called in to see him and found him waltzing madly round the room with his wife. They were ening it to keep warm. As he lay dying, in 1791, he was composing yet another Mass, a Requiem. This too was unfinished.

Born again

TWO COLOURFUL characters, both born-again Christians, were visiting England last week. Both have been closely linked with recent history-making events in, respectively, the United States and Zimbabwe.

One of the visitors was a former special counsel to President Nixon, Charles "Chuck" Colson, imprisoned for his part in Watergate. It is now being said in America that President Reagan may offer the disgraced former President a job in his new government.

Of Nixon, Colson once said "I would walk over my grandmother if that's what it took to get Mr Nixon re-elected President."

He is a rather different man nowadays and is said to have converted many IRA terrorists to Christianity.

The other visitor was Alec Smith, son of the former Prime Minister of Rhodesia. He has written about his rebellion against his role as "Ian Smith's son" and drop-out hippy, in a book called "Now I Call Him Brother."

I found his book fascinating, particularly the account of a secret meeting between his father and Robert Mugabe when a "white coup" was still on the cards.

"Marxists. believe," Alec Smith concludes, "that if you first change the structure of society, then a new kind of person will emerge. Christians believe that you need to change the person first, and then a new kind of society will emerge."

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