During WWII after the bombing in 1940, my mother, sister and I, left the East End of London and moved to the rural countryside in Hampshire, England.
Strangely the tiny village we moved to was called East End, part of the larger village of East Woodhay.
I began school there in 1941; we lived there until 1946 a year after the war ended.
A short distance from the school were the gates to a large Victorian mansion called Stargroves, (Picture above.) at that time it was the home of Sir Frederick Cardin.
The title “Sir” meant that he had received a Knighthood from the King of England. It was my understanding that Sir Frederick was formally a high ranking army man, and probably received the Knighthood for services to his country.
We normally couldn’t see Stargroves as it stood on its own large grounds and was hidden from view. However, every Christmas, Sir Frederick would invite all the local children over for a Christmas Party.
We would assemble on the road outside the school, line up two by two, and then march through the big iron gates and about half a mile up the winding private driveway to Stargroves. (See the satellite picture below.)
We walked in though one of the large front doors, which opened into a huge central hall. If you look at the picture below, at the front door on the left, you will notice there are two large windows either side that span two floors.
That is because the central hall had no first floor ceiling and went all the way to the roof of this enormous building. There was a wide winding staircase at one end of the hall, leading up to a balcony that gave access to the upstairs rooms on the other half of the building.
At the end of the hall next to the staircase was a decorated Christmas Tree that had to be at least 25 foot tall. We all sat cross-legged on the polished hardwood floor, facing the tree, and various small groups got up to sing carols, and individuals recited poems that we had been rehearsing in the preceding weeks.
Then there would be a merry “Ho, ho, ho,” and looking up to the balcony, we would see Santa Claus, or Father Christmas as we knew him, as he made his way along and down the staircase with his sack full of presents. A whisper went around between the waiting children; “That’s old Freddy Cardin.”
Above: The tiny school I attended. I took this picture during a visit in the 1980s; the school was still in use then, not sure if it is now.
Happy childhood memories during those hard wartime years. Stargroves has had an interesting history since those times; in the 1970s it was the home of Mick Jagger. He had a mobile recording studio and the Rolling Stones recorded Exile on Main Street, Sticky Fingers, and It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll, there.
I did read somewhere that the drums were set up in the large hall I spoke of, to take advantage of the natural reverb.
The Who recorded a number of songs there, including Won’t Get Fooled Again and Pure and Easy. In 1972 Led Zeppelin recorded parts of the albums, Houses of the Holy, and Physical Graffiti. Other artists who have recorder there are Deep Purple, Status Quo, Bob Marley, Santana, and Iron Maidon.
I wonder how Sir Frederick would have felt about all that. Stargroves is now owned by Rod Stewart, who bought the property in 1998. If he ever comes across this, there is an old ex-framebuilder who would love to take a peek inside that large central hall again. Just nostalgia