A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode
From the Newspapers of the 1930’s:
TWO SISTERS WHO OWN A COTTAGE WHERE TEAS ARE SERVED TO TOURISTS WHO VISIT THE DISTRICT TO SEE THE MAGNIFICENT COUNTRY SCENERY ARE THE OWNERS OF A £20,000 MANSION.
By GWYN JAMES, Sunday Express, 1933/34 circa
Miss Leigh and her sister Beatrice are mistresses of the 1,000-acre estate between Stroud and Bath. It comprises, in addition to a mansion, another large house (fifteen bedrooms), a number of small farms, a church, and seven lakes. Miss Leigh is lady of the manors of Nymphsfield (sic) and Woochester. But she and her sister live secluded with a woman servant and two dogs in one of the lodges to the mansion.
The unfinished mansion – it has had no front door for thirty years
When the last tourist has passed on his way with souvenir postcard views of the mansion, sold by the sisters to raise money for religious charities, the sisters unlock the gate that guards it. They stroll along the drive that winds through their domain, their sole companions being the hundreds of rabbits that live undisturbed in the mansion grounds. The two women gaze at the magnificent building built by their grandfather, but never completed. He died leaving it in the state in which it now is. They ponder over their strange legacy and returning to their cottage they quietly lock the gate once more. The mansion is an imposing Gothic structure of stone with grotesque gargoyles and arched windows.
NO FRONT DOOR
Its own beautiful chapel forms one of the main buildings. The designer intended to revive the spirit of the Middle Ages, for he planned to include among the twenty-five rooms his own bakery, brewery, dairy, and laundry. But the mansion remains an unfinished symphony in stone. No work has been done on it for thirty years. Staircases are without bannisters. Provision was made for a front door and porch – but none exists. The chapel has a ceiling of delicate fan tracery – but the walls are unplastered.
Miss Leigh related to me the strange story that lies behind it all. She said:-
“Mr. William Leigh, my grandfather, spent £20,000 on the mansion. Craftsmen who had been working on the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, were brought over specially from France to help. My grandfather also enrolled scores of local masons. He was determined to have nothing short of perfection, and time and again work would be undone again because he had discovered flaws.”
“Work had been in progress for seventeen years when my grandfather died. It was his wish that my father should carry on the building of the mansion. But father had different ideas. The original gardener’s cottage was once more enlarged. It now has fifteen bedrooms.”
Miss Leigh sighed as she added:
“We cannot even live in that house, let alone the mansion. My grandfather never knew that death duties would bring the day when his grandchildren would be glad to make their home in the smallest of his lodges.”
BUILDING WHICH WAS NEVER COMPLETED
From the Stroud News & Journal, January 29th 1937:
During the last century Mr. George Gingell, who celebrated his 92nd birthday last week worked for 30 years on the building of a mansion in Gloucestershire which has never been completed.
About 70 years ago Woodchester Park was owned by Mr. William Leigh, who had purchased it from Earl Ducie. Mr. Leigh decided to build a large mansion and Mr. Gingell, then a young Nympsfield carpenter, was engaged to help in the building. “My father was a carpenter there, and it was my first job,” Said Mr. Gingell to a reporter. “The house was built of stone, which all had to be cut, and it was a very expensive and long job. I helped to put in the first rafters, and was there to put in the last.”