A Visit to Fawley Manor - June, 1979

Editors note: Family genealogy has been my passion since the mid-1970s. One wonders when a passion might be somewhat dangerous, knowledge that I found out after the fact! as you will find out at the end of this article. Further research now suggests that our Moore family was NOT EVEN descended from the Moores of Fawley, suggesting that it was an unnecessary excursion, but I must admit that I enjoyed it immensely. All of the pictures were taken by me during my visit in June, 1979 and underlining a word is referencing a picture near it.  All images as well as the letters at the end of this post can be clicked on to enlarge them for better viewing.

A Visit to Fawley Manor
June, 1979
David E. Jeffreys, Jr.

I knew what to look for as I had seen pictures of Fawley, but when I first spotted the big manor house resting against the crest of the hill, it seemed bigger than reality. Its Victorian appearance loomed before me, especially that embattled tower that contains the staircase. Also on that first impression, I was disappointed that it did not just stand there by itself, but all kinds of agricultural buildings crowded around, some within a few feet of the house itself.

A few moments after knocking on the door, Richard Dawson came to the door and welcomed me, as he had been expecting my arrival. Immediately he apologized for his mother, Mary Dawson, that she was almost blind and could not be a good hostess. I imagined a little old white-haired lady who was blind and feeble. Richard is probably in his mid-twenties. He invited me into the kitchen for a cup of tea, and asked me if it would be all right if we went into the town of Wantage for dinner as meal preparation was difficult for his mother. I assured him that would be fine. Soon feeling uncomfortable that I was imposing on this family since I had invited myself because Richard's personality affect is rather dull, I heard rapid footsteps on the staircase, and Richard informed me his mother was on the way in. She appeared and was I surprised to see a very vivacious lady approximately in her late forties. A very sincere gracious person who seemed genuinely glad to see me with story after story to tell. Now I felt comfortable. Driving the five miles into Wantage for dinner, Mary pointed out the Ridgeway as we crossed it and explained its significance as an historical road. Mary insisted that we walk around Wantage so that I could see the town where Alfred the Great had been born. Following this we went into a pub named The Bear at 7:00 P.M. where I had lager beer, potato soup, fish and chips and tea. We finally returned to Fawley at 10:00 P.M. just as it was getting dark, since England is so far north in latitude.

Before going into Wantage, Richard had given me the grand tour of the house itself, showing me most of its 34 rooms. The staircase was the most interesting feature, but many of the rooms were also interesting, especially the chapel on the top floor.

Since it was almost 11:00 P.M. and bedtime, Mary warmed some milk for us and we sat around talking about Fawley and its occupants. She thinks it is probably haunted as one visitor related his bed being levitated several years before as he slept in the chapel. Luckily my bedroom was a flight down the stairs from that; I conceded however I would welcome Sir Francis Moore's ghost if he would consent to answer some questions. Well with Mary's hot water bottle, I locked my bedroom door, went to bed, but Sir Francis never appeared. The bedroom that I was assigned was the one in which the three Moore girls’ names were etched, which pleased me greatly as I had heard about them.
I was up at 7:00 A.M. the next morning (Tuesday, June 12) and was I suddenly disappointed that I had not started taking pictures on the perfectly clear afternoon and evening before. The fog had rolled in and was thick enough to cut with a knife. After breakfast of a boiled egg, toast and tea with the Dawsons, I did take a number of pictures, inside and out.

At 10:00 A.M., Richard and I left for a day of exploring. First we went one-half mile to the north to the village of Fawley. There with an old knowledgeable man who is retired and lives in the old vicarage, we explored the old graveyard looking for Moore graves, but without success since it was so overgrown. From his own house, he showed me a painting of what the old church had looked like. We then explored the rest of the village of Fawley and it was then that I learned that it was the setting "Marygreen" in Thomas Hardy's novel, Jude the Obscure. The old man pointed out the thatched roof cottage that was the bakery, and the schoolhouse. We also saw the "new" church, which is now over 100 years old, a beautiful example of Gothic architecture. The inside was magnificent and to think it was only a country church. Then the old man took us over to his house to show us the beautiful formal garden he had constructed in his retirement. Returning to the interior of the church, I did a brass rubbing from an old brass memorial that must have been in the old church while the Moores were in residence in the area.

Richard and I drove on into Wantage where I wanted to stop and browse in a bookstore (Miller's); I purchased a copy of Jude the Obscure, a book about the Ridgeway and some books about Wantage.

At 12:40 P.M. we arrived in Oxford. The first object was to get a parking disc in order to park there--a funny cardboard clock on which one set one's arrival time. We stayed in Oxford for two hours walking around the colleges and stores. I found Blackwell's, a rare book store, where I bought a small 200 year old medical book written in Latin. Lunch was upstairs over a shop in a small restaurant named the Nosebag that Richard was familiar with. My lunch consisted of Shepherd's Pie, garlic bread and strong cider. We then walked along The High (main street) peering in shops, bought stamps at the post office and walked down to Christ College to take pictures.

At 3:00 P.M., we left Oxford and drove to nearby Abingdon where I wanted to investigate some medical equipment. After a search we found Oxford Medical Systems on Nuffield Way, right across from the MG factory. Dr. Paul Brankin took me on a grand tour showing me the factory where our 24 hour EEG monitoring equipment was made. He took me into research and development to show me the spike-wave detector which is coming off the drawing boards into a working model. Meanwhile during my tour of Oxford Medical, Richard sat in the car refusing to come inside since the place was of a "medical" nature.

We left Abingdon at 6:00 P.M. returning through Wantage to Fawley. Richard, Mary, and I then returned at 7:00 P.M. to The Bear in Wantage for dinner where this time I had Gammon (ham steak) with a fried egg and chips, a pint of lager beer, lentil soup, rolls and butter, and tea--not necessarily in that order. We talked for a couple of hours with Mrs. Root, an old widow who had been a world traveler living in the Himalayas and Far East. Back to Fawley for a cup of warm milk before turning in after a very long eventful day.

It's Wednesday morning now (my wedding anniversary--June 13 with Sara back in the states) and I go out and take a few more pictures of Fawley, but it is still not clear! Mary fixed me a big breakfast of cornflakes, two boiled eggs, toast and tea, and then I told her farewell. Richard refused to come down for breakfast or to tell me goodbye, despite his mother's pleading with him to do so.

ADDENDUM: Upon returning to the states I received a postcard from Richard posted two days after my departure with White Horse on it, a monument carved into the chalk many centuries earlier--a monument that Richard had wanted to show me very badly, but there had not been time. Also, Richard had suggested while I was at Fawley, that I should look up his cousin, Rev. Jim and Polly Jones of the Episcopal Church in Coral Gables, Florida, where I resided on my return. I called Rev. Jones and he wanted to know how Richard was. He explained to me that he had visited Fawley earlier, found Richard (as an adult) playing with his teddy bear on his father's (who had committed suicide) grave. Rev. Jones had sought medical help for Richard, who had been hospitalized and diagnosed as schizophrenic. He had been discharged on medication to return home. This explained why Richard was so reluctant to go inside Oxford Medical Instruments with me.

A number of years later I learned from Mrs. Ruth Lumley-Smith who lives in the old schoolhouse at Fawley, that Richard murdered his mother by stabbing her with a knife in the kitchen of Fawley Manor house in June, 1981 – just two years after my visit. Perhaps that was why I locked my bedroom door each night, rather than the fear of any ghosts!

History of Fawley Manor and the Dawson family
by Mrs. Ruth Lumley-Smith written in 1991

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Jeffreys,

I was having a look through the internet trying to track some of my old schoolfriends when I found your article on Fawley Manor....I stayed there many times as a girl, in the 70s, and remember it well! It was hugely interesting to see the photos and read your blog, many thanks.

Best wishes, Claire