|Original article by Douglas Ashby, transcribed by Sarah Gilbert|
Apart from the 26 years between 1892 and 1917 and a few years during the last war, the Harpurs have resided continuously at the Hall. Early in the 1890’s the family moved to
The Hall was first leased to Mrs. Villiers, a wealthy widow from
After the departure from Burton Latimer of the Villiers about 1904, the Hall was leased to Colonel and Mrs. George Harrison Champion de Crespiggny who had three children, Arthur, Mildred and Gwendoline.
Life at the Hall in those days was kept up in style, with a butler, two cooks and several house and parlour maids. Three gardeners maintained the grounds in a beautiful state the lawns velvet smooth, the yew hedges clipped and the long herbaceous borders a riot of colour. The gardens were often opened for parties and charitable events.
Arthur was a Lieutenant in the Northamptonshire Regiment during the first world war and at home he had a favourite King Charles spaniel named “Pincher”.
Mildred was very fond of painting and about 1907 a well known artist, a Mr. Stannard stayed at the Hall to give lessons to the young ladies: some of their friends were also invited to join them at classes, and one was Mabel Talbutt the baker’s daughter from
A large party was held at the Hall on December 29th 1911, and a charming little dance programme has survived with a picture on the front of Gwendoline holding a skipping rope.
Mildred married Capt Cartwright from Aynho on October 2nd 1913 at
Gwendoline never married but lived with her father, and died at Instow in
Mrs. De C had her own little buggy or trap drawn by a brown pony which would take her into
Col de C was fond of plants and also was not a regular churchgoer so his wife took this as a personal slight standing up in her pew she glared at the Rector and marched out of the church to the surprise and awe no doubt of the congregation.
Another unfortunate occasion in church Mrs. De C arrived for service and was very annoyed to see a strange woman sitting in her pew. Not saying a word she sat very close to the unsuspecting visitor, but every time it was necessary to stand up to sing or kneel to pray, the “interloper” was gradually eased out into the aisle, until she had to find herself somewhere else to sit.
The great blizzard of March 1916 brought Mrs. De C out of doors on foot to make a call in Church Street, being heavily clad in furs and a cape, not to mention the large hat, she was probably not easily recognisable to the cheeky young machinists at Hart and Levy’s factory in Bakehouse Lane, who called out of the windows and poked fun at her. But the furious lady stopped in her tracks and let forth such language that the windows were hastily closed.
After the departure of the de C’s in 1917 the Harpurs left Hardwick House and took up residence again at the Hall, and this was the home of Mrs. Charlotte Harpur until her death in 1960 aged 94 years. A very gracious and charming lady, loved by all who knew her Mrs. Harpur’s long and interesting life spanned almost a century.
A keen historian and antiquarian, Mrs. Harpur did much research into the parish registers and spent hours deciphering the early documents. She would write articles too for various journals on antiquities.
Although only of small stature Mrs. Harpur showed she was not a person to be taken advantage of. During the war years she and her daughter Jocelyn lived together on the opposite side of the road in the Hall Cottage and one day a suspicious looking tramp banged on the front door. He made a quick exit though when the spirited old lady appeared at a bedroom window pointing a fearsome looking blunderbuss at him. Had the ancient weapon gone off it would probably have blown the cottage and occupants to pieces.
The Rev H.T.A. Edwards (Rector 1930- 1937) did not always find favour with his parishioners. Parochial meetings would be held in a part of the old Rectory known as the Parish Rooms. On one occasion he could not gain admittance to a meeting Mrs. Harpur had locked him out and “forgotten” where she had put the key!!
Passionately fond of her old home, Mrs. Harpur’s book plate was inscribed “Light be the hand of ruin laid upon the home I love” CHARLOTTE HARPUR
I will conclude this article by quoting the letter Mrs. Harpur wrote in the Parish Magazine after the death of her husband, Thomas Wilfred Harpur, in February 1934, that I feel would have been a fitting epitaph too after her own long and eventfull life which drew peacefully to its close on a cold November day in 1960. :-
“Burton Latimer Hall,
Feb 17th 1934.
My dear friends,
I wish it were possible for me to thank individually every one who has written letters of sympathy and shown us many acts of kindness in our sorrow. My children and I hope you will, one and all, accept our very grateful thanks for your kind thoughts of us.
We shall never forget them, and look upon them as a tribute of affection and respect for my husband.
An infinite faith in the wisdom of his Heavenly Father bore him bravely on in the face of bodily affliction, without a backward look, and when on Monday last we laid him to rest within the shadow of the church he loved and served so well, the beautiful service, the sunshine, and the flowers all spoke of that fuller life into which he peacefully passed, leaving us the Memory of a true Christian.