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Fernwood

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O.C.

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Alfred Antrobus a very successful Birmingham Jeweller built “FERNWOOD GRANGE” in nearly nine acres of grounds at New Oscott just off the Chester Rd. and retired and devoted all his time for the next 35 years to growing rare plants and sub-tropical trees in the grounds and gardens. His son Roland was born in 1879 and grew up like his father a lover of the countryside always to be seen in later life walking his dogs in Sutton Park, one of his greatest loves was his passion for wildlife and being a gifted artist he painted many water colours of British Birds which if you are lucky can still be seen today in antique shops. In 1954 he wrote to the local paper on how he had observed a pair of black necked Grebe’s on Wyndley pool
Most of the trees at the Western End of Keepers Pool where grown at “Fernbank” as saplings and given to the park by Roland
Roland Antrubus lived at Fernwood till his late 20’s became estate agent and surveyor and moved to the Drifford in later life.... an area just east of Wyndley Pool (on a few old maps I have it is spelt Windley Pool)
(Drifford meaning “Drive Fold” where animals were driven down a bridle path with steep sandstone sides so that they could be counted)
Alfred Antrobus died in 1907 and everything was put up for auction including Stables, carriage house, kennels, cow house and the piggeries.
A prosperous bookmaker named Ernest Beston who was born in 1874 bought the place who they later nicknamed “the man in the moon” and over the years he added in the grounds a Switchback railway, and aviary, 13 peacocks,4 Rolls Royce’s and 4 four big St Bernard dogs which he kept in big cages and to the main house he added a Cinema, music room, a Chinese lounge, an Abyssinian boudoir and a Ballroom, so it seemed he had very expensive tastes.
Both Mr Ernest W.Beston and his wife known as Mrs E.W.Beston entertained lavishly at Fernwood then for reasons unknown Mrs E.W.Beston disappeared from the scene round about 1916 and another Mrs Beston appeared Daisy Mary “Dulcie” who was an Irish Catholic had been married before and the went on to have five children, all girls.... Betty who in later life became a nun, Joy, Shirley, Sylvia and Valerie. The children grew up never knowing their parents where never married till later in life ( but that is another story)
During the late 1920’s Fernwood was sold and the family moved to the continent
During W.W.2 because of their secretarial skills and their knowledge of languages which they learned at boarding school in Belgium both got a job working at Bletchley Park, Sylvia working on the German code and Valerie on the Japanese

Photo 1 is a drawing of Fernwood
Photo 2 is a map of Fernwood top half 1884 bottom half 1914
Photo 3 is Edward W. Beston in 1914
Photo 4 is The first Mrs E. Beston in 1914
 
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Fernwood replies here

Please post any questions you have about Fernwood Here
 
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One of E.W. Bestons friends who was always at “FERNWOOD” was Horatio Bottomley (founder and owner of “John Bull” a weekly paper) Liberal M.P.who liked to portray himself as a champion of the poor who was a convicted swindler and a very colourful fellow indeed who rose to become one of the richest men in England only to lose it all. He thought he was a very clever man defrauding people out of money and then with his skills... defending himself in court. His racing stables where at Alfriston. Bankrupt three times he got what was coming to him during the Great War when he was found guilty of a massive swindle with Government War Bonds and sentenced to seven years in jail
Horatio Bottomley died the same year as E.W.Beston in 1933 and Ernest H Beston's estate was split between his "Two" wives
Ernest W. Bestons grave at Witton Cemetery is quite strange and quirky and because 13 was his lucky number it is made up of 13 large stones with a lighthouse on top of the largest one, the lighthouse has 13 windows in and there are 13 steps leading up to the lighthouse on the rocks were 13 white seagulls, (once all painted white) sadly all have been smashed and destroyed but they still can be picked out among the remains that are left
The Inscription on his grave In Te Omnis Domus Inclinata Recumbit I am told means one of the following:- All the hope of thy house rest centred in thee or On thee the whole house rests confidingly
After WW2 “FERNWOOD”was demolished and the area was built up but the folks who have homes in Antrobus Rd and Fernwood Rd were quite lucky as their gardens still have some of the beautiful trees that Antrobus planted
 
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Wendy

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Fantastic post Graham, I had no idea about Fernwood, so much information and the photo's realy interesting. I will have to go and see the grave next time I visit Witton. Thank you.
 
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To give you a fascinating insight on life at Fernwood Grange was like back in the 1900’s
On the eve of the Great War….. “A typical work's do Beston Style”
Below is a souvenir booklet which I possess which I choose not to show in photographs as some folk might not be able to read it
B.P.A Annual New Year Party
Fernwood Grange
New Oscott
3rd January 1914
In again extending to you a hearty invitation to Fernwood Grange we trust that you will take full advantage of the occasion to enjoy yourself in whatever way you feel most inclined, remembering that Liberty Hall is the order of the day, and that the whole of the house and grounds are open to you to wander through and inspect at your leisure
Suitable outdoor and indoor games and pastimes have been provided, in which you will find ample enjoyment, and we trust that you will remember your visit with pleasure, and that it may serve to maintain and preserve a good understanding, not only between you and your fellow clerks, but between us all, which may continue to operate to our mutual satisfaction
With Hearty Greetings for a Bright and Prosperous 1914
Mr. and Mrs. E.W.Beston

All young ladies are invited to be at Fernwood Grange as soon after 10 p.m. as possible, in order that the full programme may be carried out

One the next page is the programme which I find today quite amusing

Morning
Sports 10-30 (Weather permitting)
Running …Prizes Senior Theatre Case: Junior Wristlet Watch
Three-Legged Race …Prizes Senior Lady’s Handbag (with purse attached) Junior Lady’s Handbag
Thread the Needle Race …Prizes Senior & Junior Pendant and Chain
(This race is run as follows – Walk until the needle is threaded, then run to the goal. First to ring the bell gains a prize)
Egg and Spoon Race …Prizes Senior Gold Bracelet, Junior Writing Case

Alternative Programme for the morning, in case the weather should be unfavourable for outdoor sport
Competition Games
Marble, Treepot, and Pencil Game (to be described)
The Smile
Fishing with bent pin and buttons
Smelling Competition (to be described)

Afternoon
Competition Games (From 2 p.m. to 3.p.m.)
Remembrance Competition (to be described) Prizes Senior and Junior Gold Brooch
Drawing a Pig Blindfold and Inserting a Tail ..Prizes Senior Smelling Salts Junior Umbrella
No 13 Prize …Mystery Prize

The Menu for the day was as follows
Luncheon 1 p.m.
Game Pie, Roast and Boiled Chickens, Tongue, Pressed Beef, Galantine of Veal
Strawberry Cream, Fruit Salad, Open Fruit Tarts.

Tea 4 p.m.
Tea, Bread and Butter, Cakes, Gateaux, Biscuits.

Supper 8 p.m.
Fillet of Sole Mayonnaise, Boned Turkey, York Ham, Roast Pheasant, Chicken Rissoles, Sweetbread Cutlets, Mousse of Ham
Maraschino Jelly, Apricot Chartreuse, Trifle, Meringues,
Coffee, Orangeade, Meringues

One Year later the country was at war and Ernest opened Fernwood Grange to the wounded soldiers in 1915
 
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A rare photo of the trees in the grounds of Fernwood Grange and a close up from same photo of Mr & Mrs E.W.Beston
 
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......Continuing with the Annual New Year Party at Fernwood Grange
Afternoon and Evening
Concert in the Lounge from 3 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Miss H. Masters…Pianoforte Solo
Miss Sweetmen & Miss Inman …Duet
Ledger Room …Sketch
Miss E.Walker…Recitation
Miss Hopton …Song
Correspondence Room …Sketch
Ledger Room…Part Song
Miss P. Rimington…Pianoforte Solo
Miss Inman …Solo
During the second part of the Concert several Character Songs will be rendered by
Miss Vesta Cripps the clever little juvenile male impersonator, who has been described by several critics as “a second Vesta Tilley”

7 p.m. Firework display by Messrs.W.J.Wilder

From 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Herr A Blitz … the Celebrated Conjuror will give his entertaining and mystifying performance in the Lounge
The Entertainment in all its detail and the performance is one calculated not only to afford amusement but instruction. To the knowledge seeker it opens a new mine of thought. To the learned it shows to what perfection the appliance of art and deception can be bought even to the mystifying of the senses. To the amusement seekers it presents a rare feast of enjoyment, while to the youngest it is an actual realization of the wildest imagination
Photo is of Prof. A Blitz
 
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Wendy & Rod I welcome your comments but I do know that members of the Beston family are on this forum so ...........If there is anything which I have said which can be corrected or is not true please PM me and I will correct it. I am not going down the path of the relationship of Valerie Beston and her time at Marlborough Fine Arts with Francis Bacon as this would be to far off thread.....of the main post of Fernwood ....But for those intrested

https://observer.guardian.co.uk/magazine/story/0,,1696639,00.html

I will at a bit later stage put the names up of 30 people and their relationship with Fernwood in the 1900's and I do hope if anyone thinks these names ring a bell......I have all their photographs and we will take it from their
 
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As this thread starts to unfold you might find out what Ernest H Beston did for a living and then again you may not as Ernest was a very strange man and very secretive in most things he did and if you look back at his photo note the Question Mark on his tie?
I have a great deal of interesting info to put down in writing as I think the story of Fernwood has never been told but I am going to be very sensitive in what I say and only stick to facts not hearsay.
Below are two postcards of Ernest with 4 of his Rolls Royce’s (4 aces and a joker)and a card with the words of Solitude (not the complete poem)
Wrote by a lady whom I have all her works ….Ella Wheeler Wilcox why the words were slightly changed I do not know

Solitude
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone,
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.

The Words Always Palladium Crop up quite a few times on Beston Photo's,invitations, business cards and menu's etc in a dictionary from that period 1900-20 it says a couple of meanings
A wooden Image of Palias Athene which is said to have fallen from Heaven which the Trojans
believed that their city would be invincible so long as it contained the Palladium (several Greek city claimed to possess it)
The other meaning is it is a metal like gold closely resembling platinum but its harder and lighter
The reason I have put this bit on here is because of the Little Black Book wrote between 1917-18 published by Ernest Beston Jan.1919 which I will try to give my verdict on a bit later as it is not in the public domain.... (but I will try to make some sense out of it if I can)
The third picture is from the front of the cover of the Sale of Fernwood from the estate of Alfred Antrobus sold to Ernest W. Beston with all fixtures and fittings which I will list a bit later
 
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Wendy

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Graham, what a facinating tale do you think Ernest was an eccentric or did he have something to hide. He must have been extreamly wealthy to own such a property and four Rolls Royces. You must have worked hard on this to amass all this information. The house was not far from where my grandparents lived I am sure they must have known it. I can't wait for the next installment!:)
 
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Wendy you only have to see the grave to understand Ernest and just to put the record straight in nearly everything that has been written about Ernest they have had the wrong name for some reason or other ..everyone called him Edward so one Historians mistake carried on
Edward was Ernest W. Bestons brother and I will put a bit of the family tree on a bit later when I have it all together
 
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Wendy

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What a tangled web full of mystery...........it would make a good novel!
 
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This was the House that Ernest bought all fully fitted out to move straight in and it was not long before Ernest started putting his own personal touches to the house like a ballroom that held 500 people a heated garage for his cars and this amazing Abyssinian Boudoir (from a newspaper pic so quality is not so good )
I wonder what happened to some of the wonderful paintings in the house and who owns them today? And know's that they once where at Fernwood Grange a few are listed below
Swiss Scene by A.T. Antrobus
A View of The Harbour by Geo. Stainton
Winter by C. Leaver
Seascape by J.W. Hamilton 1876
Hui on the Rhine by Jas Webb
The Stirrup Cup by J. F. Herring & T. Earl
Garden Scene with Figures by Edward S. Harper
Christ healing the Sick by W. T .Rodin
Haunt of the Sirens by A. J. Woolmer
 
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If anyone wants to know were the premises of Alfred Antrobus's Jewelery business was located before he retired to Fernwood, it was at 61 Caroline St .... does it still survive today ?
He lived at 1 Nursery Rd Hockley and his shops at 76, 78, 80 Hunter Rd Hockley all he rented out and sold when he was well established in his Fernwood Retreat which he rarely left but his wife Eliza was always seen riding around the district in her carriage pulled by bay horses, wearing her cape and bonnet sadly she died a few years before he did
Cutting about the late Mr A.Antrobus from the Evening Despach March 2nd 1907
 
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Charlie

knows nowt
Caroline Street still exists. Fortunately, it's part of the Jewellery Quarter Conservation Area, so unlikely to be too many changes there now :) .
 
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Nephrititi

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Does the "house" still exist - sorry but I quickly read this topic so may have missed something.

I am intrigued.

Was Ernest a gambler?

Fay
 
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Fay... Ernest W.Beston left the House and went abroad with his family, the house was put up for auction on June 23rd 1928 and by then had 11 acres of grounds ....but it did not sell after it had been empty for a number of years Sutton Council started to cut down the surrounding woodlands in 1932 ...a year later Ernest W Beston had died then the house was again put back on the market in 1937 with no takers and so it was demolished the make way for new roads and houses
Fay, when I have processed a bit more info I will tell you a bit more
 
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Here are the two auction posters or flyers on Fernwood Grange
1928 & 1937 and Fernwood a few years before it was demolished
 
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Charlie

knows nowt
I guess the price of that house was beyond many people's pocket. Don't suppose you've any idea of the Guide Price at that Auction?
I could do with a good cry !!!;)
 
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Well Charlie if you think just how much the cars would be worth today and the fixtures and fittings which I have a great list of, I suppose it did not attract many buyers but last year at Christies Valerie Beston's paintings fetched 2 million pounds plus
 
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