Letters: The family left the house after 400 years but now the public can’t visit

Letters to the Editor
·9 min read
Roscoe the cat who lives at Ham House, a National Trust property in South West London, is one of the few currently able to visit -  Andrew Crowley
Roscoe the cat who lives at Ham House, a National Trust property in South West London, is one of the few currently able to visit - Andrew Crowley

SIR – Andy Beer (Letters, February 25), the National Trust operations director, should know his history. The Pole family owned Shute Barton from 1554 until it was given to the National Trust in 1958.

In 2008, Christopher and Gill Pole-Carew relinquished their tenancy of Shute Barton. For 20 years they and 30 volunteers had opened to the public the childhood home of Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days’ Queen, every Saturday and Wednesday, April to October. Visitors loved meeting the family who had been there for 400 years.

On my turning down the tenancy (the family having first refusal by covenant), the house closed. I was told that the National Trust was to spend £500,000 on overdue repairs. It opened as a holiday let in 2011.

As a holiday let, it’s unlikely a Pole will ever live there again. My father’s gravestone at Shute says: “Submariner. Newspaper Pioneer. Church Warden. Last of the Poles at Shute”.

Peregrine Pole-Carew
Dorchester, Dorset

SIR – As a volunteer at Overbeck’s, the house in south Devon, I feel the current behaviour of the National Trust is quite shameful.

Overbeck’s has been quietly closed “for the foreseeable future” with no explanation – except to “save costs”. The house is full of interest, as is its past owners’ development of the gardens, recognised when the property was given to the Trust.

People loved to visit the house, tea shop and gardens, because Overbeck’s it is different. The house was full of (sometimes quirky) artefacts. Visitors would return year after year. Younger people often commented on how much they had enjoyed their visit.

The closure of Overbeck’s is contrary to the ethos of the National Trust and a loss to our local heritage.

Pauline Stevens
Kingsbridge, Devon

SIR – I do not resent my subscription to the National Trust subsidising its self-catering cottage operation, as much of the money feeds back into the estates they are on. I find it wonderful that in winter, for £300-£400 for a few nights, I can get a one-bed apartment from the 15th century.

The National Trust has been renting out cottages for years. It probably inspired the Landmark Trust (which also saves smaller historic properties) to do the same thing.

I am annoyed at the National Trust for its clumsy historical interpretation and a reorganisation that has seen much-liked acquaintances who work for the Trust losing their jobs, but I am aware I would never have met those people if I hadn’t stayed in a cottage.

I do not, however, understand why the Trust is increasing the requirement to book to visit smaller houses at a time when we are coming out of lockdown, which will take away the need for social distancing. Booking was always required to see somewhere with a tenant, such as Muchelney Priest’s House, but I am curious as to why this is being extended.

Genny Franklin
Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire

The pain of statins

SIR – You report (February 25) that statins do not cause muscle pain. However, I can state quite categorically that they can and do. After experiencing severe pain for several months, I experimented with periods on no statins, followed by periods on various doses, then none again. With my doctor’s approval I also tried various different brands of statin.

The result was that all statins caused pain, which vanished within days of stopping the medication. Eventually I found that a low-dose pill every other day was acceptable and this is what I now take. I know several other people who have also suffered.

Ian Smethurst
Congleton, Cheshire

No catching up online

SIR – My daughter has, with great regret, had to resign from the government catch-up teaching programme.

I wonder how many other excellent teachers have had to do the same because they live in an area where the internet is not up to the standard required. As a consequence the connection keeps freezing, making the lesson too disjointed to be feasible.

Such a waste.

Pamela Snow
Nursling, Hampshire

SIR – I am certain that there are many retired teachers who, like myself, would be more than willing to volunteer to go into schools to help children catch up.

We could provide knowledge and experience, and it would also be a way of thanking future generations for the sacrifice they have made for us.

Robina Manger
Forest Row, East Sussex

Potato Head families

SIR – I am pleased that Mr and Mrs Potato Head are not going to be killed off (report, February 26) and that single-parent and same-sex potato families are to be represented.

However, I think it important that the millions of traditional Potato Head nuclear families are not discriminated against for their lifestyle.

Jennie Naylor
East Preston, West Sussex

Heavenly reception

SIR – Guildford Cathedral has a phone mast (Letters, February 24) that is concealed under the angel's skirt.

Duncan Rayner
Sunningdale, Berkshire

Unvaccinated nurses

SIR – On Thursday a district nurse came to see a 95-year-old relative who is extremely vulnerable.

The care was given in very close proximity and involved touching. At the end of the visit I heard that the nurse had not yet been vaccinated.

I rang our GP to ask how this might have happened and was told that all staff had been offered vaccinations repeatedly and if they had not had one it was through their own choice.

What is the truth in this matter? Are unvaccinated nursing staff allowed to visit elderly patients? Are we putting employees’ rights before the lives of the elderly and most vulnerable?

N S Everby
Callington, Cornwall

SIR – I agree with the Queen (report, February 26) – it is selfish not to be vaccinated. The best way to eradicate Covid-19 is global vaccination, which is how we tackled smallpox.

Every adult has a civic duty to be vaccinated, unless they have a medical condition that excuses them. If they won’t listen to government advice, let’s hope they listen to our Queen.

Charlotte MacKay
Shaftesbury, Dorset

SIR – Since the pandemic began I have lived an isolated life in a remote location. I have used my car for small errands, including shopping.

On Thursday I received a letter from the NHS telling me not to leave the house. Short walks are permitted, as are medical appointments, but shopping must be organised using a third party. This arrangement must be put in place now and last until March 31 – even if I have had two vaccine jabs.

I know the NHS is busy, but I am reminded of a song from my youth that proclaimed: “The lunatics have taken over the asylum.”

Tony Waldeck
Truro, Cornwall

Suspended licences

SIR – My driving licence (Letters, February 25) was suspended in September 2016 after a medical episode. I was advised one month later that it was safe to resume driving, so I immediately reapplied to the DVLA for my licence.

After two months I was told that it was still being “progressed”. Then, in February 2017, that I was a priority but that no one could say when the panel would consider my case.

I then contacted my MP, who was Dame Caroline Spelman, to ask for assistance and my licence was issued within days. I advised a friend who had been waiting over a year to do the same and he too received his licence shortly afterwards.

Dr Iain S Wells
Solihull

Look out for lead shot

SIR – Compounds of lead are indeed poisonous (Leading Article, February 25), especially the oxides that are used in red and white lead paint.

However, metallic lead is quite inert and practically harmless, as evidenced by the fact that for decades our domestic water was delivered via lead pipes – hence plumber.

But we should continue to check game for lead shot and protect our teeth until they replace it with a more suitable alternative.

Malvern Harper
Ripley, Derbyshire

Outgoing owls

SIR – Night owls (report, February 24) have a better social life, don’t they?

I am a lifelong morning lark.

Linda Hepburn
Chatham, Kent

Buchan, Byron and evidence of incest

A wax impression on paper of Lord Byron (1788-1824) made by an intaglio ring -  © National Portrait Gallery, London
A wax impression on paper of Lord Byron (1788-1824) made by an intaglio ring - © National Portrait Gallery, London

SIR – I read with astonishment the extraordinary claim by Chips Channon in his diaries (Arts, February 24) that John Buchan, my grandfather, and Henry James used their position as literary executors to burn hundreds of Byron’s letters, due to their “heinous” content.

The story is quite otherwise, as Janet Adam Smith describes in detail in her biography of Buchan (and as I mention in my book, Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps).

Buchan’s wife’s aunt, the Countess of Lovelace (“Mamie”), was the widow of Byron’s grandson, the Earl of Lovelace. The Earl had been concerned about the reputation of his grandmother and, in that connection, the idea that Byron had had an incestuous relationship with his half-sister, Augusta Leigh.

In 1909, Buchan and James were asked by Mamie (with whom they were staying as guests, not as “literary executors”) to look at the documents she had, to see if her late husband’s views were justified. These were copies (made by the Earl) of letters from Byron to Lady Melbourne (therefore, not Lovelace papers). The originals were owned by, and in the possession of, Lady Dorchester. They were published, without redaction or public outcry, by John Murray in 1922 – two years before the conversation alleged by Channon to have taken place with Buchan. No one could have thought, in 1924, that the original letters had been destroyed – they were in the public domain.

This story tells us more about Chips Channon than John Buchan.

Ursula Buchan
Peterborough

The secret holder of the cheese-eating record

SIR – My wife was sent a certificate for buying the most grated Cheddar from our local Sainsbury’s (Letters, February 26). We hadn’t the heart to tell them that we only used it to spice up our cockapoo’s bland dog food.

Bryan Webster
Frampton on Severn, Gloucestershire

SIR – If supermarkets know which customers have bought the most of one item or another, perhaps they could say who are the record- holders for buying the most rolls of lavatory paper at the start of the pandemic.

Andy Bebbington
Ravenshead, Nottinghamshire

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