Tuesday 4th March 1952 BLACK DAY
This is how Pip describes the events of the day that brought his and Cynthia’s dreams close to collapse.
His diary continues;
Thursday 6th – Paul and myself go over and meet Valentine there. Cynthia rang up and I told her the sad news.- she wanted to howl. For a while we believed that the whole thing would have to be demolished. I would have to pay (about £100) and pay for a new wall to be built on next door cottage – another £100. This morning I went to the council offices and told Valentine that it represented my life’s savings and could we have a go at re-building. He was sceptical at first but I persevered and he has temporarily put off the demolition order.
March 14th 1952
Bob Chapman, Pip’s neighbour, was there to watch with Pip as tons and tons of rubble were removed. Pip describes how the whole cottage had been propped up and everyone waited to see if it would collapse or not.
‘They intend to remove the entire end wall – no mean job – a matter of shifting over 100 tons, then, if the remaining skeleton is still standing reasonably rigid, to commence rebuilding all three walls.
These past few days have been the worst nightmare of my life.’
There were however some lighter moments; visiting the cottage with friends and sympathisers they climbed into the bedrooms, over the rubble and Pip went into the roof space. According to him it was ‘absolutely rotten’ but he also reported that ‘the old boy next door had found an ancient pair of cord breeches which he swore were 150 years old!!’
4th April 1952
Cynthia and I visited The Wreck. I climbed up over the rubble and into the bedrooms and put all the lights on. Lit the whole place up. A lady approached us and introduced herself as my other neighbour, the nurse in the cottage above. We were invited in and shown over the whole place. Beautiful and intriguing cottage – we sat and chatted for half an hour and found the nurse to be a most charming woman.
A few days later Pip was informed that, at a meeting of Jessop the builder, Gair, Sinnat, the Duke’s agent, and the council men, a proposal had been pulled together which would mean that the collapsed building could be demolished but the Duke’s agent would be responsible for making good the apex of the adjoining cottage.
By May 12th the old cottage had disappeared; in Pip’s words ‘ Cynthia and I stood on the erstwhile site, held hands, mutely, and sighed!’
A little overwhelmed by the ‘domino effect’ of the building works, Pip reports that the same thing has happened to the Hopkins’ cottage next door; ‘I, of course, am responsible for it. As I said to Mr Williams, this could go on ‘ad infinitum’ and I may as well repair, replace and rebuild the whole of Geddington’ !!
Next week we look at how the rebuild went, including the story of the front door, alongside plans for a wedding.