Branscombe Hall: Part Three

This is the third part of a fiction serial, in 752 words.
My thanks for Sue Judd for allowing me to use her photo as a prompt.

When Gregg gave me a lift to the station on Sunday morning, I asked him why his family were talking about us getting married, even though it had not been discussed between us. He was happy to answer me.

“I told them, this is the girl I want to marry. I hope you like her, but tough luck if you don’t because I am going to do all I can to make her my wife. Sorry if they grilled you about that, but take no notice of them. I mean what I say though”. I was flattered by his determination, I confess. But I mentioned the problem of distance. I lived near Gloucester, he was based in Essex with the Army. How could marriage work?

His reply wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

“Well, you work in auctions and stuff. There are plenty of those places in Essex. I reckon you could get a job easy. You could even live at my parents’ place, save renting anywhere. Then I can apply for married quarters, but I want to wait until I make sergeant”.

We arrived at the station while I was still thinking how to reply to that. He kissed me goodbye and said he would come to see me on his next leave. “I can get a room somewhere, maybe a pub with accommodation. Save upsetting your old man by staying at the big house”. It was a long train journey back to Gloucester, and I had a lot of thinking to do.

Obviously, I had no intention of giving up my partnership in the business, and applying for a job in Essex. And even less intention of ever living at his mum and dad’s house in Basildon. But there was no denying how I felt about him, and those feelings were growing. I drove home from the station car park, wondering how the hell we could ever work things out.

There was no time to dwell on that though, as that was the night Branscombe Hall came into my life.

It had been a manor house since not long after the Norman invasion in 1066. Built on extensive lands granted to one of William The Conqueror’s nobles in gratitude for his service. By the Elizabethan period, it boasted a fine ten-bedroom house with a grand hall, and the income from the lands around the estate made Lord Branscombe one of the richest men in the west of England. It was years after the Civil War that it really became prominent though. The lord at the time had picked the wrong side, and raised troops for the King. When the royalists lost he was in disgrace, and forced to pay fines that almost bankrupted him.

Then Charles the Second regained the throne, and he repaid the loyalty of the Branscombe family to his late father with more land, and a huge grant of money to renovate the house. A new house was built in the latest seventeenth century style, and everyone started to call it Branscombe Hall. The new lord became a patron of the arts, a mission he passed on to his son. That son started to collect paintings in the eighteenth century, and other works of fine art.

Those of us living nearby knew it well. Only ten minutes by car from my family home, we would drive past the high walls encircling the estate almost every day. Local people had jobs there; everything from gardeners to livestock managers and gamekeepers. Members of the royal family and other aristocrats were regular visitors for the game shooting and annual Grand Ball, continuing a tradition started during the reign of Queen Victoria. The place was steeped in history.

The news when I got home was that Lord Branscombe had died suddenly. His son had inherited both the title and the house and land. He was not that interested though, as he lived a bohemian lifestyle in London’s fashionable Chelsea. His agent had contacted ny father over the weekend, instructing us to catalogue his art collection, with a view to selling it. Dad was smiling as he told me. “This is right up your street, Alica. The best estimate is the house has over three thousand paintings inside, many stored in the attics. And that’s without the ceramics, and furniture dating back to the fifteen hundreds”.

In bed that night, I was so excited, I could hardly sleep.

41 thoughts on “Branscombe Hall: Part Three

  1. Will Gregg get a powerful opponent? The tension is definitely increasing now. Great flow of the story, Pete! xx Michael – You also involved the aristocracy, as a communists love story could not have enough flesh on the bones. Lol – Sorry, a little joke! 😉 xx Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  2. (1) Married quarters… George Washington is on the American quarter. Queen Elizabeth II is on the Canadian quarter. I was thinking of marrying the two quarters in my pocket, but the Canadian quarter is going to drop the queen and adopt King Charles III. I don’t think George will want to marry Charles.
    (2) “My dear man, in this manor house, good manners matter!”
    (3) I know all about the Norman invasion. Norman Tompkinson invaded New You on behalf of the Horncastle council, but Terence was able to send him packing.
    (4) “Some members of the more recent aristocracy, including the late Diana, Princess of Wales, and Sarah, Duchess of York, ‘are descendants of Charles II through his various illegitimate children.'” (Source: Lindsay Lowe,
    I wonder what King Charles III thinks about that particular connection?
    (5) If she were alive today, would Queen Victoria be driven around in a Ford Crown Victoria? I can hear her saying, “This car is right up my street!”
    (6) “This is right up your street, Alicia.” An American would say, “This is right up your alley, Alicia.” #AmericanAlliteration

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