Clearwell Castle 1929 - after the fire
Clearwell Castle pictured shortly after the fire of 16th of March 1929.
Parts of the building are blackened by the fire and a ladder remains propped against a wall. At this time the castle was occupied by Colonel and Mrs Vereker
Colonel Vereker occupied the castle from when he retired to Clearwell in 1911
until he died in 1947. ("Clearwell
Castle Story", AAA Guide 1978)
Melvyn Jacobs added (Feb 2008): "I am told
by my mother Violet
Jacobs (nee Baldwin) that her mother Mable Baldwin was in service at the castle
the time of the fire and my grandad Ernest Baldwin carried Mrs Vereker from
the fire to safety".
Melvyn also added ".. (Ernest) had a Jack Russell called Tiny. He used to sit Tiny under the bench seat on his cap and challenged anyone to take the cap from the dog. No one in the 'Butchers' ever achieved it. He also once sold his braces for a pint of scrumpy".
Bernard Yeates added (Feb 2008): '... Amazing how reading something can bring back long forgotten memories. I remember Ernie Baldwin very well, I believe he once sold his socks in the bar of the Butchers Arms for a pint of "rough zider", Especially I remember a story he once told me about the time when he was young and used to do work at the Castle for the Colonel. One particular saturday morning the Colonel asked Ernie and his friend ( can't remember who ) to oil the Library floor for a dance that evening. Being a tight old B ( Ernie's words ), he wouldn't buy wax polish but made his own polish from old engine oil and white spirit. However, Ernie and friend wanted to play football in the afternoon and knowing that to apply the 'special brew' and then polish it up to a good shiny finish would take most of the day so they decided to take a short-cut, i.e. no old engine oil, just the white spirit. Un-be known to them, the Colonel was in the conservatory which had a window which opened into the Library and the Colonel had been listening to their plan. He waited until they had finished and asked him to inspect their work which he did. To use Ernie's words,"he walked into the Library, bent down and rubbed his fingers across the floor, inspected his fingers and said, " Far too much engine oil for dancing, get the white spirit and wash off some of the oil". Poor old Ernie and friend spent the afternoon on their hands and knees instead of the football pitch pretending to take off the oil they hadn't put on in the first place'.
Elizabeth Kruidenier added (August 2009): "...I am looking for information on the family of Colonel Vereker with whom I stayed at Clearwell Castle as a child with my mother and brother at the begining of World War II-from late fall 1939 to July 1940. Colonel Vereker's wife's name was Lila and his children were called Louise and Neville. We left London when the bombing began, at their invitation. I remember that the Colonel had an unbelievably fascinating collection of birds' eggs in cases all marked and referenced. There were drawers and drawers of them of every imaginable color and shape and size, and he delighted in showing them off. I must have been almost 8 years old. My family name is Pitlik. My father was a Czech diplomat working for the Czech government in exile in London".
"I am now living in the USA and I am trying to write my memoirs for my children and grandchildren. Any information would be welcome. Thanks so much for your help. I would welcome any replies. I have such beautiful memories of that unexpected sojourn, despite the war and I was thrilled to find the old photos of the Castle, which I can show my family. I do have one story to add. One cold night during the late fall of 1939, we were all sleeping soundly, when we were awakened by a loud crash in our bedroom, which Andre and I shared with our mother. We were frightened to death because a huge chunk of the ceiling came down in our room and narrowly missed us. Of course we thought it was a bomb, which made it even more frightening, but it turned out to be only plaster, not nearly as exciting, but almost as lethal"
Bob Smith added (January 2013): "... Fascinating pictures of Clearwell Castle - my family has a long connection. My Nan, Florence Nash nee Jayne of Hereford came to work in the castle around 1920 when the future Mrs Vereker moved down from Hereford to marry the Colonel. Nan had worked for her family in Hereford and the young girl insisted on Florrie accompanying her to the Forest of Dean. Nan could still clearly recall the journey to this then unheard of place in her later years. She'd had to catch the train from Hereford to Monmouth and then the Colonel's horse carriage picked her up and took her to the castle. Many years later she recalled at the time wondering where on earth am I going?. Her wage on starting was £51 per year and she had to buy her own uniform. She was allowed no time off at all for the first month of her new employment and after that only Sunday afternoons were free but only if the Colonel and his wife said she was'nt needed. Nan told of many grand occasions held at the castle particularly when the occupants of Castleford House near Chepstow who were great friends of the Verekers came to visit. Great preparations were in order over the menu to ensure the guests were suitably impressed. Nan worked her way up to being the head cook. She met my Grandfather Reuben Nash of Sling in the mid 1930's and left the castle around 1939 to marry with my mum being born in 1940. In later years, as a teenager, my sister when still at school worked for Sue and Bernie Yates as a wench at their Medieval Banquets. Many years after all this I rented a yard in Redbrook for my business and met a lovely old fella called Bobby . After chatting for a while he realised he knew my Nan very well. He'd been the gardener's boy at the castle at the same time that Nan had been the cook. As part of his job he would go to the kitchen everyday to ask what the cook required from the gardener for that days meals".
Graham Beard added (August 2015): "... Possibly Elizabeth Kruidenier has found details about Col. Vereker by now, but just in case... He was Charles Granville Vereker (b. 1869), and a nephew of the 4th Viscount Gort. He was Major, and later Battalion Lt-Col. Royal Artillery. Before retirement in 1911 he was Instructor in Gunnery, Shoeburyness and Malta. He was re-employed during the Great War, attached to the General Staff as Major Instructor in Gunnery 1914-18. He was twice married, first in 1895 to Adeline Eleanor Berthon, and afterwards, in 1931 to Leila Bosanquet. (From 'Fox's Armorial Families', 1929; and 'Who's Who in Gloucestershire' 1934. After his marriage in Gloucestershire in 1919 my grandfather Oscar William Beard took up employment at Clearwell Castle. We know he acted as chauffeur because he remembered Col. Vereker's very distinctive motorcar, a Sizaire-Berwick. This very costly (and now very rare) motor had a radiator grille not unlike a Rolls Royce. It has been described as 'an extremely silent, refined luxury carriage, with a side-valve engine...' We believe my grandfather was also the Colonel's butler (this had been his occupation pre-war). He and my grandmother Madeline occupied one of the lodges at the main gate, the other housed the gardener. My grandmother was not employed in the Castle but was called upon to assist at large dinner parties, and such like. My grandmother told me she did her shopping in Coleford, as there wasn't much at Clearwell. I have learned that Clearwell Castle is important architecturally, being one of the earliest neo-gothic houses in Europe; its revived style predating by some years the main examples and flowering of the 18th-19th c. Gothic Revival. My grandparents didn't stay long at Clearwell, perhaps no more than a year. The family story is that the Col. lost some money and had to get rid of his motorcar, but I can't verify this - my grandfather was adept at moving on from jobs where he wasn't entirely happy! Coincidentally, one of my great-uncles was chauffeur to the Dowager Lady de'Lisle and Dudley, daughter of the 4th Viscount Gort, and cousin to Col. Vereker. I have found this website on Clearwell fascinating and informative, and hope these few comments prove useful. I've only seen the Castle once, during the late 60s when we drove my grandmother past it and she pointed out where they had once lived".
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