Charles and Pam Liddell
At the end of Wherwell lie two tiny hamlets, unknown except to natives, called Cottonworth and Fullerton. Cottonworth is, in fact, a postal address although it consists of ten houses at most and is completely baffling even to Andover taxi drivers who have driven around the area all their working lives. It is not unknown however to flocks of American tourists who appear every summer eager to see their ancestral home. These hamlets consist almost entirely of the properties owned by Fullerton Arms Limited, a company set up by Major Charles Liddell to handle an estate left to him by his great uncle.
The estate was divided between two brothers and stretches between Cottonworth, at the far end of Wherwell, to the Clatfords, The part of it that is clustered around the winding river Anton before it joins the Test is farmed by Major Charles Liddell who has lived at Fullerton Grange with his wife Pamela since he inherited the estate in 1957. The name Liddell conjures up Alice in Wonderland for most people - and in this case rightly so. The Alice Liddell who inspired the Reverend Charles Dodgeson to write the well-known stories was the great-aunt of Charles Liddell, the sister of his grandfather and one of a very large family with many descendants. One of Charles and Pamela's daughters is another Alice Liddell. The estate was owned by William Cory who had lived at Fullerton Manor with his sister Alice for a great many years. Charles had visited it often during his childhood. "I caught my first fish in the river Anton just next to the Mill," said Charles. "My nanny held on to me from behind by my coat-tails. Of course the Mill was still working then."
His son James, who is responsible for the dairy herd and lives with his wife and family just across the main road at Cottonworth, also caught his first fish on the river Anton and his son Tom, 11, caught his on the same stretch last summer. Charles, 71, and Pamela, 70, were both brought up in Devon, Charles in Tiverton and Pamela near Exeter. They met as teenagers. "We were unofficially engaged for seven years and officially engaged for nine days," remembered Pamela. It was, of course, the Second World War that caused the long delay as it did for thousands of young couples at that time. Charles joined the Rifle Brigade and went to India in 1937 where he spent two years in Meerut, near Delhi. He came home on a short leave just before war broke out and then served abroad until 1944 when he was able to get home to marry Pamela at last. She meanwhile had been working as a V AD in a Devon hospital which was bombed twice. "The first casualty I had to face was someone with an arm blown off," she said. "I didn't mind anything much after that. On one occasion when the hospital was bombed one wing was completely destroyed - it had narrowly missed the nurses home. In the morning I went to the brush cupboard to get something to start clearing up and a dead body fell out. I shoved it back in and carried on cleaning."
Charles had spent most of the war fighting in the Western Desert where he was awarded on of the first MCs of the war for his bravery in finding a safe path through a minefield. He also arrested Himmler's brother by a curious accident towards the end of the war when he surrendered himself to the allied troops. A modest man, Charles will say little about his war experiences in the desert, except: "it was pretty uncomfortable but it is nice to know that we didn't do much damage." In 1944 Charles returned to England for his nine day official engagement and marriage to Pamela. Clothes were a problem. "My wedding dress was made up of all sorts of bits and pieces from other people's dresses. The sleeves came from one relative and the lace from another. I was lucky to have one at all," said Pamela.
Charles was next posted to Belgium and remained abroad until the end of the war. Pamela remained at home and his eldest daughter was born at Tiverton. He didn't see her until she was nearly a year old. During the early part of their married life the couple moved about between Germany, Kenya, Malaya and, closer to home, Winchester. In 1957 they came home for good. By this time there were two more children, James and Alice, and they felt it was time to put down roots. If Charles had remained in the army another term abroad would have been inevitable and the couple felt the family should not be separated any further. The answer was ready made. Great Uncle William Cory had died and left the estate to Charles and his brother Adrian who had spent his working life managing farms. "I was quite right to stop soldiering, particularly since it meant that I had to leave the family behind," said Charles. "It was time to settle down." "I knew this place so well. I used to come here during school half terms. I learned to fish here. I learned to shoot here and had enjoyed it all so much." It was a welcome change for Pamela too. "The first years here were lovely," she said. "We had always been on the move ever since we were married. We were able to put roots down at last. We loved it." The family moved into the beautiful mellow Queen Anne house with the walled garden where Charles and Pamela live to this day. Great Aunt Alice Cory lived up the hill at the Manor until she died in 1962 at the age of 98. "We didn't go to live there because we had such difficulty in getting people to help in the house," said Pamela. "They didn't like to walk down the long drive in the dark."
Their children spent their holidays roaming the countryside, helping on the farm, riding, swimming and fishing in the river. Now their grandchildren enjoy the same pleasures.
Daughter Susan, married with two grown up daughters and one son, lives in London. Son James lives on the estate with wife Rachel and children, Georgie, Tom and Hugh. Daughter Alice lives in Somerset with her husband and two small sons. "We have eight grandchildren, 24 great nephews and nieces and five great, great nephews and nieces," said Pamela. Quite a collection - but then she is used to a large family. She had, at one time, no less than 36 firs1 cousins. Although the family have grown up and left home, life has been hardly less busy for Charles and Pamela. Work on the farm goes on as usual and there is always plenty to do. Then there are the horses - Charles' great love. He hunts during the season with the Portman hunt in Dorset and breeds in a small way. Most mornings of the week, whatever the weather, he is to be seen riding around the estate on Henry, his dark bay hunter. "I do love horses. I have been involved with them all my life," he said. "I breed them just because I love them, but then, unfortunately, I can't bear to sell them. I have about eight at the moment." At the other end of the scale Pamela keeps chickens, ducks and one lone gander with a bad limp. Both have been very busy in the community. Charles has just retired as churchwarden at Wherwell church after 30 years of service. "My father was churchwarden here and the vicar of the time was determined that I should take over," he said. "I became churchwarden the moment I got back from soldiering." He has also served as a Justice of the Peace until 1987. "During that time Andover has changed tremendously," he said. "From a small market town it has grown out of all recognition. When I first became a Justice of the Peace we dealt with almost nothing else but motoring offences but subsequently it has been more in the line of petty theft and affray and that kind of thing. However, on the whole I think Andover is a pretty law-abiding place."
A stint as High Sheriff of the county in 1975 involved Pamela in a lot of entertaining. "We had sixteen dinner parties in one year," she said. "Of course we had to be present whenever royalty came to the county. The Duke of Edinburgh visited during our year and so did Princess Margaret and Princess Alexandra." Pamela too plays a full part in community life. She is a staunch member o' the Women's Institute and is well known for her years tea parties for old people from Wherwell village. She is vice-president of the Wherwell Conservative Association and is a helper with the Meals on Wheels service. She is also a prolific and amusing poet. Each year she drops a delightful verse through the letterboxes of each house in the village asking for bottles for the bottle stall she runs with family help at the annual Church fete. In 1979 she recited an epic of 47 verses at the village harvest supper, which referred to most of the guests present and ended with the lines:
"I hope I have not caused offence,
In case I have I'll get me hence,
It's very hard to make a ditty,
without it being unkindly witty."
A problem faced by many writers of humorous verse but one very unlikely to be true in her case. During their thirty years at Fullerton the couple have seen many changes. The station that they found so conveniently placed just across the road closed down and motor traffic built up enormously.
"Everyone used the train to go into Andover," remembered Charles. "It took only seven minutes to get to the town station. It was very useful. When It shut in 1965 it made a tremendous difference to life here. Everyone had to get their own car." There have been changes on the estate too. When he inherited the property Charles grew nothing but spring barley because it was thought tha1 the land was too infertile to support anything else. Advances in farming techniques mean that it has now been found possible to grow wheat and oil seed rape. Hidden under a field of wheat are the remains of a Roman villa with mill and waterworks, mosaic floors and pavement. It was found during ploughing in 1915 and one of the floors was incorporated into Fullerton Manor, which was being built at the time. Ten years ago a team from Oxford University carefully excavated it and made a detailed study before burying it again. "It is an attractive area," said Charles. "It's the river that really makes it so lovely. We are very lucky."
Wherwell Anthology XV - First published August 1988