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Goodbye to the Buchans

1953: The Sale of the Manor

Harry Adams, gardener to the Buchan family
Harry Adams, gardener to
the Buchan family

Without John Buchan at the helm, both the Buchan family and the village seem to have lost a sense of direction. Without his presence and earning capacity, the house began to crumble and was impossible for the family to maintain. They struggled on until 1953 when the house was put on the market. It was not, of course, merely the house. There was the accompanying land and the cottages which were occupied by the widow and disabled daughter of Mr Paintin, who had worked for Mr Watts at Hill Farm, there was Amos Webb’s widow, who by 1953 was in hospital. There was Jack Allam, the gamekeeper and Harry Adams the head gardener, none of them in the first flush of youth. The Paintins and Mrs Webb were in cottages which had been tied to work at the Manor but had not paid rent even after their menfolk had died. Disentangling from all these dependents would not be easy for the Buchans.

The Paintins were issued with a notice to quit their cottage which prompted James Paintin to write to the Buchans on his mother’s and sister’s behalf. They lived in one half of what is now Rose Cottage, while Mrs Webb lived in the house next door.

Dated 29th October 1953, James Paintin’s letter runs as follows:

"Dear Lord Tweedsmuir, It was indeed a shock to my mother and Ruth when they received your notice to quit the cottage at Elsfield in three months. The blow was all the more severe as Mr William Buchan had told mother the cottage would not be sold and she had nothing to worry about.

They have nowhere to go and there is no cottage in Elsfield or anywhere else. My mother would have paid rent after my father died if she had been asked and is prepared to do so now. She did ask Lady Tweedsmuir some time ago how she stood in regard to the cottage but nothing else was mentioned.

My mother is now 77 years of age and Ruth being crippled it is a great worry to us all after they have lived in Elsfield for 40 years."

In December a letter from Mrs Lane’s solicitors indicates that the Buchans were as upset as the villagers whose fate they could no longer control. A letter from Messrs Loft and Warner of St Giles, Oxford, acting for Mrs Lane, says in the most restrained manner possible:

"There is one phrase (in your letter) which I find hard to follow. In the matter of the cottage occupied by the Webbs and Paintins, you say that Mrs Lane should have little difficulty in taking action for eviction, if she is really hardhearted. I think this is a little hard on both Mrs Lane and myself, as she has nowhere to keep her servants if she buys the Manor, and the circumstances being what they are, I have had no option but to serve these notices on these folk, deeply as I regret doing so."

The Paintins did not give in easily, however. Lady Tweedsmuir’s companion, Miss Taylor, writing from Linton Lodge Hotel on 21st January 1954 encloses a note to a Miss Winch, presumably a legal secretary, about the conditions under which Mrs Webb and Mrs Paintin were allowed to live in the two cottages. By this time the Manor had been sold and Lady Tweedsmuir had taken temporary refuge at the Linton Lodge hotel before moving to the Cotswolds.

Mrs Webb, says Miss Taylor, is unlikely to come out of hospital. Neither Christ Church, Mr Watts, who employed Mr Paintin, nor Lord Tweedsmuir have any responsibility for the Paintins, and in addition Ruth is crippled and unable to work. Mrs Paintin has, however, a son in Oxford and a daughter in Aynho, whose responsibility they are. In a Machiavellian touch, she advises Mrs Lane not to try to solve the problem herself but to deal with it entirely through her solicitors, since the three months notice has now expired but the Paintins are still in residence. She writes:

I imagine she (Mrs Lane) proposes having work done in the two cottages and by the time she does move into the Manor any odium for the eviction of the two families will have died down. If she leaves it and tries to deal with the matter herself she may find herself unpopular.

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