HOLIDAYS AT THIS GEORGIAN VILLA STIR MEMORIES OF CHRISTMASES PAST.
Holidays at this Georgian villa stir memories of Christmases past.
People who live in very old houses love to speculate about the life and times of the original owners, so it’s exciting when plenty of accurate information exists.
Carol and Peter Richards, for example, know quite a lot about the people who lived in their handsome Georgian residence as far back as 200 years ago. “The house has a very traceable pedigree, and we have heard a lot about the history from local people, but I am always hungry to find out more,” says Carol.
The Richards’ home, known as Radford Villa, is surrounded by four-and-ahalf acres of grounds and gardens, and stands in a village near Bath. Initially a farmhouse, the villa dates back to the early 1800s, when it was built by the son of a local farming and milling family, whose social importance was on the rise. They added a Regency extension in the 1830s, when the young man’s wife, who loved to entertain, wanted more space for guests. As the decades rolled on, the property moved into the hands of a family of market gardeners, who covered the grounds with greenhouses where they grew carnations—to national acclaim.
“We are the seventh family to live here,” Carol says, acknowledging that they moved in nine years ago—only 10 days before Christmas. It was a timely arrival, as Carol celebrates Christmas with gusto every year, invariably among a big gathering of family, friends and neighbors. The way the house looks during the holidays is important to her, not least because she is an interior designer with an experienced eye for color and texture. She began working in interior design some 30 years ago, initially concentrating on small projects. “Some time later, waiting at the school gate for my children, I became friends with another mum called Patricia Gribben, who also had interior design experience,” she says. “So we set up a company together called C & P Interiors, working mainly in London and the Home Counties, and we are still going strong.”
An “autumnal person,” Carol is especially comfortable when she has earthy hues around her. She likes natural Christmas decorations, so she gathers leaves, branches and pinecones, then brings them in from the garden to mix with the glass baubles. She supports the local economy as much as possible, so a lot of their food comes from nearby farm shops, including the turkey, which starts roasting in the Aga on Christmas Eve. She felt a bit daunted by the Aga— inherited from the previous owner—when she first arrived, but she’s mastered it now. As a family, they have established a few Christmas traditions. For instance, Carol serves figgy pudding and spiced beef. Invoking the party-loving reputation of the original owner, Peter stresses that “Radford is really a perfect home for Christmas gatherings. The atmosphere feels so happy.”