His­toric Love


Victorian Homes - - Contents - By Anne Arm­strong/gap

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.”

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