Thornleigh House

An extract from John S.W Moxon’s Memoirs

Contributed by Gerry Woodford

Thornleigh House

Thornleigh House before world war 1


The house was always known to the family as ‘Thornleigh’ as indeed it is to-day. I can remember Aunt Maud telling me my Grandparents moved there from Westcoats Drive in 1911, and one can well understand why a larger home was required for there were twelve children at that time, three boys and eight girls. It must have been considered a large property even for those days. As I understand it had been empty for a little while before the Woodfords moved in.

My Grandfather was a local hosiery manufacturer and had founded Woodford & Wormleighton some years before. Obviously it had been successful to enable the family to move into more spacious surroundings. This was where he lived until he died in 1941. Of course I cannot remember ‘Thornleigh’ from those early days. My memories are of the mid 1930’s when I was a child, and my parents and I lived in Yorkshire; we used to visit my Mother’s family for holidays and at Christmas-time.

The House

It was always an adventure for me. I will try and recall what the house was like, how I remember it and especially the people who lived in it. A building with numerous rooms, high ceilings and a large garden seemed huge in a child’s eyes offering the prospect of endless days of exploration and excitement, not only to myself but also to my cousins. It has been altered since then and that apart from the new I extensions which are of recent years. I remember you used to be able to walk under the stairs and that was where my Grandfather kept a Victorian safe. There was also a large round gong hung on a stand used for calling the family to meals. When the children were around they delighted in striking it at a1l times, but we were never in trouble so it must have been an easy household. Morning-room, dining room: lounge, library lobby, billiard-room, maid’s sitting-room kitchen and butler’s pantry were all on the ground floor.

There was a wide hall, staircase and landing with a skillfully built skylight which you can still appreciate when you see it now: heavily molded internal doors of polished hardwood with brass knobs. I used to sleep in the day nursery and my parents in the adjoining night nursery; these were the first rooms you reached at the top of the stairs. There was only one bathroom and one toilet so one does wonder how such a large family managed, but perhaps that is only when one compares it with the luxuries of our own age. The two main bedrooms had dressing rooms which were nearly as big as double rooms in a modern house of to-day.

There was a long corridor with more bedrooms and the bathroom and then the backstairs to the attics at the top of the house.

Apart from the new extensions it must be the garden which has seen the greatest change. The front drive was covered in thick gravel and the flower borders edged with white granite rocks. There was a bank in front of the dining room window topped by a path which was covered by a glass canopy, and we used to stand under it and watch the summer rain, marveling we still remained dry.

It was the end of an era. In that house with so many rooms there were only three people and it was obviously too large for them so something had to be done. By chance an uncle heard of a house in Knighton Road which was about to be requisitioned for the A.T.S. and after an approach to the War office a swap was agreed, the larger house being much more suitable for them.
Thus it was, a sale of the contents was arranged as there was no hope of taking everything to Knighton Road. You look at the prices obtained and they are laughable by to-day’s standards even when it is considered that the country was in the midst of a war. A Worcester dinner service, 65 pieces £4-7-6d my Grandfather’s safe £l2-0-0d, bronze figure ‘Diana’ £3-0-0d. a pair of Satsuma vases 42ins high, 18/-. A Broadwood grand piano was sold for £66-0-0d. A picture by W. Shayer (Senior.)
‘The Smugglers’ 30in x 40in, £8-0-0d. Maybe I should not tell you how much a Shayer would fetch to-day: A landscape by B. W. Leader 28in. x 40in. E46-0-0d. An eight day Grandfather chiming clock with tubular gongs in inlaid mahogany case sold for £72-0-0d. My Grandfather’s flute in a case sold for £26-0-0d. Incredible but true. Peace came and the house was turned into a small hotel. You could see tables laid out in the billiard-room and net curtains at the windows, but that did not seem to last for long for it was soon taken over by Leicester University as a medical centre. So it remained for many years until it was sold and converted into a residential home which is as you see it now.
That is the story as I knew it. It was a period of great happiness to me as I hope to others. There must be much I do not know and never will. Those walls will keep their secrets and tales of a past age.

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