Forum Members Meet up - 25th August, 2010.
Myself and Jane from the Follyfoot Forum had arranged for a group of Follyfoot fans to meet together and visit Follyfoot farm and Stockeld Park.
Jane had suggested visiting Stockeld Park, which is just outside Wetherby in North Yorkshire. This was where the famous scenes took place of Dora walking up the enchanting stairwell, in the very first episode of Follyfoot. Also the riding stables where Dora lovingly talks to one of the horses and meets the stable hand who advises her not to be back late -due to the account of troublemakers coming up from the town. Jane Royston had actually worked in these very stables back in the 1960s.
Having contacted Stockeld Park to arrange a private guided tour and likewise also contacting the Harewood Estate for permission to visit Follyfoot farm, Jane in turn, contacted a hand full of Forum members to see if anyone might be interested in meeting up together during the summer. Everyone who had been contacted, expressed an interest but some were also busy with work commitments and diary dates that were already fixed up- holidays pre -booked etc; but in the end, around 15 of us were able to attend this first meeting of like-minded fans. The date of 25th August was fixed - the ‘lateness’ being in order to help anticipate and coincide with the forthcoming book about Follyfoot by Jane Royston. Regarding her book, I believe there is now a likely hood this will be on hold due to ‘proof reading’ until either later in the year towards Christmas 2010 or perhaps into the following year in 2011- to coincide with the series 40th anniversary. Whatever the case, the book will definitely be published and no doubt there will be a much anticipated rush of eagerness to acquire a copy by then! Guaranteed.
The 25th August was on a Wednesday and was penned in mainly to fit in with the Stockeld Park opening times and hours, so we arranged for everyone to meet there by car at around 10.30am, as the guided tour was to take place at 11am. I had been tipped off the day before by the Harewood Estate that the North and Leeds area was pouring down with rain all day long! However there was by some miraculous luck that the weather for Wednesday would be clear, warm and sunny - a window of opportunity for a Follyfoot adventure! Myself, Jane and her husband arrived together in the same car and as we approached the North side of the Stockeld Park building, imagined the scene where the Colonel rode in via horseback as he intercepts his brother and wife and their daughter, Dora arriving in their Rolls Royce.
Click images to enlarge
As we waited around and admired the scenery, Loopy, Hollinhare and their husbands and Rob turned up and as we greeted and introduced each other, Jane Royston, Ray Knight, Christine Saul and her husband, Michael also turned up. Some of the members had not met either Jane Royston nor Ray Knight and I hadn’t met Christine before nor her husband. Christine worked on the Follyfoot set as a horse hand. There was a lot of hand shaking, smiles, talking and laughter all round! Eventually a graceful -looking lady made her appearance from seemingly out of no-where and introduced herself as Susie Grant, firstly to myself, (Mrs Grant, along with her husband, own and manage Stockeld Park-quite a tough task -one can imagine) and then to everyone else. Mrs Grant spoke to us all and part of the topic was how fine the weather had turned out for us! We all waited just a little longer, as several others had yet to arrive and eventually after 11 o’clock, everyone duly went inside, walking up the very same steps that both Dora and her Uncle had done, nearly 40 years ago.
The house was designed by noted 18th century house architect, James Paine who was commissioned by Sir William Middleton, a member of a prominent Roman Catholic family. The villa itself was designed along the Palladian style- which has it’s origins from the 16th century Venetian architect, Andrea Palladio whose works were inspired from Greek architecture. We were told of great past sadness and heartache for the previous family owners. One of it’s main, noted features is the oval stairwell that ingeniously has been counter -levered into the strong, solid walls of the villa. Susie Grant explained to us, past intrigue and shenanigans from the previous owners, that in part involved this very room!
As a result, the property became derelict for a while until the descendants of the Middleton family line sold the property and estate to the late 19th century industrialist, Robert John Foster of whom Peter Grant is a direct descendant.
We were then shown both the lounge quarters and dinning room in which Ray Knight and I believe that in one of these rooms, Dora and the Colonel had discussed the unpleasantness of the Night Riders antics over breakfast and where the Colonel suggests to Dora to go down to Follyfoot farm.
We learnt that during the war years, parts of the house were used as a hospital and apparently over 500 babies were born there in this room! We were also privileged to be shown the out of bounds kitchen quarters. As all the windows in these rooms were south facing, the warmth was very noticeable- and the beautiful, splendid views which were depicted in the series were/are a wonderful backdrop for both the present owners and likewise in the past, for Dora and the Colonel.
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