Thursday, 28 February 2013

Romance and Tragedy...

Can you just about make out the names scratched onto this window in the bar at the Spread's David Niven (the actor) and his war time bride, Primula.  David Niven was stationed at the Stourhead Estate during 1941 and his new bride was able to join him at some time during the year.  During the war Officers were stationed in the main house, but I couldn't help wondering if the couple had actually stayed in the same room as we did for their romantic breaks!
Displays in the pub recount the details of the wartime love story.  Apparently it was a real 'whirl-wind romance' - the couple only met 17 days before their marriage.  Over the next few years the couple had two boys.  Tragedy struck in 1946, when the family had moved to America.  Primula died while attending a dinner at Tyrone Power's house.  After dinner, while playing hide and seek, she opened what she thought was a closet door but instead tumbled down the basement stairs and onto the concrete floor. She died shortly after.
An area to the south of the estate was given over to an airfield.  Part of it survives and is used by the National Trust as an overflow car park in the busy summer months....
Appart from this concrete perimeter road, you have to look hard to find other evidence of the WW2 years.  The former control tower has actually been converted into a house, and it's crisp clean lines work remarkably well.  Sadly I couldn't photograph it for you - because we were being watched by the owners!  We discovered one small concrete guard position on the far side of the field and these shelters tucked away in a wood, about 2 miles from the estate.

Mark and I love looking for this kind of 'hidden history'.
I'm still 'home alone' for a few more hours....
I was going to 'do the romantic thing' and drive to meet Mark at Birmingham International Station around now (9.15).
Unfortunately unexpectedly heavy traffic in Paris resulted in him missing his Eurostar.
Fortunately he has a car at the Land Rover Factory (which is fairly close to the station)
He's running about 3 hours behind so he's going to make his own way home....
I hope that he's mastered the art of coming in quietly!!!!!


  1. Such an interesting post..I, too, love finding hidden history. I have written, on my blog, that history is everywhere. We just need to open our eyes and look for it.

  2. What a sad story about Mrs. Niven. I had never heard it before. Too bad you didn't get to take a picture of the tower, I can't imagine one made into a house.

    I'm glad your husband is making his way home. Hope you have some fun this weekend too.

  3. Fascinating! I really do enjoy my armchair travels with you, always something new and interesting to learn about. Poor Primula!

  4. What a sad story, such a tragic accident. I too love looking for hidden history and so many of these large houses and estates were requisitioned for use during the war:)

  5. Hope Mark arrived home safe and sound. How sad about Primula, such a tragic end. Love your new header.

  6. Interesting stuff - apparently Mr. Niven wasn't as nice as he was always portrayed.

  7. Very interesting to peek about the moss covered guard position!

  8. What great fun to explore and ferret out the history of a place. It reignites my youthful fantasies about being an archeologist. Thanks for all the wonderful historical background!

  9. Thanks for these snippets of history. So sad about Primula. Hope Mark arrived home safely.
    Patricia x

  10. What a very sad tale about David Niven and his wife.I wonder if they would have thought that those names etched there would still be here to see all these years later.

  11. I'm catching up with your interesting posts about Stourhead.
    There's something very atmospheric about the area. Trust you are having a good weekend with your husband safely home.

  12. This post caught my attention straight away! Its different and interesting. Shame! what an end,so tragic! Primula now that's an unusual name.
    Shame you couldn't take photos of the control tower house I find it fascinating how people convert the most unusual buildings into houses.

    keep well

    Amanda :-)

  13. Just to let you know that I've left an award for you on my blog. Don't feel obliged to accept it if you don't want to, I just wanted to let you know that I enjoy reading your blog.