Where enquiries of prices are
made on the gallery, the work is subject to availability
and the price to change.
'Untitled', Mary Griffiths
Being part of that obsession which had hit the English housing market in the sixties, by the time I had reached my late twenties in 1976 I had made my small contribution towards this compulsion. Inspired by friends from East London, I had decided buying, renovating and renting or selling property was an obvious way in the short term to increase my material status.
It was now 1985 and it seemed everyone was 'moving up'. At the time I did not know this would be the last acquisition in my 'Rackman'-styled progression. In my mind, I had the total sum of the two houses I owned (one in Wivenhoe, one in Colchester where I was living), so I could consider purchasing from either a choice of dilapidated challenges of renovation, to smaller new houses. Having recently become a car driver/owner it also extended my horizons.
Finally, one Saturday morning, clutching yet another estate agent's specification, I set forth from Cedars Road, Colchester with Mark Richardson, my neighbour and pal, also a renovation fanatic. We travelled the seven miles west to view a house on the main (then) A604 which runs through the small village of Chappel, where the imposing Victorian railway viaduct straddles the road.
The estate agent's description of the property spoke in plain terms, offering a price which was just above my limit but somehow it caught my interest, However, when we pulled up outside the Victorian house, I was dismayed. The semi-detached house did not look particularly appealing with, horror of horrors for the Victorian property purists, a front bay window which looked to me (although proved wrong since) suspiciously like an addition in the thirties. On the front offside of the house there was a substantial 1970's-built car port, old fencing, concrete steps from one side of the drive to the other, a large ungainly oil tank and a line of huge overgrown Leylandii running down the boundary. My friend said, very sensibly, that now we were there we might as well go in. I bought it on the spot, slight a slight reduction.
I drove immediately to the handling agent who lived not far away, to clinch the sale. I harried him for months until 15 Colchester Road, Chappel was finally made my own. Why this sudden turnabout? It was because, what was not obvious approaching from the Colchester direction, I saw as soon as I entered. There are views from every window of the Colne Valley countryside with a pretty willow farm to the right looking across to the viaduct, so elegant from a distance with its Romanesque architecture. The house was in good repair and a good size, all five ground floor rooms inter-connecting with no traditional hallway. There was a large homely square kitchen with an old quarry tiled floor and to clinch it, four double bedrooms, perfect for all the lodgers I would need to pay the mortgage! Also it had a garden which went down to the river, big bonus.
Coming from origins of a council house, then bedsits and later my small terraced houses I will never forget the joy of realising I would be living in such an idyllic place, never mind the main road at the front, that would be useful. The building was originally a bakers shop and house and had remained as a shop until about ten years previously. I only saw what was to become the lynch pin for the main part of my life: the property that would be suitable for a small business, living and working in the house. What business? At the timeI did not know exactly, but faint notions were forming at the back of my mind.
Extract from 'More than just a gallery' by Edna Battye (unpublished)
'Young Girl' Mary Griffiths
Secrets of the Orchidaceae: oils
'Orange Alien' Terry Curling
'The Little Man on the Mast' (working drawing for book cover) Paul Rumsey
Working drawings from the book and other works. With book launch of THE FANTASTICAL FEATS OF FINN MACCOUL by Norah Montgomery, illustrated by Paul Rumsey
These mystical folk tales about the Celtic hero Finn MacCoul are a magical and bloodthirsty compendium full of humour, love and heroism. The legend of Finn exists in several cultures, but most notibly in Scotland and Ireland, where he and Fian - his band of loyal followers - are still important cultural figures. A stirring insight into a time where men risked there lives in pursuit of something more than mere weath and when giants and magic were commonplace.
ISBN 9781841588179 The Fantastical Feats of Finn MacCoul £12.99