November, a notable month of endings and beginnings.  Yesterday saw the end of work on the TopLake for this year; thousands of tonnes of silt have been pumped upstream to dry out when the weather allows.

As to beginnings, on the eighth of the month arrived Phoebe Victoria, a sister for Freddie and Beatrix.  That makes three little ones who have started their lives in this great rambling house over the last five years.  Two weeks later, Robin, thirteenth Earl Ferrers, was buried in the churchyard here at a small family ceremony.  Seven hundred people had attended his memorial service in Norwich Cathedral three days earlier.

Earl Ferrers was the last of his family to live at Staunton Harold.  Everything we see here today, Hall, church, stables, houses, farms, lakes and parkland was created by his family during their five hundred year tenure.  He came to live here as a boy in 1937, also with two sisters, on the death of his grandfather, the eleventh earl.  Within three years the Hall was requisitioned by the Army and they had to move out.  They moved to Norfolk, but his love of Staunton never faded and he visited many times.  It was his wish to be buried in the family churchyard.

Since those distant days, no young family has lived here and called it home.  They are a vital ingredient, missing from most great houses today.  The other day I was standing on the landing as Freddie came stomping up the main stairs on his way from school.  A splendid flight of stairs they may be, with balustrading by England’s most famous blacksmith, but to Freddie they are just  a way up to his home and little sisters.  We have become to reverential of antiquity; these houses were made for use as well as show.  Now, for the first time since Robin Ferrers’ youth, Staunton Harold Hall has come into its own again.