Back in 1954 the Twelfth Earl Ferrers put the whole Staunton Estate up for sale, saying to his son “I’m not going to leave you with this great White Elephant I’ve been lumbered with all these years.” He was a sick man, and practically bankrupt.

At the auction a number of lots failed to reach their reserve price, but the hall was sold, for £12,500, to a demolition contractor. My father was at the auction; I was nineteen and in the army on National Service in Kent. That it wasn’t pulled down is due to the Earl’s widow and a remarkable man, Leonard Cheshire – but that’s another story. In those years I think our spirits were at their lowest ebb; we had won a war and lost the peace. Houses like Staunton were being pulled down at the rate of one every five days.

Two weeks ago I saw a review of a new book about the fate of great houses in that period in The Daily Telegraph. It was possible to order through the paper, but Rowan, our secretary, has an account with Amazon, so she ordered through them. It came within a week, a weighty volume, at less than the advertised price. I have disciplined myself to lay it aside till I finish a book about the Vikings at Reston. But I turned the first few pages, and saw that it was printed in China. Amazon and China, two foreign behemoths of our age, with a hand in a very British topic. Should we be concerned?

Probably not. My father told me there were worries about Chinese belligerence, the Yellow Peril, a hundred years ago. We wont sleep nights if we fret too much about all the issues facing the world; Covid, Climate Change, soaring fuel prices. Do what we can at local level; our lives are infinitely better than they were in 1954.