Most of my posts have been about old, really old houses, so it’s nice to choose one that is more recent (relatively speaking). Voewood House, near Holt in Norfolk, was built for the Reverend Percy Lloyd, the son of the publisher, Edward Lloyd.
Lloyd’s publication, Lloyd’s Weekly, was the only newspaper in the 19th century to reach a circulation of one million. Having had a decent education himself, unlike many at that time who only learnt to read by attending Sunday School, Edward wanted to encourage literacy by providing affordable reading matter that appealled to all, including women, so it had to be tasteful. He serialised stories into episodes and didn’t care if they were unoriginal stories as long as they appealed. If they didn’t, he asked the author to kill the series off quickly and start another one. He started out with bloodthirsty tales of piracy and robbers, which were known as ‘penny bloods’ or ‘penny dreadfuls’, and then moved into successful romances about love and adventure, including Sweeney Todd and the vampire story, Varney. In all, he commissioned 200 romances. Authors were paid by the line or page (sounds a bit like Kindle Unlimited) and engravers provided woodcuts for the illustrations.
Unfortunately, Lloyd plagiarised, including Dicken’s Pickwick Papers. The publishers tried to sue, but there were no laws to protect the author. In 1842, a copyright law was finally passed.
Lloyd had plenty of children (not all of them with his wife) and educated them well, but only his youngest Percy went to university. In 1902, Percy commissioned architect, Edward Shroeder Prior to build Voewood. The money to build the house – £60,000 – came from the family business, now run by his older brother Frank Lloyd.
The layout of the house is based on a butterfly plan and built with stone quarried on the estate, using flint stones, gravel and stone. The flint stones were used for galletting, which is when small pieces of flint stone are pushed into the wet mortar during the construction of the walls and the technique is especially common in Norfolk.
The excavated site was turned into a sunken gardens – there are several gardens. The outbuildings included thatched cottages for the gardeners. A great hall was created to mimic the medieval halls of old with plain untreated timbers. The house had the advantage of being built with electricity, telephones and hot water, which for older houses would have been a major problem to install without spoiling its beauty.
Over the century, the house was used as a hospital in WW1, a school and a home for the elderly. It is now in private hands.
“Beautifully written mystery weaves a spell around the house and the people connected to it.” Goodreads reviewer
Pre-order The Women of Heachley Hall – release date 4 May.