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Terry lifts lid on the history of Guys Cliffe; YOUR nostalgia.

ABOOK by a retired Nuneaton businessman on Warwick's Guys Cliffe, the site of an 18th century mansion with its roots in Saxon times, has sold out within two months of publication.

Terry Roberts, who lives at Thornhill Drive, Whitestone, is in the process of organising a reprint of his book, Recollections of a Country Mansion, a 72-page, extensively illustrated, history of the estate from the 5th to the 21st century.

He said: " I have had interest from all over the country and have received some wonderful letters.

"The original 250 copies quickly sold out but more will be available in July. The problem is you can only have so many printed at once because it is such an expensive process."

Freemason Terry first visited the ancient site on the banks of the River Avon, with its caves associated with Guy of Warwick, the legendary founder of the castle, in 1981 - to be initiated into a masonic lodge.

A restored Medieval chapel at Guys Cliffe is used by masons as a meeting room.

He says: "I recall at the end of a long driveway, rough and potholed, was a large impressive arch and standing immediately ahead, a large somewhat derelict looking house, outlined against the clear moonlit sky - gaunt, ghostly and foreboding.

"Little did I know what it held in store for me and of my involvement over the next 30 years."

Terry's book charts the story of the site, which has inspired painters and photographers over the centuries, from its beginnings in the 5th century when Dubritius, Bishop of Warwick, founded an oratory there, dedicated to St Mary Magdalene.

who travels by beside A wife the jump It tells of the establishment of a chapel on the site of the original oratory in the 15th century and of the estate's connections with Sir Guy of Warwick, the Saxon noble and legendary founder of Warwick Castle Terry the house who is said to have returned from his travels to live out his days in a cave by the river which can still be seen beside the chapel.

A ghostly figure, said to be Guy's wife Phaelice, is reported to haunt the cliff area around the cave and to jump into the River Avon every September.

Terry goes on to take us through the estate's various periods of ownership, with its timber-framed house in Tudor times to the Palladian Georgian style mansion, started in the 1750s by the Caribbean sugar plantation owner, slave trader and Coventry MP Samuel Greatheed, the remains of which are seen today.

As part of his research, Terry travelled to St Kitts in the West Indies where he saw 1780 records of the tax paid by the family on 230 slaves and learned how a Caister Greatheed was ultimately named president and governor of the island.

He moves on to the estate's later ownership by the Heber-Percy family who sold it to a consortium of businessmen after the Second World War; its use as a Red Cross hospital during the First World War and during the Second World War as a boys' home by the Waifs and Strays Society.

A chapter is devoted to 'the last resident' of the house: Roy Robinson went to Guys Cliffe as a 13-year-old wartime evacuee in 1943 under the care of the Waifs and Strays Society.

Roy, now 79 and living in Milverton, had run away from every boys home he had attended previously, but never ran away from Guys Cliffe.

He cherishes happy memories of his days spent exploring the house and its sprawling estate and still makes regular visits there.

Local historian Terry, who has helped with preservation efforts at Guys Cliffe since he made his first visit there 30 years ago, concludes the story of the mansion with a summary of its post-war years, its decline into ruin, a fire in 1992 which broke out when special effects went wrong during the making of a Sherlock Holmes TV film, its current ownership by the Freemasons and of the work now going on to care for and preserve it.

He dedicates the book to the founder members of the Friends of Guys Cliffe, founded in 1981, who have so far raised more than pounds 100,000 towards ongoing maintenance work.

Recollections of a Country Mansion is available at local libraries and can be bought, for pounds 9, from JTM Nuneaton, phone 02476 345545, email:, Warwick Books-Market Place 01926 499939 or log on to Terry will also be giving talks at the Emscote Images Festival (July 2-10) and at the Warwick Words Festival (October 1-10)


when a blaze ripped through the building in June 1992, during filming of a Sherlock Holmes TV special. Main picture: Joe Bailey.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jun 6, 2011
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