Until we actually arrived in Old (Neat) Enstone, I truly thought that I would be able to just roll up and immediately pinpoint the places Old Mont had spoken about in his story. Then, when I saw the village for myself I found that it was larger, not as isolated, and not at all like the picture I had formed in my head while reading of Lifting the Latch. I was disappointed. I felt I had been tricked, taken in by the way in which Sheila Stewart had crafted her book. I had been convinced that Old Mont’s description of the village was accurate in every detail.
Later, I came to the realisation that, as readers do, I had brought my imagination to bear on the text even though it is nonfictional in content. I also realised that I had completely overlooked the fact that Old Mont died some twenty years ago now, and that Stewart was not writing about the village as it was when she interviewed Old Mont for his story. Rather she had skilfully conveyed Old Mont’s memories of what the village was like when he lived there as a young man, and memory, as we all know, is subject to the vagaries of recall and the mists of time.
On another level, it is very unlikely that one could actually step into a village or a town, in the present day, and find it exactly as it was a century before. Regardless of whether the changes are large or small, there are usually some. Progress is inevitable. In Old Enstone, Edward easily located some of the places Old Mont had talked about in his book, but had difficulty in determining the exact location of others–this was, he said, the first time he’d been back to the village in years, and, moreover, Old Enstone had changed a little from when he had first published Sheila Stewart’s book. Nevertheless, with what Edward remembered, together with my input from my recent re-reading of Lifting the Latch, and with the help of the friendly woman at Adams’ Stores who had known Old Mont and was au fait with the area and its history, we were able to eventually find the places that were important to Old Mont and his story.
The top two photos below are of Adams’s Stores where Old Mont and his family once bought supplies. In the two bottom photos Edward and I stand on the village green out the front of Adams’ Stores, and in the photo on the bottom left we look across the road at the Old Enstone School. The red-brown brick school has arched, many-paned windows, and could be mistaken for a church complex. This is where Old Mont did his entire schooling. The school is still in operation today.
On the corner left of Adams’ Stores is an old house that forms the angle of an “L” shaped row of attached houses. The short foot of the “L” is a later addition, and faces into the village green (left photo below). The fronts of these houses are fully visible from Adams’ Stores. The older row of houses that form the long back of the “L” face into the adjacent street, and have been there for what seems to me to be forever, they’re very, very old. The lady in Adams’ Stores says that Old Mont and his family moved to Old Enstone (Neat Enstone) when Old Mont was only a bit of a baby. The family lived in the old corner house at the top of the row, facing into the adjacent street, a few yards from the door of Adams’ Stores.
Here, below, I have just edited out photo of the house with the blue door as one of the readers of my blog pointed out that it was not the Dove Cote, the house in which Old Mont once lived with his family, as I was given to understand. I have included this reader’s comments for viewing.
Many of the places Old Mont talks about in his story–the old sweet-shop for one, and many of the old houses of Old Mont’s “down Alley” for another–have long gone, replaced by new-builds. Small signs now indicate where some of the old places had once stood. Other places still stand, more or less the way they were back in Old Mont’s day.
Above left: Edward leads the way as we hunt for the lane or road–I’m not certain about the term used– which he suspected may have been Old Mont’s “down Alley.” As it turns out, a reader who lives in Old Enstone has written to me to say that the road that Edward chose is not “down Alley” at all. Nevertheless, at the time, when we finally located what we thought was the right place, we walked until it narrowed and became a single, twisting pathway that ran between the outside walls of the houses on either side. Above right: Eventually, we could go no further. The lane we pin-pointed as “down Alley” ends at a small, single wooden-gate that opens into vegetable gardens and more open country, and a walking tail through to Church Enstone.
Below: Old Enstone is such a mixture of old and the new that once I was able to look past the new-builds, the extensions, and the visible expansion of the village itself, I was able to envisage something of what the village must have looked like years ago. In my mind’s eye I saw it as Old Mont had described it in Lifting the Latch, and was again drawn into his agrarian world of last century.