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Headington history: Reminiscences

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George Stuart


I stayed frequently at Manor Farm house with the owner, Molly MacGarvey. In my recollection and that of her housekeeper, she did not sell it until the 1970s since I was often there during that decade as well as the previous one.

Molly had studied singing in Vienna but decided to leave after the Nazis took over Austria. She had given successful recitals in that city but the war put paid to any possible career. Sadly her fiancé was killed in the war and she never married. When her parents died, Molly moved back to Manor Farm from a London flat. Music had always formed an important part of the family life. Amongst many distinguished visitors was the great pianist, Arthur Rubinstein who devotes some space to them in his autobiography. Just before he died Mr MacGarvey surmised, quite correctly, that the house was at its peak and that it would inevitably go downhill after his departure.

Molly died in her London house about a year ago (2002). She was in her 90s and is still greatly missed. Her wonderful housekeeper, Mrs Emmy Gibson, is still alive and living in Headington, Her husband George (now deceased) used to be the full-time gardener at the house.

Whilst they were all around, both the house and gardens were truly lovely. In its heyday I still recall innumerable happy Summer days lazing under the many fine mature trees which once stood where Ethelred Court has been built. Christmas at Manor Farm was also special with all the traditional trimmings and many happy evenings spent around the grand piano singing songs and excerpts from opera.

Molly sold off a portion of land to the hospital in the late 1960s without doing any great visible damage to the house and its environs. However the final purchaser clearly saw it only as a potential site for development and the sad result is all too visible. I made the mistake of re-visiting the house after the estate had been built and wept. Wisely, Molly decided that she would never return.

George Stuart, September 2003

 

© Stephanie Jenkins

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