Lorne House and its semi-detached neighbouring property, Glenavon, were built in 1876 by a branch of the quarry owning Pictor family, whose more affluent relatives built Fogleigh House and Rudloe Park Hotel. Originally both Lorne House and Glenavon were much smaller properties, just two-up and two-down, forming only the fronts of the present properties.
In 1880 Lorne House was extended at the back, then Glenavon in 1900. The houses were built on what was originally known as Wharf Road, later becoming Bath Road and now called London Road. As the header photo from about 1900 shows, the view of Lorne House (on the right), the road and neighbouring properties remain virtually unchanged today.
Between 1881 and 1891 Mrs Sarah Fudge acquired the present Post Office building, Lilstock House including the land stretching all the way up to the railway line. The house had been built for a Lt.Col Northey in 1832 before the coming of the railway and before the London Road was built. All the houses up the road, including Lorne House and the present doctors’ surgery, were created as individual plots sold by the Fudge family.
Census records and local records show a rapidly changing cast of occupants of Lorne Villa (as Lorne House was originally known).
In 1881 Lorne Villa was occupied by Nelson Days Weeks, a Woollen Manufacturer aged 29 who was born in Hastings, his wife, Anne aged 26 and their 17 year old domestic servant, Anne Faulkner.
In 1885 Dr James Pirie Martin, a Doctor who was to serve the Box community for over 50 years, lodged at Lorne House before eventually building his own house in the village. He was still living here in 1891 as the Census records Dr James Pirie Martin, aged 33, Registered Practitioner of Medicine, born in Canada, living with boarders Arthur Lipscombe aged 50, a B.A.Oxon Retired tutor and Edward Miller aged 26 a shipping clerk along with housekeeper, Harriet Ingram aged 66 and housemaid, Fanny Pointing aged 15.
At some point in the 1910’s Lorne House was purchased by Thomas Lambert, a local business man whose Box based firm was a subsidiary of the Bath and Portland Stone Firms. His daughter, Enid Daymond nee Lambert recalls “My father bought another house, larger than ours and opposite, called Lorne House. For a time it was empty whilst it was being decided whether to move there or not, and it was great fun playing all over the empty, echoing house and garden. In the end, my mother decided to stay where we were. Though it was a lovely house, the garden was much smaller and the kitchen quarters were in a basement”.
The 1911 census records Elizabeth Noble a widow aged 77 and of private means living in Lorne House with her unmarried daughter, Mildred Mary aged 44, son, Frederick Thomas Noble aged 40 and their general servant, Sarah Anne Moss aged 22.
In 1916 enlistment records confirm that the Ponting Family, who had been landlords of the Queens Head Inn for many years were living at Lorne House. Their son Ralph Skeate Ponting, an architect was 31, unmarried and living with them at Lorne House when he joined up in February 1916, to fight in the Great War. When Ralph Pointing (Senior) died on 11 November 1923 he left all his property valued at £4,768 to his wife, Bertha. He owned shares in the GWR railway company, St Aldhelm’s Villa and Lorne House.
1920 – 1928 In 1917 the Awdry family moved to Box, in Wiltshire, moving again in 1919 and 1920, still in Box, the third house being Lorne House, which they renamed “Journey’s End” and which remained the family home until August 1928.
Clive Banks recalls “My mother first got to know the Awdry family when they moved into Netherby in Hazelbury Hill. Their back garden backed onto mum’s home at Hill View. A big gravel yard belonged to Hill View stretching from the soap factory (at the top) to the candle factory (at the bottom). Between the two properties was a wall. The Awdry children, two boys, used to climb over the wall to play in the yard with mum, Joan and Ben. They were all quite little at the time. They played games like cricket and skipping etc. She recalled that the little boy, who later wrote the Thomas the Tank Engine stories used to wet his trousers. His father was a clergyman. He was a nice man and seemed quite old to my mum. His wife was a rather domineering type. They were not particularly sociable. It was the wife who, when my grandfather wanted to join the Parochial Church Council, suggested that he was ineligible because he had not been confirmed. He had to take instruction and be confirmed at a mature age. Later the Awdrys moved to Lorne House on the London Road. This was near the GWR and Box Tunnel, hence Awdry’s later interest in railways”
As Reverend W.V. Awdry’s Wikipedia entry states “Journey’s End” was only 200 yards (180 m) from the western end of Box Tunnel. There the Great Western Railway main line climbs at a gradient of 1 in 100 for two miles. A banking engine was kept there to assist freight trains up the hill. These trains usually ran at night and the young Awdry could hear them from his bed, listening to the coded whistle signals between the train engine and the banker as well as the sharp bark from the locomotive exhausts as they fought their way up the incline. Awdry related: “There was no doubt in my mind that steam engines all had definite personalities. I would hear them snorting up the grade and little imagination was needed to hear in the puffings and pantings of the two engines the conversation they were having with one another. Here was the inspiration for the story of Edward helping Gordon’s train up the hill, a story that Wilbert first told his son Christopher some 25 years later, and which appeared in the first of the Railway Series books.
In 1928, Reverend Awdry’s father, the Reverend Vere Awdry died and Journey’s End was sold to Leslie and Violet Bence, well known local shop owners who ran a grocery and mini department store in the village, who renamed it Lorne House. Their son Geoff’s memories of living here are beautifully captured in this article:
“The Agent who dealt with the purchase of Lorne House was Charles Oatley, and I believe dad paid £500 for it. Lorne House is a large semi-detached house with five bedrooms on the first floor and a bathroom. The ground, floor had a dining room, a drawing room, lounge and a kitchen. In the basement, which was reached by going down a stone staircase, there were two large rooms, a cellar and a coal house. One room was used as the washroom where mum did the laundry and the other room was called the charging room, because dad had the apparatus to re-charge accumulators which provided the power for wireless sets in those days.
The cellar, being below ground level, was always at a nice even temperature. There were stone shelves all the way round the room which were very convenient for placing dishes of food to keep for a few days. This was particularly useful at Christmas when mum made trifle etc shortly before the festivities. Another use of the cellar was for preserving eggs. There were some large glass tanks filled with waterglass (isinglass) which had the effect of sealing the eggs to preserve them. In those days eggs were in short supply during the winter months, hence the need to preserve them, when they were plentiful.
There was a large sink in the laundry room, and a gas boiler in which the clothes were washed. The boiler was also used when mum made the Christmas puddings, a number were made each year. Only one, which was for Christmas Day, had sixpences wrapped in greaseproof paper inside it. I kept asking for more until I had a slice with a sixpence in it. Each year it became a ritual for mum to say, Not as good as last year.
Rather surprisingly, there was a large pump in the washroom which drew water up from a well. The pump needed to be primed by pouring water down it, before it would function. I remember how beautifully cool the water was, particularly noticeable on a hot summer day.The back door, leading out from the basement, opened on to a small courtyard; along to the left was an outdoor toilet and off to the left of that was the ash pit where ashes from the fires were deposited. We were told that when the Rev Awdry lived at Lorne House he had his model railway set up in the greenhouse. It was a good size and suitable for the hobby“.
The large pump that Geoff refers to is still at Lorne House in the Utility Room, although the outside toilet and ash pit are long gone. Leslie Bence died in 1983 but his widow Violet stayed in the house and lived to be 101.
More recent history shows that Lorne House was purchased by Mr G Taylor, in the early 2000’s. Formerly a landlord of a pub in neighbouring Biddestone, Mr Taylor was the first to turn Lorne House into a Guest House, applying for permission in 2004 to create letting rooms for Bed and Breakfast purposes. We were thrilled, and horrified in equal measure, to receive some photographs of these first letting rooms from Real World Studios , the local music studios who still send us guests today:
In November 2007, Lorne House was purchased by Mike and Fran Ralli, who carried out a complete redecoration and refurbishment of Lorne House, enlisting the help of local Interior Designer Julie Kent Interiors . Mike and Fran worked tirelessly to turn Lorne House into a successful business, but after 9 years ill health forced their retirement. In 2016, Lorne House was purchased by current owners Bob and Liz Matthews.