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by Robert Cooper

Chapter 1

We are now 8 months on. Wiring and water completed with just a couple of minor problems.

Decorating has started though the two contractors did a good job of making good where they had to penetrate walls and such. The two chandeliers look superb .

Apart from minor alterations everything is according to plan.

Gas pipe and meter went in inside a week of commencement.

Kitchen and laundry all functioning within days of delivery. Planning power and gas positions aided things.

Computers going in later this week, though Mr Watson has been operating on a stand alone basis for some weeks. The agency were very helpful with setup and training.

Mr. Watson has one full time and one half time additional staff.

Standish has his three extras, and Mrs. Lang has two additional kitchen staff.

Mr. Lang has his stables and is asking if he can start a riding school.

Anthony and Andrew seem to be forming a mutual admiration society.

Black Knight will only allow Geoff and Mr. Lang to ride him apart from me.

The stable boy brothers that came with the horses are settling in well and making friends with the other stable boys. The two pregnant mares have foaled. Both fillys are obviously Black Knight's offspring. One has a white blaze, the other a star otherwise all black.

Geoff and I are coping with the Stewards duties and still fitting together.

We now have to raise plans for the Manor to earn back the huge sums spent.

Possibilities suggested by staff (not in any particular order.)

1. Fitness Centre and Swimming Pool.

2. Tennis Courts.

3. Riding School.

4. School for the two villages.

5. "Meals at The Manor". Themed Banquets, perhaps once a month.

Seems Mrs. Lang has a team with varied cooking skills.

Not interested in weddings! People get drunk and vomit all over the grounds around the Manor. Also weddings are getting common.

I want the unusual. Research has shown the Manor to be from around 1100 or so. Certainly Norman origin. Norman Menu Banquets perhaps? Standish and Mrs. Lang are planning something with Edward handling the advertising.

There are some ruins in the managed woodlands rumoured to be Roman, this deserves more research. From the maps that I had found in Seymore's old office I found an early one that showed 'Roman Villa'

I telephoned the local history society and announced who I was and that I thought that I had found a Roman Villa. He was so excited he wanted to come and see right now.

I told him that the light was fading and he should come with his colleague in the morning about 9.30. I asked him if he rode horse as it was easier to get to the ruins. He said no so I told him to come to the Manor, he could see the maps and photos and then we could take them in the Land Rover to the site. He said that he had heard rumours of a villa in the area but in the absence of any data or map evidence they were only rumours. When he heard that we had old maps he begged for copies. Due to wartime fires their archive had been mostly destroyed.

He told me they had an "A.O." size copier so could make copies of everything I had. I told him to bring cotton gloves for handling the old documents. I suggested that there may be 50 or 60 documents all told, some on vellum.

I had already informed Standish and Mrs. Lang about 2 extras for lunch.

I n the car park at 9.15 were two guys aged about 45. They looked very eager so I had a footman show them into the dining room where I had the plans and maps. Some of which I had never opened out. We carefully opened the m up and arranged them in date order. The very oldest were hand drawn and dated from 115 2 . This showed the Manor in its original position, just a bit west of the present building and a lot smaller. The first map showing this Manor building was dated 1200 but was a crude drawing with lots of hand written notes on it. Mostly contemporary remarks about building procedures and some referred to the old manor burning. The 115 2 map showed the site of the villa quite clearly . It also said that some masonry had been sold to the owners of Opton, which probabl y morphed into Upton in later years. If we have time today perhaps we shall go and have a look at Upton Lodge. Richard agrees. Suffice to say, all these documents were of great interest to our historians. They compared our pictures taken yesterday and agreed that they more or less matched the drawings on the old maps.

So, coats and boots on and we all crowded into the old open Land Rover. Drove round to the north fire break and got as close as we could. I cautioned everybody to walk carefully, not to do any damage. We stood back to let the History Guys get "first look".

They had a good look and took photo's before even touching anything, then they carefully selected one piece of wall and gently started to clean it. Before long they had a small area cleaned and the younger guy said that it was definitely Roman. He recognised the jointing and the tool markings.

They took lots more pictures from all angles. They then asked if they could look at the Lodge and see if they could match the masonry. Richard phoned the Lodge to warn that we were on our way.

The historians walked slowly round the building then after a full tour went back to the west wall where they pointed out some matching stones. Lots more photographs then back to the Manor for lunch. Over lunch they stated quite definitely that we had found a previously unknown Roman Villa dating possibly from about 100 to 150 A.D. There had been local rumours of this villa but it had never been found.

It was of considerable importance and they wanted the University Archaeological Faculty to do the dig. That is if we gave permission. They looked so hopeful that it would have been cruel to deny them their moment of glory. They can have the honour of discovery.

I did specify that (a) no trees were to be cut without permission, (b) access would be only through the northern firebreak,(c) NO press releases without my written permission.

First off the University would do a G.P.S positioning survey then a ground geophysical scan. They would then plan their actions based on these results.

For the next couple of weeks Richard and I rode over to the Lodge going past the ruins but no sign of anybody.

Richard and Allen now felt ready to move back to the Lodge.

During the third week after the Historians visit I received a call from the University asking if they could come and have a look at the maps and ruins. They would come to the Manor and view the plans then go on to the site to see the remains.

I had by this time had plenty of copies made on the big printer at the Historical Society so I could give them copies of their own to save the originals from excess handling.

They had an A.T.V and went via the northern firebreak, Geoff and I rode ou r horses direct. We met there and they got out a G.P.S. survey unit and started making observations. They also had a thing on wheels like a lawn mower which they said was ground penetrating radar. They said they would be there most of the day doing surveys and above ground evaluation. They would contact me early next week when the results were available.

We rode on over to Upton Lodge to see how the boys were. ( See 'Saving Richard')

The House Manager and his two boys were a great hit with Richard and Allen and all were working well together. Because of the extortion by the sister, money was a little tight but fortunately the last two cheques had not been presented and also the police had obtained a court order freezing her bank account with almost all of the remainder still unspent. Once the court case about money was complete then Richard should be "Status Quo Ante". Also the bank was being very co-operative.

The boys were also spending time with the estate manager that Sheldon had found. He had two farm hands and between them they had found the probate land survey, rode the boundaries and established what repairs needed doing and arranged them in order of urgency. The boys found this knowledge very useful. They had also found a barn full of farm machinery and were slowly working through it evaluating repairs needed etc.

So, between the House Manager Stokes, the field manager Rowlands and Mr Timms the Tutor the boys were fully occupied.

Meantime, the University Archaeological Team had presented their primary evaluation.

They had found that the site was approximately 50% larger than the exposed masonry and they suspected cellars below as well. They had established a promising area for an exploratory dig.

If they could meet us at the site perhaps we could agree on a preliminary area for excavation.

Geoff and I rode over to the site and found the team had marked off an area some 5 meters square including a corner of the building. This I agreed to and said if they found anything really interesting they could stretch a little. I also asked if I could watch from time to time as I was really interested in their progress.

We had to go back to the Manor for our morning tutor session so we said our goodbyes but left our mobile numbers in case something really important showed up.

Meanwhile, I had to apply my brain to raising revenue to defray the huge restoration costs.

There had been suggestions put forward by the staff for a Fitness Centre and S w imming Pool. Tennis Courts, and School for the two villages.

'Braeborne Manor Sports and Fitness Centre'. How does that sound?

I needed to talk to Sheldon about land, Timms to see what interest there was for a school and the Estate Accountants to see if they were viable project s and if loans would be available. I am thinking in excess of £ 2 ½ million as a 'ball park' figure just for initial building costs. Fitness centre, indoor squash courts and pool could all be combined in a purpose built prefabricated bespoke building.

It could have outdoor tennis courts and a mini-golf beside it. Edward to check local facilities. Depending on local competition they could be very popular. I would need to check access routes and water and electricity availab i lity. I would prefer that they have their own supplies and meters.

Survey all Manor Village residents to see what interest is extant.

For the Riding School Mr. Long would need another paddock for circuit training and perhaps more horses and ponies.

I think I need to chat with Sheldon and Mr. Long about land requirements and availability.

I shall also check with Standish as to his interest as House Manager.

First meeting was between Sheldon, Mr. Long and Standish. It was to discuss allocating a small piece for a riding school arena. It needed to be close to the stables and have ready access for mowing and other maintenance. Standish pointed out that a small area was needed for parking cars and horse boxes for people to drop off riders and delivery of their own mounts. Sheldon said that the area on the west side of the stable block, end on to the existing paddock was not very good for cropping but would support adequate grass cover.

Mr. Long said that that area was fine with him, just needing gates and a bit of extra fencing. So it was agreed. Mr Long said that his stable staff could deal with the fencing if he could borrow a post hole borer from Sheldon. Sheldon also agreed to lay a gravel turning and parking area. That agreed, the meeting broke up.

I asked Sheldon to stay for a time to discuss my thoughts for a leisure complex. 'Braeborne Manor Sports and Fitness Centre'

I suggested an area of about 3-4 acres with road access and within easy access for both of the Manor communities. My idea was that the site should have its own power and water supply and should be one or two prefabricated buildings with pool,gymnasium and squash courts with open air tennis courts and perhaps a 'pitch and putt' area beside. Office, cafe and perhaps a young persons adventure playground.

I asked Sheldon to give it some thought and we can discuss some more in a week or two.

Meanwhile I would do some local enquiries and feasibility studies.

I thanked him for his time and we parted to do whatever we needed to do.

While out, I decided to drop in and see if the Rector of the church beside Thatchers was available. He was, so sitting in his study with a cup of tea, I outlined my idea for a leisure Centre and asked his advice on who were the local 'leaders of opinion' on the Manor who I could consult to get some idea of support for the idea.

He offered to convene a meeting of those he thought might give me some guidance on local opinion prior to going to the task of canvassing the whole community. He would let me know when he had a date and time. He offered the church hall for the meeting. He expected about a week hence. I also mentioned the Riding School at the Manor Stables and a possible school for the local children. He suggested that it may be an idea to put the school on the same site as the Leisure Centre. That idea had not occurred to me and I thanked him for it. With that I departed and went back to the Manor to get Edward started on research of local facilities. See what competition there was and also local schools. Perhaps Mr. Timms could help on this. I also had to get my ideas written down before they got lost.

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