It's very saddening to see rooms I played in as a kid reduced to ashes. I have looked at that front view from the gardens so many times as I was growing up.
Betley Court was my playground. We lived in one of the flats next to the Clock Tower: No. 2. My friend Nigel lived in No.1, the ground floor flat below. We spent so many hours playing together in The Dingle next to the gardens, making dens and damming up streams. We played in the large walled kitchen garden, much the consternation of Mr Mulliner, the gardner. We played on the rolling lawns under the Cedar of Lebanon and watched croquet, archery and cricket competitions between the patients who were rehabilitating there.
We climbed the massive piles of coke stored in the yard, waiting to be taken by wheelbarrow to feed the furnaces that were used to heat the place in winter and to provide year-round hot water. We drove our tricycles in races around the paths interweaving the servant’s quarters and outbuildings.
Occasionally, we were allowed into Miss Finney’s Office, entering through the French windows at the centre of the ground floor where the patient’s dining room was, and turning right through the panelled corridor in front of the massive staircase into the large corner room with the great bay windows. Miss Finney was the matron; a diminutive and impeccably polite woman wearing a crisp dark blue uniform and her grey hair in a tight bun beneath her white cap.
Almost everything inside that building was wood. Floors, roof supports, wall panelling, stairs, furniture - everything.
A terrible day for the village and, more particularly, for those who've lost everything. I'm so sorry for those poor people, the community and the fabric of the village.
23rd August 2019 will be a day remembered for a very very long time to come.