I’ve been utterly immersed with excitement since my last visit to the green rippling countryside of Somersetshire, “Ooh arr, Ooh arr!” I hear you bellow with sheer delight! Oh, and please note, this is the archaic name for such a spiffing snippet of the West-Country, which is simply known in this day and age as Somerset!
So, darlings, please join the gaiety for a merry jaunt down memory lane, then a bimble into the present, whilst I reveal many humorous and riveting titbits about Taunton Deane’s very own, illustrious, dynamic duo – Mr & Mrs Hill.
Who I recently joined for a scrumptious spot of afternoon tea in The Column Room at Hestercombe House, which is pleasantly plonked within the parish of West Monkton, and beautifully nestled on the Quantock Hills, near Taunton, Somerset.
Photo Credit - Hestercombe House & Gardens - CLICK HERE
Darlings, and I must tell you, whilst we chumbled away on freshly baked scones and fancy cakes (all handmade at Hestercombe) it was divulged to Miss Windsor that the dynamic duo has just recovered from a frightfully unusual case of "pew bum" – I say, how ghastly! but more about that later.
Photo Credit - Hestercombe House & Gardens - CLICK HERE
And by the way, if you just so happen to be reading this from the comfort of your abode in the ward of Pyrland and Rowbarton, then you’ve probably known Mrs Hill for the past 24 years by her official title of "councillor".
Or, you may have had the pleasure of coming face to face with Mr Hill - keen "castleologist" and member of The Sealed Knot Society (Mrs Hill’s also a member) during re-enactments of battles, skirmishes and sieges of the English Civil War!
Darlings, I first met Cllr Marcia Hill and her beloved Consort Mr Julian Hill at Somerset Day in Bishops Lydeard, which is a yearly event that celebrates Somerset as a place to live, work or play – Hear, hear! I must say, it was a rather memorable occasion, as Cllr Hill, also a director of Apple FM, interviewed Miss Windsor for the Community Matters radio show. Oh, yes, and we got on ‘like a house on fire’ - and so we’ve been cheerful chums ever since!
Also, in 2015/2016, whilst out and about in Taunton, you may have bumped into Cllr Hill wearing her full regalia – sporting a bright red robe; a triangular hat; and a rather striking ruffled piece of finery known as a "jabot" – well, I never!
I dare say, this type of attire sounds rather like fancy dress, but fear not, as Cllr Hill enunciated to Miss Windsor, “I persevered and persevered, and then the year I retired, bam, I was made the Taunton Deane Mayor” – well, that clearly explains the elaborate clothing, and By Jove! what a far cry from Cllr Hill’s childhood dream of becoming a prima ballerina.
Oh, and before we proceed any further, it’s evident that Mr and Mrs Hill were destined to be together, as they were both born in Canon Street Maternity Hospital, Taunton – Aaaaah! Then years later, in 1966 to be exact, they first clapped eyes on each other at a New Year’s Eve bash. Apparently, Mr Hill was quite the gent, and so chaperoned his future wife on a midnight stroll to the fag machine – How romantic!
Funnily enough, he then appeared the following day on his sweetheart’s doorstep – cheeky! And so, proclaimed to Miss Windsor with a slight tone of disappointment, “She promised to cut my hair like Steve Marriott from the Small Faces!” – Oh, dearie me, I fear that wasn’t the case! Nevertheless, they married in 1969 and have been gazing into each other’s eyes with oodles of adoration ever since!
Yet interestingly, during their early years of marriage, the happy couple worked for the Jarman’s – Mr Hill worked as a mechanic for Neil Jarman at Edwards Motors, and Mrs Hill worked for Anne Jarman at Motherhood (maternity wear) – a family affair, indeed!
I say darlings, it was also disclosed to Miss Windsor that during the retro years of the 1970’s, Mrs Hill was a Pyrex Lady – curtsey please - a purveyor of fine kitchen glassware. And apparently, one possessed a complete set of "checker’s" and "rose" design compact casserole dishes, plus many other bits and bob’s like mixing bowls and a rolling pin – Oh, how fabulously vintage!
Now, I’m proud to declare that Mr & Mrs Hill are the sweetest couple I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting from Somerset, and you may have noticed they do indeed wear many hats, albeit the triangular sort!
In fact, for the past 8 years or so Mrs Hill has been a trustee of Hestercombe Gardens Trust (and house) and very much supports the vision of Philip White MBE (founder and chief executive) whom in 1995 with sheer grit and determination; and with a little help from re-mortgaging his house, set about restoring the landscape to its former glory – and didn’t he do well!
Darlings, you’ll be pleased to know that Hestercombe House is a rather stupendous erection – Oh, I say! which was originally built in the 16th century for the Warre family. In fact, the Hestercombe Estate dates all the way back to the 11th century when it was owned by Glastonbury Abbey.
Also, you'll be chuffed to discover as a contribution towards the war effort, Hestercombe Estate was utilised during the Second World War as headquarters for the British 8th Corps until January 12th 1943. Then it became the residence of choice as the HQ of the United States 19th District supply services – How fascinating!
Photo credit - Hestercombe House & Gardens - CLICK HERE
And I must say, the quintessential treat of afternoon tea in The Column Room was the ultimate finishing touch to my guided tour of the historical gardens. You see, I was feeling exceedingly peckish, and my tootsies were in dire need of a well-deserved rest from toddling around three centuries of garden design – Victorian, Georgian, and Edwardian.
In fact, the latter was designed by the highly acclaimed English architect - Sir Edwin Lutyens, and planted by world-renowned, British horticulturist; garden designer, and writer - Gertrude Jekyll. My word! what a fabulous fusion of green-fingered greatness and creative construction!
Darlings I must admit, my nasal passage also required a brief spell of relaxation, “What on earth for, Miss Windsor?” I hear you shriek with immense concern!
Well, I recall feeling rather mesmerised by the sensual stream of Mrs Hill’s favourite fragrance of Youth Dew (by Estee Lauder) which swirled through the summertide breeze accompanied by the sweet scent of white roses – it was quite the "potpourri"! Thus, as one can imagine, also a slight irritation to one’s sensitive snout!
Photo Credit - Bath Museum - CLICK HERE
I say, I'm sure you’ll be thrilled to know that Youth Dew has been Mrs Hill’s scent of choice since 1968, and of course, darling Mr Hill has been buying it for her ever since. Apparently, during the swinging 60’s and beyond, this fancy perfume was quite the rage in Taunton and was only available to purchase once per year from Colmers or Debenhams - well, I never!
Darlings, and I must add, in comparison to the waft of Youth Dew, Mr Hill intoned to Miss Windsor, “I prefer leather, sweat, and gunpowder!” – How pleasant!
Photo credit - Historical Houses - CLICK HERE
Moving swiftly on, as I merrily flick through the highlights of my first official engagement with Mr and Mrs Hill, I recall nibbling on a delicious chicken sarnie and supping on Special Earl Grey Tea, as I gazed through the rickety sash window enwreathed by a rambling plant of some sort, whilst I absorbed my first celestial taste of "paradise restored". Well, the Formal Gardens of the Victorian Terrace and Great Plat, to be exact! where work began in 1998 to resurrect such splendour back to its original beauty!
Photo Credit - County Gazette - CLICK HERE
Now, I bet you're gagging to find out about their unfortunate sufferance of pew bum! Well, during Cllr Hill’s appointment as Taunton Deane Mayor they were invited to many church events where for hours on end, one perched their derrière upon a hard-wooden surface, namely a pew!
Which of course, caused great and long-lasting discomfort, but thankfully by the end of one’s year in office there was no pews insight when they attended the garden party at Buckingham Palace, London, along with their beautiful daughters - and so their road to recovery commenced!
Darlings, I must say, whilst having a jolly ol’ chinwag with Mr and Mrs Hill during afternoon tea, I discovered many things, and I was enthralled to hear all about Mrs Hill’s culinary memories of yesteryear.
And so, Mrs Hill excitedly uttered to Miss Windsor “I was brought up in a house with fifteen family members, and I have wonderful memories of my gran’s cooking – roast dinners, soups, suet puddings, rice pudding, and apple dumplings."
And then with an air of nostalgia, Mrs Hill recalled: “Every Saturday morning my aunty Sylvia would buy ‘sprats’ and fresh vegetables from the local market, and she'd also bring home a copy of the County Gazette."
Photo Credit - Francis Frith - CLICK HERE
Now, before I pop off for a ladylike, half-pint of Mrs Hill’s favourite Somerset cider by Sheppy’s, followed by a stonker of a pork sausage – Oh, I say! which Mr Hill is also rather partial to, and so declared to Miss Windsor “You can’t beat a West-Country local pork sausage, it’s just got to be on a breakfast plate."
Therefore, I wish to indulge your good selves with Mr Hill’s Somersetshire dulcet tones – Ooh aar, Ooh arr! whilst he joyfully recites a well-known phrase, “Somerset born, Somerset bred, strong in the arm, and thick in the head!” – and there you have it.
I say, on that note, it’s a goodbye from me and a huge farewell and see you again soon, from Taunton Deane’s very own treasures of the community – Mr and Mrs Hill.
Oh, and before I forget, if you’re a fan of the outdoors, fancy a light-bite or afternoon tea, then please pop along to HESTERCOMBE HOUSE & GARDENS which is open all year round except for Christmas Day.
Please note Cllr Marcia Hill’s other involvements:
Trustee of SBP T (Somerset Buildings and Preservation Trust) and Co-ordinator/Facilitator of Yarnbombing for Taunton Live (Go-Create).