GAUNTS EARTHCOTT

Echoing the recollections of Mrs Harwood in 1930, when sixty members of the family attending the First Sturge Pilgrimage descended on their family home for tea, the following paragraphs record the experience of Diana and Julian St.John-Brooks in 1980, when 165 were welcomed to visit and lunch at the Manor House, Gaunts Earthcott.

 

When Peter Sturge suggested that we should host the Sturge family lunch during their pilgrimage five years ahead we never realised how quickly those years would pass. We were so busy with our restaurant (with no staff) that they went by like a flash. We loved taking people around our old Quaker homestead. We wanted the pilgrims to see every nook and cranny and we managed to paint ten rooms in the previous twelve months. We still have a cheese room in the attic though which has not been titivated for centuries.

We arranged with a customer who was used to catering for wedding receptions to provide the food and she brought three helpers with her. We decided to serve soft drinks in line with the Quaker background but some guests were very dashed when they entered the marquee to find no bar. Several neighbours washed up so that they could be part of the fun.

The first person off the coach was Winchcombe Lansdown, aged 98, who was gasping to tell me that he had been on the previous pilgrimage in 1930. Peter has suggested that they should give us a family "tree" - what a super idea - and we chose a copper beech. Alas, it was eaten by a horse and expired (the horse survived.) I treasure a monkey made by a Painswick Sturge who had celebrated her Golden Wedding here some years before. It came with a label saying "The Ancestor!" We have a 24th scale model of the house and I was very touched when a young Sturge presented me with a little long-case clock and cradle he had made. They were 12th scale but have been cherished ever since in the room built for (fantasy) mice.

The Pilgrimage began with lectures at Frenchay Meeting House and I was astounded by an anecdote told to explain the lid of pomade pot on the memorabilia table. Apparently a Victorian Sturge had sent home a pet bear to his family in Birmingham, who became very fond of it. When the bear died he was turned into bear's grease for the men's hair!

My diary recorded very little about July 19th 1980 except that it was wet and windy and a "wildly successful occasion." I look forward to the next pilgrimage.

Diana St.John-Brooks