Names: Will and Sylvia Parsons
Family Members: Children: Richard (born 8/73), twins – Sarah and Chris (3/76)
Address: Willow Barn, Dusthouse Lane Bromsgrove B60 3AE
Dates lived at Sibbersfield: May 75 to August 83
How did you come to live at Sibbersfield:
We were living in a box on an estate in Kingsley, Cheshire and working at Shellstar’s fertilizer plant at Ince. We were thinking about moving and saw an advert for Sibbersfield Hall, much too big and expensive for us but it looked interesting so Will rang from his office to make an appointment to see it, just being nosey. When he put the ‘phone down Mike Hancock, with whom Will shared his office said “Was that Sibbersfield Hall? I went to see it last night.” He than said, “If you’re going at lunchtime can I come with you – I’d like to see it again.”
Will rang Sylvia and arranged to meet her there and we drove into the courtyard where the old green door to the kitchen area was opened by Youds, Mr Bushby’s old butler.
It transpired that on Mr Bushby’s death the whole estate had been sold at auction. Lot 1, the Hall itself (before it was divided) along with all the gardens, the stables and garaging, two cottages and a 6-acre paddock fronting Sibbersfield Lane had been bought by a property speculator for £30,000 who immediately put it on the market for £40,000 without doing anything with it. To look after the place he had retained the services of Youds and his wife (the Bushby’s butler and housemaid who lived in one of the houses at the end of the drive) and Percy the gardener who lived in the lodge.
Youds showed us around the house – much of it in pretty poor condition and then Percy was summoned to show us around the garden and the two cottages (one, at the end of the clock tower wing, now called Grace Cottage, and the other in the stables). By the end of that viewing we had fallen in love with the place.
That evening the Hancocks and the Parsons met to discuss the way forward. It was clear the place would easily divide in two. We would even have a cottage each. We sketched out a rough plan from memory (difficult after our brief viewing) and then decided that one half was worth £17,500 (what became Sibberfsfield House) and the other half £22,500. We then argued over who would have each half. Both ladies wanted the servants’ quarters and the main garden; both chaps wanted the main Hall. In the end the Parsons agreed to the servants’ quarters. We put in our offer of £40,000 the next day and instructed our solicitor.
The next problem was that the agents rang me to say that they had been instructed by the vendor to issue another contract. We were in a contract race; whoever exchanged first would get the house. Will instructed the solicitor to proceed immediately – without waiting for the searches or having a structural survey carried out, and we won the race.
Will was just 28 and Sylvia was 27 and expecting twins when we moved in.
What are your main memories from living here?:
Fun and happiness. Sibbersfield is a strange place. It grabs you and won’t let go.
We thought we would spend the rest of our lives there but Will was moved to Birmingham by his company in 1982 and we reluctantly decided to move in 1983, a decision Will regretted for many years, although he has now got over it.
What significant occasions/milestones happened while you were living here:
The birth of our twins (undiagnosed). The refurbishment of the house; Will’s parents selling up and moving to the flat in 1977.
What condition was the property in when you purchased it?
As the Bushby’s had got older they had retreated to just one or two rooms in the main Hall. The servant’s quarters were largely neglected. In fact the rooms that are now the hall, dining room and living room of the house were separated from the rest of the building by a wall and could only be accessed from a door at the garden-end of what is now the dining room. Most walls were painted dark green and all the upstairs floors were covered in dark green lino.
However the property was structurally sound and there was no damp.
What changes did you make to the property?
We sold the cottage to pay for all the alterations. Its new owners named it Grace Cottage.
We created the hall by adding a new staircase where the old boiler room had been. The staircase came from a bank in Holywell which our architect was refurbishing. It was exactly the right width to fit in the space, but it was 3 inches too short on height. However the floors in that part of the house were in very poor condition so we simply poured 3 inches of concrete mix on top of them.
We put in a new central heating system, new plumbing and rewiring. The new oil-fired boiler went into a store room which opened off the archway. That became the new utility room.
We put a downstairs toilet into what had been the game larder.
We put a fireplace in what became the lounge (moving it from the big bedroom upstairs) and we opened up the wall to the garden, putting in a patio window where previously there had been an alcove from the garden with a full width window seat. The mural which is now in the lounge had been facing the garden running along the wall behind the wooden seat, where the patio window was put.
Two years later we extended the flat towards the clock tower by adding the L-shaped section of the lounge and the new bedroom and bathroom.
Audio Reminiscences of the House, Garden and Hall (more to follow when I have time!)
In October 2009 Will and Sylvia visited Sibbersfield, staying with Richard and Sue Parkes at Sibbersfield House. Richard recorded an audio track of their converstions at the House, the Garden, the Hall and finally at a meeting of the Sibbersfield Historical Society.