A couple of months ago I saw a letter from the English writer Evelyn Waugh on headed notepaper that gave his address as Combe Florey House. As Combe Florey is a village quite near Spring Cottage in Somerset of course I had to go and have a look.
Waugh lived here for 10 years from 1956 until his death. Well hidden from the road, the house is quite close to the main entrance to the village on the main road. It is at the end of a winding uphill track that leads away from a quaint and less than forbidding, inhabited gatehouse on the lane. The gatehouse looks like it would be fun to live in.
Not really being able to more than catch a glimpse of the house from the lane, we went into the church as I’d heard that Waugh and his son Auberon were buried in the village.
In a peaceful uphill spot, slightly separate from the main graveyard, Waugh lies, with his wife and one of his daughters, under a plain stone on which his name is now only just decipherable.
Beneath his name it says simply ‘writer’.
His burial here in an Anglican graveyard was by special dispensation as he was, of course, famously a Catholic convert at the time of his death, having converted some 30 years earlier. No sign of Auberon’s grave here but we found it later when we walked over to the cemetery extension over the road.
From Evelyn’s grave, a path leads to an iron gate opening into the garden of Combe Florey House itself. This is probably the private path that frequently exists between a country house and the village church, which the inhabitants used in order to avoid hoi polloi. It also, of course, underlines the link between the church and the upper classes of the past, when the church’s ‘living’ would have been in the gift of the local manor.
The house, seen from this oblique angle, looked closed up and there was possibly some building work in progress. The electoral roll posted in the church’s vestibule does not record any residents.
We were short of time as my companions needed to get home but I’d very much like to go back and look at the rest of the village. One day, I’d like to make a project of travelling up the A358 from Bishops Lydeard and visit and record all the villages, although this would take some time… and some better weather than we have at the moment.
* By Special Request is the title of the final episode in A Flat in London, the serialised version of Evelyn Waugh’s novel A Handful of Dust, which appeared in American Harper’s Bazaar in October 1934.