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To Everything, A Season – Pt. 5, Ebor House series

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*SPOILER ALERT: You may wish to read Pt. 4 before this one.*

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My ancestors had a saying when asked why some of their relatives had married first cousins:

“Cousin and cousin make good soup.”

The Farncomb family must have made a lot of good soup. 

Frederick married his cousin Jane.

Son John married his cousin — another Jane.

Younger son Alfred married his cousin Hannah.

But let’s go back to 1867.

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Frederick inherited money from his uncle Thomas Farncomb, the wealthy Lord Mayor of London, England. He and Jane bought more land in Bond Head, and hired a Toronto architect to draw up the plans.

The house was built in 18 months, between 1868 and 1869.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Front 2

Three of the Farncomb sons – William, John and Frederick Edward – became Anglican priests.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Anglican church in Fenelon Falls

Blog Photo - Ebor House Rev. Farncomb in church

Two others – Alfred and Thomas – became doctors.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Entrance

Alfred became a popular and influential general practitioner in the Newcastle area. His wife Hannah appears to have helped him with the record-keeping. Hannah was a skillful host of weddings and other special gatherings at Ebor House. She was also the organist at the family church (St. George’s Anglican) for 40 years.

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In 1895, John, who’d been posted to various Anglican churches in Ontario, returned home to St. George’s as the Reverend Canon John Farncomb…. a nice step up from being an ordinary priest. He was a well-respected rector.

Blog Photo - Ebor House - B and W photo of St. George's

He’d married cousin Jane in 1880 and they had five children.  Two sons, Frederick Charles and John Robson, went to Trinity College, a private school in nearby Port Hope that previous Farncombs had attended.

In the summer of 1901, the boys were 16 and 18 years old. They were home for the holidays.

There was a nice sandy beach at Bond Head, and it was a popular spot for both adults and young people alike. I imagine that the boys could hardly wait to put down their school stuff, shuck off their uniforms and go to the nearby lake for a swim. They did that often that summer.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Entrance lookign to lawn 3

But August 11 was different. Frederick Charles and his brother John did not return home that day. 

Both drowned in Lake Ontario.

Blog Photo - Ebor House and Bond Head harbour

It was as if the world had come crashing down on the Farncombs.

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Parents who’ve experienced it will tell you that the worst thing that can happen is to lose a child.

John and Jane lost not one, but two children in one day.

Two beloved sons gone.

And now, John and Jane were expected to grieve, but carry on.

Perhaps onlookers thought that a priest and his wife would have some special way of coping with tragedy. Perhaps they thought that with three priests and two doctors in the family, everything would be alright.

Everything was not alright.

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St. George's Anglican

The boys died in August 1901, and John, Jane and the remaining children  left St. George’s Church before the year was over. He served at another parish for several years.

How did they cope?

One imagines that they tried hard to get over the loss.

That they tried to rely on each other and their families and on their faith.

But Jane fell apart, and, in his own way, so did John. She died in 1914, broken, and he followed three years later.

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In the century that followed the boys’ deaths, momentous events took place in the world.

Blog Photo - Ebor House - Normany Landing

The first and second world wars, in which many young Canadians fought.

The great depression.

A man landing on the moon.

The cold war between the west and Russia.

And these were just a few.

Blog Photo - Ebor House

Ebor House lived through them all. Life went on.

Despite the tragedy, Ebor House  continued to be “home” to Farncomb descendants. It appears to have been a wonderful home, full of activity inside and out.

Alfred’s daughter Helen married Reginald Le Gresley and, from the huge barn, they operated Newcastle Dairy. It produced 1,000 quarts of milk each week.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Newcastle Dairy  Bottle

The whole Le Gresley family worked in the dairy, adults and children alike.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Barns and hydrangea

There was a creek nearby for fishing. A beach for swimming.

Parents who worked in the barn behind the family house.

And neighborhood children to play with.

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The records show that Frederick Farncomb died in 1893. His wife Jane died in 1905.

Blog Photo - Ebor House F Farncomb

The house passed to their son Alfred, then to Helen, Alfred’s daughter, then to Helen’s son Balfour. He was the last Farncomb to own Ebor House. He sold the house to Ron.

Blog Photo - Ebor House ron sits on table

Not much is written or said about John and Jane Farncomb in the public sphere.  Years after their deaths, one or more Farncomb descendants had a memorial stone made for the couple.

The wording is one of the most moving I’ve ever read.

Photo by Laura
Photo by Laura

“Heartbroken on drowning of sons Frederick and John Farncomb.” 

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Next: The Series ends with another twist.

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Lost Without a Clue – Pt. 1, the Ebor House Series

I kid you not: I could get lost in a room. 

So – naturally – I got lost while coming home from an appointment in a nearby town.

Blog Photo - Bond Head main street

The key to getting lost graciously is to act as if where you’ve ended up is where you’d meant to go all along. But I was too agog at where I’d ended up to even pretend to be gracious. My mouth fell open.

Blog Photo - Bond Head Whtie fence and flowersIn no time at all, I’d gone from modern streets and brand-new neighborhoods to this old country road and a feeling that I’d time-traveled into the 1800’s. Beautiful old houses flanked both sides of the road.

Blog Photo - Bond Head White House1

And I knew, without being told, that some of these homes had belonged to certain local families for generations. It was that kind of place.

Blog Photo - Bond head grey hosue between trees

Most were surrounded by expansive grounds with big old trees…

Blog Photo - Bond Head Grey House and Lawn

Sweeping lawns and glorious gardens.

Blog Photo - Bond Head GRey House 3

On the lake side of the street, were more gardens, houses and infinite vistas….

Blog Photo - Bond Head Bayard and lake

Parkland and beaches and families at play….

Blog Photo - Bond head family playing by lake

Boats at the marina…

Blog Photo - Bond head marina boats in bg

People fishing…

Blog Photo - Bond Head Marina, Boats and Man fishing

Where on earth was I?

Blog Photo - Bond Head Boats at marina

Not one to panic till I’d run out of options, I kept going…  and thought I’d seen that enormous old tree just a minute or so before I turned…

Blog Photo - Bond Head huge tree and fence

So I turned around again and kept going…..

Blog Photo - Bond head lake shot

And discovered a sign…..

Blog Photo - Bond Head sign

Historic Bond Head.

I’d never heard of it.

Later, I’d learn that Bond Head, formerly known as Port Newcastle, was once a thriving harbour, with ships ferrying cargo to and from Quebec, Toronto to the west, Kingston to the east and various American ports.

In 1856, Bond Head and the neighboring village merged under the name of Newcastle. The overall region is now known as Clarington.

But right now, I was just busy being lost.

And then I saw a strangely beautiful old house.

This house must have a great story, I thought.

And this is how I met a man named Ron, whose historic home had belonged to generations of an illustrious Bond Head family which counted as relatives two Lord Mayors of London, England, and had a big impact on the life of many Canadians, including themselves.

I’ll introduce Ron, his house and the family to you in my next post.

Stay tuned.

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Dedicated to lovers of history everywhere, including residents of Bond Head and Newcastle in Ontario.

 © 2008 CSR

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Drum Roll, Please! John’s House Pt. 6

Ladies and gentlemen!

— Drum roll, please —

The Library is now complete!

The ceiling is done….

Blog Photo - John's Library Ceiling

And the walls are painted.

Blog Photo - John's Library Walls Painted1

Even the floor has been swept.

Blog Photo - John's Library floors

And with that, all of the repairing, re-plastering and repainting of the rooms has been done.  Year One of John Garside’s incredible 3-year mission to restore his large old house, coach house and grounds in Prince Edward County, Ontario, is almost over. And this means that he and his wife Ann can finally move in.

(Gee whiz – I feel like stopping everything right now and having a celebratory drink myself – and it’s not even my house!)
Blog Photo - John's House - Front

But before we get too excited, I have to tell you there’s still a bit more to do.

Like putting in the baseboards (skirting) around the newly installed floors on the third floor.

And removing all the scaffolding and tools from inside the house.

Blog Photo - John's House Scaffolding

And paint cans from the kitchen.

Blog Photo - John's Kitchen

And then the big clean-up.

All that before Move-In Day on May 7.

But even during the push to finish it all, John’s feeling delighted with what he’s accomplished – by himself.

“For example, the quote I got to repair the plaster ceilings and crown moldings was $5,000 a room.  Instead of going down that path I invested in $50.00 worth of materials (per room) and did it myself.  The results are truly amazing!  Even the local contractors are impressed!”

Blog Photo - John Red Room Finished

He still arrives at the house a little after 7 each morning and works steadily till 4 p.m., stopping only for a light lunch.

“All is on schedule and all deadlines will be met!  Ann will be arriving on Sunday (May 4) to help with the final cleanup of the house just before the movers arrive on Wednesday.  Great happiness!”

When I told you that John was doing all this work by himself, I wasn’t joking.  His wife Ann, a partner in an accounting firm, has been in Toronto, more than two hours away. This is the busiest time of her work-year – tax season – and Ann’s been working flat-out at her job.   She hasn’t been to the house since mid- February, when she made “a flash-visit”.

Blog Photo - Picton Staircase 2

So how does this work for them? How does Ann know she’ll like what John has done?

“Lots of pictures are sent each day to provide Ann with the state of affairs at 27 Centre Street,” John explains.

“Does she trust you THAT much?” I ask John cheekily.

And he replies: “That is why I send the pictures each and every day . . . Feedback is always good!”

Blog Photo - Picton Staircase

On reflection,  I’m really liking the sound of this arrangement:  Husband does all the hard and dirty work, while wife stays away from all the chaos and white dust, returning when the work is done.

Hmm… Ann, you’re a girl after my own heart.

Way to go, Ann!

Ooops! I really meant:  “Way to go, John!”.

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 Photos by John Garside

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At Home With Valerie Rowley – Pt. 2

Interior designer Valerie Rowley and her husband Chris took a big risk in 1993 when they bought their future home.  For one thing, the countryside house north of Toronto was quite run-down.

“We immediately saw the potential but we hadn’t sold our existing house and it was during the recession.  So did we play it safe and wait?   Nah!  We bought it and just fervently hoped our other one sold (we were up against another bidder so really had no choice).”

The other house sold, in the nick of time.

Blog Photo - Val house steps with flowers Looking at the house today, you wouldn’t know all the work Val and Chris took on. Blog Photo - Val Patio “We virtually rebuilt the interior of this home.  And made the garden almost from scratch – unless you count the few scrubby six-foot cedars that we inherited. It took many years which is why we feel we have so much of ourselves invested in it.” Blog Photo - Vals Kitchen Val’s favourite interior spaces are the kitchen and sunroom.  Blog Photo - Val Sunroom“The sunroom is full of light all year round. It’s also where I raise my vegetable and flower seedlings, grow watercress, herbs and salads through the winter, take cuttings of summer geraniums. To have this area full of pink, salmon and red blooms through the snow season makes the monochrome of winter bearable.” Blog Photo - Val Homegrown SeedlingsFavourite outdoor spaces?
Blog Photo - Val flower Bed The garden is an important part of “home” for Val and Chris. Blog Photo - Val Peonies on hillside “Luckily, Chris enjoys physical work a lot more than I do, so it’s a good partnership.   I grow things and prune and he digs holes and chops down branches.  And we have a young weeding lady who is also a budding opera singer!” Blog Photo - Muskoka chairsIn late summer and early fall, there’s the harvest. Blog Photo - Garden Produce
It takes work. But as you can see from Chris’ smile, it’s work they love doing. They plan to keep doing it for as long as possible.

Blog Photo - Chris Apple Picking

Many people today are drawn to houses that look like they belong in a glossy interior design magazine. Valerie, an interior designer, and her husband Chris, a TV producer, didn’t do that.  They bought a run-down place and worked hard at it for 20 years.  Today, for this couple, this place is  — quite simply  — home.

“I guess because everywhere  I look, what I see is immensely satisfying to me,” says Valerie.   “The flowers (growing, not cut) that I always have everywhere, the artifacts that Chris and  I have accumulated from numerous foreign countries over the years, the carefully chosen furnishings and the general knowledge that we have constructed a home  that is very personal and comforting to the two of us.  It all works.”

Blog Photo - Val Home2

“We have no intention of leaving,” says Val, “ until we physically can’t handle the work it entails – and it does entail work!”

“It’s about staying as healthy as one can as one ages,” says Val.   “I think it’s important for everyone to realize life doesn’t have to stop when the wrinkles and aches and pains start. “

Bravo, Val and Chris. You’re an inspiration.