Following my recent abortive attempt to establish Wytham Abbey as the inspiration for DW's 'Cardinals Folly' I turned my attention to the similarly named Witham Hall in Lincolnshire where Keld Fenwick (DW's friend) lived in the late 1920's. I attach the correspondence below for your perusal.
(Some of the 'Cardinals Folly descriptions you may have already read)
>> Sent: 03 August 2011 11:12
>> From: Patton, Steve
> To: Witham Hall
> From: Steve Patton'
> Subject: Searching for the Grail!!
> Dear Witham Hall,
> Firstly, apologies for the cold call but I wonder if you may be able to
> help me?
> In my spare time I write book reviews for an author who was a prolific
> writer between the early 1930's and the mid 1970's. His name (you may
> have heard of) is Dennis Wheatley.
> Dennis Wheatley was a close friend of a man by the name of Keld Fenwick
> who was a member of the Royal Household guards whom I am reliably
> informed lived at Witham Hall during the late 1920's.
> Dennis Wheatleys most famous book (written in 1935) was called 'The
> Devil Rides Out'. The book was also turned into a film starring the now,
> 'Sir Christopher Lee'.
> The book refers to a house which he called 'Cardinals Folly' and
> describes it in great detail. The description of the house is included
> below. He also refers to the house in another book called, 'Strange
> Would you please be kind enough to read the two extracts below and let
> me know if the description is anything remotely like Witham Hall
> (bearing in mind the description dates back to the early 1930's). It's
> a bit of a long shot but here goes. You'd think that the 'Octagonal
> library described below would be a giveaway.
> (Whatever answer you come back with, I promise I will not duplicate or
> publish anything that you say without your permission) This exercise is
> purely for a group of readers who have been trying to establish if the
> house was real or not.
> The extract follows;
> Extracts from - The Devil Rides Out
> Cardinals Folly
> The house was a rambling old mansion, parts of which dated back to the
> 13th century, and the great octagonal library being one of the oldest
> portions of it, was sunk low into the ground so that they had to go up
> half a dozen steps from its French windows on to the long terrace which
> ran the whole length of the southern side of the house.
> Seven sides of the great library were covered ceiling high with books
> and the eighth was occupied by the French windows.
> A grey stone balustrade patched with moss and lichens separated the
> terrace from the garden, and from the former two sets of steps led down
> to a broad velvety lawn. An ancient cedar graced the greensward towards
> the east end of the mansion where the kitchen quarters lay, hiding the
> roofs of the glass-houses and the walled garden with its espaliered
> peach and nectarine trees.
> At the bottom of the lawn tall yew hedges shut in the outer circle of
> the maze, beyond which lay the rose garden and the swimming pool. To the
> right, just visible from the library windows, a gravel walk separated
> the lawn from a gently sloping bank, called the Botticelli Garden. It
> was so named because in spring it had all the beauty of the Italian
> masters paintings. Dwarf trees of apple, plum and cherry, standing no
> more than six feet high and separated by ten yards or more from each
> other, stood covered with white and pink blossom while, rising from the
> grass up the shelving bank, clumps of polyanthus, pheasants-eye
> narcissus, forget-me-nots and daffodils were planted one to the square
> Further down the garden there was an old sun dial beyond which lay the
> pond garden, modelled from that at Hampton Court, sinking in rectangular
> stages to a pool where, later in the year, blue lotus flowers and white
> water lilies floated serenely in the sunshine.
> Where are you staying? At the village inn, (Pride of Peacocks (Also a
> fake name perhaps)) no more than a mile from here.
> The inn was almost as old as the house. At one period it had been a
> hostelry of some importance, but the changing system of highways in the
> 18th century had left it denuded of the coaching traffic and doomed from
> then on to cater only for the modest wants of the small local
> population. It had been added to and altered many times; for one long
> period falling almost wholly into disrepair.
> The inn had a comfortably furnished lounge and old oak beams.
> The landlord was Jeremiah Wilkes.
> A deep border of dark wallflowers sent out their heady scent at the
> farther end of the lawn and beyond them the garden opened onto a natural
> wooded glade. A small stream marked the boundary. (Five foot width).
> Beyond the stream was woodland.
> Extracts from - Strange Conflict
> The east wing of the rambling old house (Cardinals folly) was very
> ancient and said to have been at one time part of a great abbey, but
> centuries later these thick walled remains had been built onto, while in
> recent years the owners had spared neither pains nor money to make its
> interior both comfortable and beautiful. The heavy, oak, studded door
> was no sooner opened..................................
> The cellar's were centuries old having thick stone walls and heavy doors
> so that they differed little from actual mediaeval dungeons and quite
> possibly had been used for that purpose in the bad old days when the
> Lord abbots held temporal as well as spiritual sway over the lands
> adjacent to Cardinals Folly.
> One of them was now used as a wine cellar and two others for lumber of
> various kinds but a fourth was empty.
> It was the principal room in the oldest part of the house. Comfortable
> sofa's and large armchairs stood about the uneven polished oak of the
> floor, a pair of globes occupied two angles of the book lined walls, and
> a great oval, mahogany writing table of Chippendale design stood before
> the wide French window. Owing to its sunken position the lighting of the
> room was dim in daylight yet its atmosphere was by no means gloomy. A
> log-fire upon a twelve inch pile of ashes was kept burning in the wide
> fireplace all through the year and at night
> When the curtains were drawn. The room was lit with the soft radiance of
> concealed ceiling lights.
> Many thanks in advance for taking the time to read this.
> Steve Patton
> PS I have recently been through this process with the occupants of
> Wytham Abbey in Oxford, as Dennis Wheatleys recent biograpy states that
> Keld Fenwick lived there. This turned out to be untrueand so Phil Baker
> (The Author) will have to amend his book when I tell him!
> The occupants in Oxford were very enthusiastic with the storyline and a
> little disappointed when it bacame apparent that the abbey was not the
> building that 'Cardinal's Folly' was based on.
> From Withamhall.com
> Sent: 12 August 2011
> To: Patton, Steve
> Subject: FW: Searching for the Grail!!
> Dear Mr Patton, I have been forwarded your email and was hoping to speak
> to you about it but as I do not have your number I thought I would make
> contact by email.
> I'm afraid it is bad news as the descriptions of the houses do not bear
> any resemblence to Witham Hall. I wish you all the best in finding the
> "real" house and if I can be of any further assistance, please do not
> hesitate to call me on ****** >
> Kind regards,
> From: stevepatton
> To: charlesbeck
> Subject: FW: Searching for the Grail!!
> Date: Mon, 15 Aug 2011
> Hi Charles,
> I thought you might like to see the attached.
> Some of the description you will recognise.
> Best wishes
More than interested.
Here's something curious ... when you started your quest, I was pretty sure in my own mind Cardinal's Folly was a fabrication ... but the more I read the unnecessarily detailed descriptions, the more I come to think you are right and that it is a real building ...
Best as always .... where next to look ???
Where next indeed?