Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Yesterday (reprise)

As planned, I collected my two passengers.  Neither is totally blind but I have never managed to work out just how much sight either has.  Derek (who is, I think, in his 70s) has rather more than Caroline, who is nearly 50 going on 5 and decidedly hard work.  Despite never having been there before and depsite having been given duff directions by the Tuesday Club transport officer (thanks, Jenny!) we arrived at the right spot in the castle grounds at about the right time.  My knees had been causing problems early in the day and I felt they were probably not up to walking the gardens and grounds (which I should have liked to do) so I left my two charges in the care of others.  I was soon pressed into other service as one of the fully-blind attendees felt unable to walk and I was asked to escort him into the ballroom where we were to be served a meal later.  A gentleman from the Castle offered to show us the way via the lift and I was to discover that he is the Big Banana.  He told me something of the more recent history of the Castle and how it came to be an international study centre owned by Queens University, Ontario.

The Castle dates from the 15th century and was built as a country home rather than a fortification.  It is one of the oldest significant brick buildings in England.  Almost derelict by the end of the 19th century, two 20th century owners carried out major restoration and renovation so that by the mid 30s it was again in good condition.  In 1946 it was bought by the Admiralty and it served for the next 40+ years as the Royal Observatory.  (The telescope housings are still in the grounds.)  Bought in 1989 by a development company which went bust, it was spotted by one Dr Alfred Bader.

Alfred Bader was born a Czech Jew and was sent to England in 1938, aged 14, to escape the Nazi persecution.  He was fostered somewhere in or near Herstmonceux but was rounded up with all other German, Austrian and Czech people and placed in internment.  In his case, it was in a camp in Canada.  He studied chemistry and wanted to go on to university but, I was told, universities operated a strict quota for Jews in post-war Canada.  Queens, however, offered young Bader a place.

Dr Bader went on to found Aldrich Chemical Co,l ater merged with Sigma, and he chaired the joint company, becoming a multi-millionaire.

Dr Bader, it is said, first offered to buy the Castle for his wife but she declared there were too many rooms to clean, so he approached Queens.  The university gratefully accepted the gift of the whole estate for use as an international study centre.

I did get a very few pictures, including this one.


Buck said...

Very good photo, that... and a most interesting story about the castle's history.

Rockery said...

Very good photo, that... and a most interesting story about the castle's history.