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There are few really entrancing and convincing studies of an English home that has been lived in by a family for over a century. Thanks to a combination of factors, Children of Leaside is an exception; telling the story of the family and house through letters, illustrations and photographs from 1903 to 1943. For the main part of this period, the family of Hope Bagenal (the well-known acoustical architect and thinker) lived at Leaside with his wife Alison and extended family. The house was a refuge and meeting place for numerous interesting visitors from explorers (Sandy Wollaston) to musicians (Toni and Rosi Grunschlag), from psychiatrists (John Layard and Donald Winnicott) to artists (Elinor Darwin and Margaret Calkin James), all held captive by the genius loci of the valley and the warmth and hospitality of the family who lived there. A number of the visitors have been the subject of films and other studies. For many, it has been a 'haven in a heartless world'. The physical house itself is an epitome of the best of English traditional and domestic architecture, parts darting back to early 1800s. It is set in the beautiful Lea valley and surrounded by ancient woodland with a wonderful garden full of fritillaries in the spring and martagon lilies in the summer.
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The author, Patience Bagenal, completes the requirements for making a really notable book. Born in 1926, educated at Abbot's Hill and the Froebel Educational Institute, she married into the family in 1955 and became the archivist of a house that has never thrown anything away. Her acute intelligence and outstanding sympathy have been applied to compiling Children of Leaside. Patience has recently edited Letters to a Niece and Letters to a Brother and Sounds of Hope, by Hope Bagenal, both available through Blurb, and has written articles for the Hertfordshire Gardens Trust and the Folly Fellowship.
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