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In Denham Village for 28 years (and aiming to continue)

Our guest contributor for December is Jane Mills, a Denham Village resident for over 28 years. Jane lives at Cedar Tree Cottage, once regarded as the entrance to the village and rented by its occupants from the owners of what we now know as The White House until 1978. Here Jane tells of her time in the village and all the things she values - with just one inevitable drawback.

I moved into Cedar Tree Cottage in June 1994. I had been looking to move from my entirely functional but boring 1970’s terraced house in Bushey for some time but I was ‘middle-aged’ and single, and everything seemed to be designed for the ‘nuclear’ family.

My parents offered to stay while I was away on holiday and look around. I came back to a note on the kitchen table saying, ‘you must go and see…’ the rest as they say, ‘is history’. Cedar Tree Cottage was charming, just the right size and had a garden with lots of potential (it only took about 20 years to realise it!). It was also situated equidistant from my two work sites – Greenford and Stockley Park. Perfect.

Ownership of the Property

The two adjoining cottages – Cedar and Cedar Tree – must originally have been ‘2-up, 2-down’ labourers' cottages but when exactly they were built is not clear; the chartered surveyors who provided a report to support my mortgage application dated the property at about 1780 but a recent listing in the Sunday Times for Cedar Cottage dated the building as 17th century, so, somewhat earlier. A photograph from the early 1900s shows a third cottage within what is now my garden; why or exactly when it was demolished is not known. The name presumably relates to a tree in the churchyard no longer there.

Early conveyances are not complete and require some ‘interpretation’, but the most recent paperwork shows:

7 Sep 1928 from Frank Moreton Thomas to Francis Powell Braithwaite

25 Aug 1938 from Francis Powell Braithwaite to “Vendor” presumed Robert Miesegaes

6 Dec 1948 from Robert Miesegaes to Mary Millicent Leon, wife of Reginald Herbert Leon of the White House and Pamela Corbett

15 May 1978 owner is registered as Christopher Richard Salmond

7 March 1980 additional land is conveyed from the Oxford Diocesan Board of Finance to Christopher Salmond

20 April 1988 from Christopher Salmond to Nicholas John Austin and Mary Catherine O’Sullivan

17 March 1994 from Nicholas John and Mary Katherine Austin to Jane G Mills.

There is an interesting additional note in HM Land Registry dated 11 Nov 1987 relating to the land conveyed to Christopher Salmond in 1980. It advises that the property was, and continues to be, subject to the following restrictive covenants:

That neither the said land or on any part thereof shall at any time hereafter be used as or for a place of amusement, hotel, tavern, inn, or public house nor shall any spiritous or fermented liquors at any time be sold in or upon the said land or any part thereof and that no act, deed, matter or thing shall at any time be done, suffered, or permitted in or upon the said land or any part thereof which may be or become a nuisance, annoyance or disturbance to the Vendor or its tenants or to the incumbent for the time being of the said benefice or his successors or which may tend to depreciate or lessen the value of the adjoining or neighbouring property belonging to the Vendor”

20th Century additions to the property

In 1984 the current living room and bedroom above (with en-suite toilet) were added. At this time the bathroom remained downstairs in a ‘lean -to’ accessed from the kitchen. With an extension to the kitchen and bedroom above in 1988 the bathroom was moved upstairs into one of the original bedrooms. Since then, I have made no structural changes but have made several renovations including seemingly endless roof repairs, several rebuilds of the wall on Village Road and installation of new windows. These provided an insight into the challenges associated with maintaining a Grade II listed property.

Shortly after I moved in the wall developed a large crack and required a rebuild. I inadvertently used the ‘wrong’ colour bricks which was reported to the conservation officer – another rebuild was requested.

More recently the wall rather dramatically crashed down with no evidence of having been hit by anything. When I moved in the windows were metal framed, known as crittal – a Victorian introduction, certainly not original. Installation of wooden framed double-glazed windows was finally allowed when both cottages applied and agreed to maintain the ‘look’ of the façade.

For me the most important changes have been to the garden. In 1994 the Leylandii hedge was about 20ft high and completely overshadowed the garden which was primarily grass. There was essentially nothing in the way of a flower bed. First was a chop of the hedge and then I started digging – I think the only things remaining from back then are an apple tree (no apples, structural only) and two berberis deemed just too difficult to dig out. I seem to have been digging ever since – there is a lot of concrete and rubble

underneath which goes part of the way to explaining why there are about 100 pots, half of which are hidden in the borders. I have more or less achieved the traditional ‘cottage’ garden I was aiming for but of course we gardeners are never completely satisfied – some of the plantings of 25 years ago have outgrown their space ……..

The Village over my time

The road in 1994 was the same as it is now and as far as I know has always been called Village Road. We residents had a surprise in 2019 when a white line was painted on the surface making it look like a highway.

Two shops existed on Village Rd (other than the three pubs and Da Remo’s). Val’s newsagents was open for papers only – on the day I moved in I went along and asked if she sold milk – big mistake! The Gallery was also in business with soft furnishing – both now closed. There is one welcome more recent addition – a small bus now runs through the village a couple of times of day. The Village has always been well maintained by the Parish Council.

The Church is an important part of the Village. Whilst not a regular attender I recognise it as an important part of my culture and heritage and value its presence.

Then of course there is its role in Midsummer Murders!

My background

I was born in Bristol shortly after the end of WW2 and several memories of my childhood relate to rationing – the excitement of going to the sweet shop on a Saturday afternoon with my father and making a very careful selection; I also remember that when I was about 6 years old being taken to a spot overlooking the Avon gorge to watch the first Fyffes banana boat coming into port – what exotica.

I have to confess to the fact that my secondary education was at a grammar school originally founded by profits of the slave trade – Colston’s Girls School – I doubt it’s called that today.

I read Physiology, Pharmacology and Biochemistry at Southampton University and then started working in the pharmaceutical industry where I would remain all of my career – most of it in the clinical development of new drugs. I gave up full-time work in 2001 – rather young for retirement but driven by a very generous voluntary redundancy scheme and the diagnosis of acute myeloid leukaemia (recovered – I will be forever grateful to the NHS).

I then worked part time for two small companies for some years before the second of these start-ups ran out of money. For the last 11 years I’ve ‘worked’ as a volunteer at Wexham Park Hospital.

For the first 8 years I was here I left for work at 7.30am returning some 12 hours later leaving little time to get involved in village life in any way. The only person I spoke to on a regular basis was Jay Ashbrook who was regularly walking his dog in the early

morning. However, gradually I met others, largely through events at The White House to which I was invited by Irene Courtenay-Luck. Terry Skelton invited me to join the

Denham Village Garden Club which also led to working on a stall at the Denham Village Fayre (hopefully to be revived soon after a prolonged Covid initiated absence) and many other activities.

The meetings of the Thames Hospice Support Group were another great way of meeting people. The Denham book club came next and continues to provide intellectual stimulation and entertainment. After all these years I feel part of Denham Village (the postman recognises that I’m not Juliet Mills – my name initially caused some confusion – indeed, just the other day there was a letter addressed to her and he asked me if I knew where she lived!) and am just so very happy to live here. During ‘lock-down’ I could set off on a great walk from my front door – how many places can offer that.

Disadvantages? Its popularity!


Postcard collection of Rob Graham

Jane Mills

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