This book was first published in 1951 and in it Beverley Nichols recounts how he purchased his very large house – Merry Hall, in Ashtead, Surrey in 1945.
As a bachelor Merry Hall was obviously a property which he didn’t need but he fell in love with its simple lines and Georgian splendour, or I suppose I should say he could visualise the splendour which had been, in its heyday, and he wanted to reinstate it.
Nichols had just returned from working in India and had been given the particulars of many houses, all of which seemed to boast ‘a wealth of ancient oak’ which was not a feature which he pined for in fact he hated them. Merry Hall didn’t have any oaks but it did have lots of elm trees which he got rid of fairly quickly, stating that they were dangerous and inclined to collapse with no warning!
Nichols was a cat lover and his cats do appear in this one, their names are One and Four, Two and Three had sucumbed to cat flu. He had intended to have 100 cats in his life, hence his choice of names.
His Allways trilogy is about buying his first home, a thatched cottage, and obviously he had grown out of twee, but Merry Hall is written along similar lines, about planning a garden and the neighbours. He has inherited an old gardener with the house and a massive kitchen garden, the produce of which two local women have their eyes on, but he is determined to hold on to it all.
It’s an enjoyable read but I didn’t like it quite as much as Down the Garden Path. He doesn’t really write much about his work in any of his books so if you are interested in how he was able to finance his project you can have a look here. It’s a chronological list of his writing career.
He mentions in this book that he was a war correspondent in World War II. It seems such an unlikely thing for him to do, from his books I would have thought that he would have avoided anything to do with war, but perhaps it was his way of ‘doing his bit’ without actually fighting.