I got a call one day in January 2014 from Sonyes, a great urban explorer, photographer and friend, who I occasionally explore with. It went something along the lines of, "Are you doing anything tomorrow, I've got a new site you might enjoy?" Quite intrigued, I told him I was very much up for it, and so the following morning we trundled off the short distance from my place to the site, parked up, and commenced a quick recce.
Entry? Well, we made it difficult by picking security fences to crawl under/climb over/squeeze through when all we actually had to do was slip around a gate - but why make it easy when it's so much more fun taking the torturous route! Getting inside to take photographs was no picnic either, necessitating a climb up a wall aided by a rather rotten pallet in order to access a suitable way in which was not actually visible from down below. I hasten to add that AS ALWAYS we walked in through an existing entry point, we did NOT break and enter.
The house itself, set in roughly twenty acres of gardens, with paddock, stable block et all, is vast and sprawling, and a very strong justification for the concept of planning permission - it looks like it was once a small house built next to a barn or the like, with a disparate set of extensions, bridging structures and embellishments, all added willy nilly over the years with little appreciation or vision for what the final result would be - quite horrible! And believe it or not there was even a band stand - although it has been demolished now it is still clear to see on Google Earth. Once inside we were greeted by a veritable mess of seventies kitsch, chipboard furniture and studded walls in ‹ber abundance, in short, a 'compliment' to the negativity of the exterior!
So who lived here? What is an Honorary Consul? What was this place all about? Well... the house, known as Pemberton House Farm, was the home of one Howard James Pym, and his wife Pauline. Mr. Pym, born in 1947, is a business man who has been involved in many diverse projects. A brief trawl of the net found several companies he has been involved with and here is a little bit of information on each of them:
Clearly then Howard was quite the entrepreneur and if the size of his house is anything to go by he most certainly wasn't as unsuccessful as the above list of dissolved companies might at first suggest. In time he involved himself in charity work including financing the building of a students club and school in Sierra Leone - BELOW LEFT .
As a result of this and other charity work he was awarded the honour of "OSJ usa of Krac-Knights of Malta" - basically this is an honorary knighthood within the order of the Maltese Knights of St. John and his certificate of knighthood can be seen - ABOVE CENTRE LEFT .
In August 2004 Howard was appointed as Honorary Consul to Latvia. Many consuls are not actually career officials of the country they represent at all; they can be locally-employed and may even be nationals of the country in which the foreign power requires representation rather than a citizen of the parent country. In smaller cities, or in cities that are a long way from full-time diplomatic missions, a foreign government which feels that representation is required will often appoint a person who has not even been a part of their diplomatic service previously. This kind of consul may well combine the job with his own business. Such consular appointments are given the title of Honorary Consul. Their role includes the promotion of business opportunities for companies from the parent country, taking part in strengthening the parent country's image abroad, and looking after the welfare of citizens from the appointing country within what is known as their bailiwick. The picture - ABOVE CENTRE RIGHT shows Howard and another chap posing for the press outside the gates of his home as the news broke of his appointment as Honorary Consul. The final picture - ABOVE RIGHT - shows Howard together with the President of Latvia, and the President's wife, on the occasion of a visit to Latvia shortly after his appointment to the consulate.
Quite why the house was sold is unclear but I suspect it was as simple as the Pyms had grown tired of it so it was time for them to move on. The property was listed with Reed and Rains Estate Agents and a target price of £999,950 was set - a bargain, you even get 50 quid change from your million! Eventually though the house and the 20 acre plot of land upon which it stands sold to Stocks Hall Care Homes Ltd. for £850,000. They submitted a planning application to the local council to create a 48 bedroom rehabilitation centre for drug addicts, alcoholics and the mentally ill, but the local NIMBIEs objected most strenuously citing concerns about the type of people that would use the rehab centre, the fact that it is located in the green belt, fears for highway safety, the impact on the amenities and the character of the area, and drainage problems. Not surprisingly the planning application was refused although I do wonder just how much the local 'Planning Objections Committee' must have bunged the council to ensure they got their own way!