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Iris Tree


Notable house guests
John Julius Norwich Writer
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I do remember one telegram that came saying, 'Thanks so much for your invitation. Would love to accept as long as don't have room at top of stairs.' I remember the room at the top of the stairs, I couldn't see his point more. It was this sort of half of a wagon-lit, there was hardly room to stand up in it. But anyway we loved this house and so indeed did all our friends because they all used to come before the war.

[Q] Could you say a bit more about the other people who came? Who they were?

Well, the people who came, the ones I remember I think I've already went through – the Churchills used to come from time to time, not very often. They weren't really regulars. Rex Whistler the painter was a regular; I have a lovely picture of the house painted by him. Maurice Baring, the writer who was my godfather, but he sadly fell victim to Parkinson's rather badly when I was eight or nine so after that we didn't see so much of him.

There were a lot of writers, AW Mason who wrote The Four Feathers. It was one of the most... they made it into a film four times. Arnold Bennett used to come. I don't really... can't really put a face to him. Otherwise, cousins, members of the family principally and politicians. Brendan Bracken was there very often and I think of the main politician, Euan Wallace who was an MP and I think he'd also been a minister at some stage. He was married to Barbie Wallace who was the daughter of Lutyens, the architect. They used to come a lot.

I can't remember all of them. There were several cousins.

John Julius Norwich (1929-2018) was an English popular historian, travel writer and television personality. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, at Eton, at the University of Strasbourg and on the lower deck of the Royal Navy before taking a degree in French and Russian at New College, Oxford. He then spent twelve years in H.M. Foreign Service, with posts at the Embassies in Belgrade and Beirut and at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. In 1964 he resigned to become a writer. He is the author of histories of Norman Sicily, the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire and, most recently, 'The Popes: A History'. He also wrote on architecture, music and the history plays of Shakespeare, and presented some thirty historical documentaries on BBC Television.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Rex Whistler, Maurice Baring, AW Mason, Brendan Bracken, Euan Wallace, Arnold Bennett

Duration: 2 minutes, 7 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018