Powney’s Palace.


See the house above ? Well its got nothing to do with this tale, but its an example of the type of residence that one occasionally comes across during ones perambulations through North Yorkshire and maybe its the sort of residence that one might aspire to, or not.

Our dad once discovered that he had an old mate who lived in a house just like that.

One day when I was very small we visited the old mate in his new residence…

We had just moved in the bungalow so that would be 1964 then when our dad came home from work one day to declare that he had just had a telephone conversation with the old mate of his, Pete Powney, one time owner of the garage and taxi company located under the Dark Arches in Leeds City Centre, the place that used to scare the bejesus out of me when our dad took us there to pass the time.

Our dad used to drive a taxi for Powney as his second job when they were saving up for the deposit for their first house, he’d gone to school with Powney and they had been close pals but had lost touch some years previously, out of the blue came the phone call to tell our dad that Powney had gone up in the world, had sold the business and bought a 99 year lease on a huge pile in the Yorkshire Dales, “Why don’t you come up for a day” he asked, “We can fish for trout in my river” he added, emphasising that this was no ordinary house.

So the following weekend our dad put me in the car and left our Ned at home (for he was too small and too inquisitive to allow within two miles of a trout river) and we drove for what seemed like days up into the Yorkshire Dales but which I now know was a private estate in Nidderdale, its actually only about half an hours drive but in an Austin A40 in 1964 and to an eight year old it seemed like for ever.

The house was set in a couple of hundred acres of prime North Yorkshire Dales countryside, god knows how much it would cost these days, just think of lots of zeroes all in a line and then it will probably be more than that, we turned in a private gateway and drove up a private drive towards Powneys new old house, and kept on driving and driving for the journey up his driveway was nearly as far as the journey from Leeds.

A huge old ugly Victorian edifice in blackened sandstone awaited us at the end of the driveway, when I say it was huge I mean that it was probably bigger than the whole street of houses that we lived in, our dad was silent as he perused the stately pile, silent apart from the refrain, “Bloody hell”

I think that afternoon was the first time I heard our dad speak his trademark phrase, the one that I would hear so many times as I grew up and started to spend money of my own, “You can’t afford that”.

“You can’t afford that” he told his old chum Powney as they stood under the marbled portico

“I know” grinned Powney back at him as he ruffled my hair, “We’ve leased it for 99 years but when the money runs out we’re going to bugger off to Australia” and he laughed, and I laughed too, he’d said bugger, and that was funny.

“You’re mad” my dad concluded.

But thats exactly what happened the following year, the money ran out with 98 years to run on the lease so Powney and his wife buggered off to Australia and our dad didn’t see him again for another 30 years.

We spent that afternoon fishing for trout at the foot of a rocky waterfall within the grounds of Powneys Palace, a more boring afternoon for an eight year old I could not imagine until late in the afternoon as the sun was setting they started to pull some trout out of the river and I got the job of killing them with a big stick, an eight year old serial fish murderer.

“Hit it harder” shouted Powney over his shoulder, wrestling with another two pound trout on the end of his line, “Back of the head, give it a bloody greet welt”, and even at eight years of age I could tell that Powneys new neighbours probably didn’t approve of this former taxi garage owner who knew nothing of the aristocracy, or how to treat trout fishing as a sport and return the fish to the river so that your more aristocrat neighbour could catch the same fish tomorrow on his stretch of the river – Powney and our dad just pulled them out, clobbered them with a stick, took them home to eat and bollacks to the neighbour.

“He can’t afford that” our dad muttered as we drove away down the driveway in the dark, and indeed, on this occasion he was correct.


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