Courtfield has been the ancestral home of the Vaughan family for over five hundred years. Originally called Greenfield, the house changed its name when it was deemed the safest place to take the baby, born in nearby Monmouth, who was to become King Henry V. It was in honour of the baby king and his Court coming to stay that, ever since then, the house has been called Courtfield.
King Henry V
The reason the house was chosen to hide away the baby king from those who might wish him harm - and also for reasons of his health - was because of its extraordinary, isolated, rural location at the far end of a peninsula on the river Wye. Breathtakingly beautiful, but only approachable by a steep, perilous, single track road, it was said that you broke your neck getting to Courtfield, but you broke your heart leaving it!
Cardinal Vaughan, my great, great uncle, and his twelve brothers and sisters were born and raised at Courtfield. My twin brother, Richard, and I were born there and spent the first two and a half years of our lives there, before my parents moved slowly to London by way of Bourton-on-the-Water. The duration of our time in London was less than four years after which we moved back to Courtfield, but no longer to the big house which had by now become the monastic home of The Mill Hill Missionary Society - the Order of Missionaries earlier founded by Cardinal Vaughan.
Father Herbert Vaughan, founder of the Mill Hill Missionary Society of St Joseph, seated in the middle of the picture, with some missionary fathers and collaborators
Thereafter we took up residence in what was the Dower House, located within easy walking distance, but just over the hill from Courtfield itself. It was there that I spent an idyllic childhood, despite the house having no mains water, no electricity and no telephone when we moved in. It was to be several years before these amenities started to arrive.
My early memory of my brother and I walking for almost a mile to catch the school bus down to the Village School and home again in the late afternoon, is punctuated by the daily chore of each of us having to do one hundred strokes of a leaky, old, cast iron pump handle before we left the house. This allowed enough water to be pumped from a spring fed well under the house up into a holding tank in the roof, so that my mother had enough water for washing and cooking throughout the day.
Shortly after my eighteenth birthday I moved to London. However, my roots in Herefordshire run deep and, almost fifty years later, my wife and I recently returned to live in the county - not too far from where I grew up and where my brothers and their families also live.