There has been a significant property on this site since the 13th Century, however the current property ‘Stour’ (West Lodge) was believe to be built in the 18th century, with editions added in the 19thC and is certainly one of the principle mansions of East Bergholt today.
On William Brasiers map of 1731, you can see West Lodge lies directly on the green (as depicted in John Constables ‘Village Fair’), however the ‘Enclosure’ Act of 1817 Mrs Roberts who lived at West Lodge at the time, extended the boundaries taking significant land from the original village green and the street , screening the house with a brick wall and dense hedging.
A widow, Mrs Sarah Roberts, was a great friend and neighbour to the ‘Constables’ and the artist sketched many painting both of ‘West Lodge’ and also ‘Old Hall’ which for a time was also owned by Mrs Roberts after it was left to her by John Reade, Lord of the Manor at ‘Old Hall’ when he died a bachelor in 1804 and left her the entire estate.
In 1954 Randolph Churchill (Son of Winston Churchill) purchased ‘West Lodge’ and renamed it ‘Stour’
On the terrace wall, Randolph affixed a plaque quoting Constable, ‘I am come to a determination to make no idle visits this summer, nor give up any time to commonplace people. I shall return to Bergholt’
There are many stories from Randolph’s time at Stour House, his eccentric personality kept his team on their toes.
Once a telegram arrived in which the address was given not as East Bergholt but ‘Beast Bergholt’. Randolph immediately announced with a broad grim that he was now ‘The Beast of Bergholt’
On another occasion he said ‘I am an explosion that leaves the house still standing’, sadly, the beast was the side of him most people saw.
Winston, his father no longer had the energy for argument, so greatly reduced the time he spent with Randolph and the amount he confided in him, so although Randolph maintained good written relations with his mother, she too could not stand arguments and often retreated to her room when she visited.
At Stour one evening was guest Donald McLachlan, editor of the Daily Telegraph. Randolph was excited because the Telegraph would be serialising the biography, but in the 1930’s McLachlan had been sub-editor of The Times. It was ‘an act of faith’ at Stour to denounce The Times for hiding the truth about Nazi Germany. Randolph was carving the roast when McLachlan revealed it was he who had cut the Times’s Berlin despatches, when suddenly Randolph turned towards the table, brandishing the carving knife, shaking and trembling, and exploded with a bellow of fury: ‘Shits like you should have been shot by my father in 1940’, he then lunched towards the editor until Randolph hurled the carving knife on to the floor and strode out of the room. He was not seen again that night and in the morning McLachlan left the house.
It was often said that, When in good form, Randolph can be the best of companions, a brilliant conversationalist, bubbling with wit and panache. A dinner hostess could be assured that whatever else might happen, the evening would not be dull if Randolph was amongst the guests.
In 1961 Harold Macmillan’s minister of War, John Profumo resigned amidst a sex scandal, and Randolph offered Stour as a refuge. Randolph referred to this as OPERATION SANCTUARY. He would vacate the house and the Profumos would arrive unobserved. He did not identify them, referring to them only as OG’s (our guests)
Randolph, twice married and father of two, his son Winston and daughter Arabella, died at his home, Stour, on 6th June 1968
For more information of The Beast of Bergholt, please see HERE