If it’s Grim up North, as was claimed by the KLF (a Scotsman and a Scouser), we can thank the Vikings.
The Old Norse male name Grimr was popular among those who settled from the eastern shores; absorbed into the developing language, it lingers today in place names from Grim Brigs near Aberdeen right down to Grim’s Ditch in Hampshire.
One such place is Grimston Park Estate, near Tadcaster, halfway between Leeds and York, and it is certainly neither grim nor grimy.
The Viking farmstead was replaced by increasingly grand manor houses – King James VI of Scotland stayed en route to being crowned King James I of England – and in 1839 came the latest iteration, a fine Italianate palace designed by Decimus Burton.
In later years it became an RAF building, a nursing home and almost the HQ for Yorkshire TV before being developed into 11 individual residences.
But every grand house needs a gatehouse, and that’s today’s destination.
Eastgate Lodge might well be one of England’s cutest homes.
The bit you can see above ground is, internally, 10ft 10in square; below that is another 306 sq ft of cunningly curated space.
It’s home to Debra Bowman and her Staffie, Ziggy Stardog (‘She doesn’t play guitar,’ Debra tells me).
She and her husband moved here in 2000 from York, ‘We bought it for under £100,000, the same price we sold our semi in York that’s now worth nearly half a million. Damn!’, and she’s been in love with it ever since.
‘We’re about a mile into the middle of the estate,’ she says, ‘and suddenly you’re going from traffic jams and hurly burly to seeing pheasants and partridges and red kites. Sometimes the odd deer wanders across’, presumably until spotting Ziggy.
The lodge is topped by a stone statue of a kneeling figure presenting a sword: first-century chieftain Caratacus (or Caractacus), who held off the invading Romans and even in capture was so highly regarded that the Emperor Claudius spared his life.
The lodge’s ground floor is the bedroom, with the bed itself on a mezzanine platform to create wardrobe and floorspace underneath.
Down a spiral staircase is a 10ft 4in square kitchen; behind that is a bathroom with rolltop bath, while the other way the kitchen leads to a 9ft 11in conservatory giving on to a delightful sunken courtyard, which Debra has finished in limestone slate to match the rest of the house.
But you’ll often find Debra back up in the generously sized garden, inviting neighbours without such luxuries.
‘We used to hold barbecues for the residents of the main house and the mews properties at the back, because a lot of them don’t have their own gardens,’ she explains.
Debra puts the house’s record party attendance at ‘about 60 people’, and reels off places guests could stay ‘if they’re willing to put up with it – two on the reclining sofa, two on a blow-up mattress, a single mattress on the bedroom floor, two more in the campervan, and then you put tents up in the garden.’
If that sounds like a festival – Glastonbury relocated to Tadcaster – Debra says living in the lodge offers privacy as well as companionship, and she’s only grudgingly moving due to the costs of separation from her husband (‘I can’t afford to pay him off and live here,’ she jokes, ruefully).
‘It’s gorgeous, I’m sorry to be leaving it. It’s very friendly, like a little community. In our garden you can either go onto the grass where people see you and might wander down to say hello, but if we were sat on our patio area, that’s more private.’
Community and privacy: the balance that settlers have sought ever since Viking times.
Eastgate Lodge is on sale for £225,000 via Hunters.
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