chapter  15
12 Pages

‘A full scale replica of Chatsworth’: 1962–1976

Despite the difficulties he faced in later life, Montgomery was very comfortably placed in 1962. The income from films and books meant that he had few financial worries, and he was sufficiently optimistic to have a bungalow built to his own specification in Week, a hamlet near Dartington, just a few miles from Brixham. The death of his father and the subsequent erratic behaviour of his mother forced his hand. He had looked at other sites, including one in Broadhempston close to where his secretary Ann Clements lived (‘I was very much impressed with the beauty and peacefulness of the place’), 1 but by early 1962 he had decided on Week and had engaged as architect Arthur Grayson, from Wincanton in Somerset. The residence which emerged from the plans (called Week Meadow) was a large one, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a studio, staff quarters and an atomic fall-out shelter. This latter was entirely at Montgomery’s whim, and he let Grayson know that he did not want its existence generally known: ‘I quite agree with you that my bolt-hole had perhaps better be referred to as a cellar.’ 2 Montgomery had bought the land for £800 and had expected the house to cost £8,500, but the tenders ranged from £12,453 to £13,824. Eventually the contract was given to T. Brook and Co. Ltd of Totnes. Montgomery managed to reduce the cost to £10,465 by changing the roofing materials and making other small adjustments. Even so, with the sudden ending of his film work the financing of the bungalow became difficult: ‘I’ve also been earnestly engaged in economising’, he wrote to the London doctor who had been responsible for prescribing tranquillisers during his film days, ‘for the purpose of building a house which, though not particularly vast or luxurious, appears to be going to cost me about as much as if it were a full scale replica of Chatsworth.’ 3