Cloisters

Luxury in the heart of the New Forest

History

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History

Adventurous lives of past owners

The New Forest may be a quiet retreat but the lives of past owners and tenants of Tweed House have been anything but dull

  • Captain and Mrs Thomas Edward Symonds

    Tweed House was built by Captain Symonds for his new bride Lucinde Touzi in 1815.  They had met in the Caribbean as the result of incredible adventures.

     

    Lucinde and her twin, Zébée, were born on the island of San Domingo (now Haiti) in 1798.  Their father, François Touzi, was a French Protestant who married Anne Careaud when she already had two daughters, Rosaline and Honorine (who was blinded by small pox in infancy), from her previous marriage to a Baltimore merchant draper.  François and Anne then had two sets of twins, Lucinde & Zébée and Delia & Celia and finally a son, Theodore.  At six years old the twins were sent to school in Baltimore when they were so young that they had to learn to read and write so they could keep in touch with their mother.  She died of cancer four years later.

     

    In the early 1800s there was continual unrest from the freed French slaves while the white colonials, French, Spanish, Dutch and British, changed allegiances constantly.  In 1809 the British and Spanish were besieging the French garrison at San Domingo.  François Touzi, desperately scavenging for food outside the city walls one night, was shot by the Spanish, thus leaving seven children under 16, one of them blind, to fend for themselves in a starving city under bombardment from the British fleet.  Lucinde wrote her story in a private publication called ‘Les Jumelles’ in 1822.  She describes selling what remained of their mothers pretty belongings from linens to porcelain.  The house opposite was demolished by cannon fire and they ate cats, dogs and donkeys, even boiling their leather suitcases to make a meat broth.  Once Theodore, aged seven, was bold enough to ask the General in the castle for help and came back with two servants carrying sacks of food.  It did not last long however and eventually Lucinde, who was apparently the most attractive of the sisters, ran away to be ‘adopted’ by Madame Valette, a woman of colour who lived, unmarried, with a white man.  Mme Valette secured a passage on an open boat for the dangerous crossing to Curaçao.  Just as the boat attempted to run the blockade by departing at dusk the wind died.  ‘A severe firing was kept up all the time, between the city and the fort on the opposite side of the river, our vessel lying in the river between them, and at the mercy of both fires; the shots whistled around, and shells hovered above us’.  In the morning the English fleet appeared!

     

    One ship spotted the escapees.  ‘It was a large sloop of war; she was just returning from part of the island abounding with cocoa palms, a great quantity of which had been cut by the sailors, for plaiting hats, and was hanging all about the rigging to dry: it was of a beautiful green and yellow and when blown by the breeze, looked like so much ribbon decorating the ship.’  As this enemy ship approached, Captain Thomas Symonds was absolutely astounded to see a small white girl standing up amongst 70 ‘people of colour’ and praying aloud in French.  He immediately transferred her onto his ship – HMS Tweed.

     

    Eventually, when the siege was finally successful, Capt Symonds and Lucinde rescued Zébée too but the emaciation of the latter compared with Lucinde, who had dined well on the ship for several weeks, made it impossible to tell they were twins.  They were adopted by Capt Symonds and brought back to Lymington where they lived with his aunt at Newlands Manor and were educated at Stanwell House (now a hotel).  Interestingly the rest of the children were left behind with poor Rosaline and the twins never saw them again, life was pretty brutal in those days!  When they came of age (16 in those days) Lucinde and Thomas married, he was, 17 years older, and he built this house for her, naming it after his ship.  They had 9 children some of whom were christened at Boldre Church on 6th August 1822, the same morning as Zébée’s marriage to Major General Alexander Gordon, illegitimate son of the Fourth Duke of Gordon.  The little book concludes ‘After the ceremony we returned to Tweed Villa, where breakfast was prepared, and all declared it was the most delightful meeting they ever enjoyed.’

     

  • Mr and Mrs Moens

    The next owners of Tweed also had an adventure worthy of a book.  Mr and Mrs Moens set out on honeymoon with Mr Moen’s brother and his new wife for a tour of Sardinia.  Most unfortunately they were kidnapped!  One Mr Moens and the two ladies were released to return to England and raise a considerable ransom while the other (ours) was kept prisoner by the brigands.  He spent many months living rough in the hills, forced to walk for hours by night and sleep in caves during the day.  Finally he was released when the good people of Boldre raised the required sum.  A few years later the Sicilian government realized that kidnappings were bad for tourism so they reimbursed the ransom and the money was used to build the school at the bottom of the hill.  (There is a large stone in the front porch of what has now become a private house, commemorating the event.)

  • World War II

    We believe Tweed was used as a convalescent home for wounded soldiers as there was a tarmac path right round the garden and the whole of the first floor has red hospital floors with sterile white borders. An American drove in once and told us he had been here during the war but raced out again before we could question him further.

  • The Bagnall Sisters

    The next owners were another set of twin sisters – the Bagnalls.  They jointly ran a school in Scotland but bought Tweed for the holidays and separated the house in 1959 into two equal parts when one of them married.  This then is the beginning of Cloisters.

  • The Champions

    Cloisters was then purchased by Mr and Mrs Champion.  Once more the house was newsworthy, both on TV and in print, when the marquee collapsed during the wedding of their daughter to an American (coincidently he was ‘of colour’ so I wonder what Lucinde would have made of it!)  No one died but there was a court case to decide whether the fault lay with the scaffolders or the marquee company and Charlie was so frightened when he came home from sailing to find 5 fire engines, 2 ambulances and a fleet of police cars blocking the drive that he vaulted over the wall straight into a huge bed of stinging nettles.  All were fine and lots of American children relaxed in Tweed watching ‘Mr Bean’ while the authorities sorted things out.

CLOISTERS is a luxury holiday rental in the heart the the NEW FOREST where Regency elegance is gracefully combined with modern conveniences

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