Edward Heath's home and death location (9th July 1916 to 17th July 2005)

 

Here I am stood by the home of the former Prime Minister. Edward was a bachelor - unusual for someone in the top job - and apart from some money going to his brother's widow and housekeeper he left his home and 5 million estate to charity.

 

He died in this charming mansion from pneumonia at 7.30pm on Sunday 17th July 2005 aged 89. He was cremated days later at a funeral service attended by 1,500 people. Even though I was just a nipper I can remember him being in power - his heavy round Benny-Hill-type face and deep voice. He seemed ancient but was only in his fifties. His tenure as Conservative Prime Minster from 1970 to 1974 wasn't successful and he only remained in power for one term. He was subjected to ferocious assaults from within the party and ousted by Margaret Thatcher (he never forgave her.) Your view on him may be determined by his crowning achievement and his lasting legacy after more than half a century in the House of Commons - to lead Britain into Europe. Members of Parliament were unevenly split by this - some considered it a masterstroke but most thought it so disastrous they treated Edward with something near revulsion. His term in power was also marked by numerous strikes from unions who he was always at loggerheads with. The country reduced to a three-day week, rubbished piled up in the streets, the miners threatened to bring his government down and electricity went off (I can remember my mum lighting a few candles around the fire.)

 

He did very well to say he was a builder's son from Broadstairs in Kent who reached the top by hard work and determination. For 20 years he lived here in this beautiful Grade-II-listed house called Arrundells facing Salisbury Cathedral (his ashes are in there.) He died here too aged 89 from pneumonia. Hed been in poor health for two years having suffered a pulmonary embolism while on holiday in Austria.

 

While in Salisbury I thought Id have a walk down to the cathedral and look at his house - rather huge for a singleton. I remember him well as all through my boyhood he seemed to be in the news. He came across as being posh but he was the Conservatives first working-class prime minister, the son of a housemaid and a carpenter. These days you can visit Arundells and its gardens; it's a charitable organisation. The tall gates were locked on the day I called by. Not many working-class folk make it to number 10. I did a salute and left.