Ian Carmichaelís home


While on holiday in Scarborough I drove over purple-heather-smothered moors to Grosmont village in the Esk Valley. I passed a parked van brandishing a company name and logo. They proclaimed they were "Nursing and Incontinence" specialists. I would have liked a chat with the driver. I have never met a person who specialises in incontinence.

Onward down to Grosmont village. I had never been here before but had read the actor Ian Carmichael had lived at The Old Priory for thirty years. As a lover of audio books I had walked over countryside beaches with this manís voice in both ears. Heíd been born not far away in Hull and had a long successful life as an actor. Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry will always be Jeeves and Wooster to me but for years Ian had played a seminal, convincing Bertie Wooster. He had only died in recent years at the house I set out to find.

I parked up and walked down into a pretty village at the bottom of a hill. Quaint fluff n stuff - village shop, church, butchers, art gallery, cafes, tea shops. The train station dominated the place, especially as a steam train, the Sir Nigel Gresley, had arrived (Nigel Gresley was the Uks most famous steam locomotive engineer.)

A few people were taking photos but nobody was in the engine so I stood on the footplate, pushed my head in and asked if I could please have a little look. Three men looked on as one shovelled coals into the firebox. Iíd always imagined steam train drivers to be old, soot-covered and sweating. The four men were probably in their thirties, clean and the man shovelling coal was the only one sweating. They were used to sad geeks looking wide-eyed at multitudinous pipes snaking off everywhere. I avoided asking if I could pull the hooter.

The train gave one almighty sigh casting out clouds of steam then chugged away under a whir of camera clicks and waves from kids (including myself.)

I looked around the local cemetery for the grave of Ian Carmichael but found nothing. time to look for The Old Priory. From the bottom of the valley I spied two old-looking buildings but they turned out to be old manor buildings. Everyone here seemed to be on holiday, no locals to pound with questions. They might be protective of the famous actor.

Slightly disheartened I spotted an ancient lady tending her garden. From her gate I asked if she could tell me where The Old Priory stood?
"Youíre selling wood?" she replied with a pained expression and open mouth. A bit deaf.
"Iím looking for the Old Priory house; it is close?"
"You want to borrow my garden hose?" Deafer than I thought.
I risked bad manners and went up her path so I could stand near her ears. This old lass was a bucket of good luck for me.

Disheartened turned to heartened when she said she used to run a farm where the original priory had stood. Over the years she realised the corn did not grow in certain places. She worked out the prioryís foundations lay under this unyielding soil. She said Ian Carmichael had died at the new manor house where part of the ruins still exist, also that his widow (the novelist Kate Fenton) still resided there.

I set off to seek it out knowing only local knowledge could have led me up a certain country road. I parked up at the end of the drive of a lovely house and ate a peanut butter sandwich wondering what to do next. Ducks were jumping in and out of a pond and nosy geese trotted over when I started throwing crusts.

I walked round the surrounding fields getting a good view of the house. I knew Ian Carmichael as a regular (Mr Middleditch) in the television series The Royal filmed half an hour away in Scarborough. I got down to the train tracks that ran by the house but, in the end, I just walked up the drive an took a closer photo.

I sat in the car and had a coffee and cold toast then decided I would go and knock on the door and, thinking on my feet, would probably say I was from Manchester University and could I please have a look at the original parts of the Old Prior. However there was no answer despite three expensive cars round the back and a lit table lamp. Oh well, never mind. Served me right for being so blooming nosy.



Having a coffee behind heading down into Grosmont