Secrets of the man who lives at Haughley Park
PUBLISHED: 17:31 24 January 2020 | UPDATED: 17:31 24 January 2020
Robert Williams lives at Haughley Park, near Stowmarket, Suffolk. The Jacobean manor house was saved from demolition by Robert’s father in 1956, and, following Alfred’s death in 1994, Robert and his family moved back from London to live there. Robert and daughter, Ellie, have since established Haughley Park Barn as a popular wedding venue. They also host many family-friendly, outdoor events at the Park including the new Spectacle of Light event in February. He talks to Gina Long MBE.
What is your connection to East Anglia?
I was born in Stowmarket next to the 'Camping Land', a grass triangle near the market place. I was always puzzled that nobody ever seemed to camp on it but later I learned that 'camping' was an early form of football, which is exactly what we boys did on it!
What is your East Anglian Heaven ie what do you love most about East Anglia?
It's corny, but it's the skies - we get fantastic sunrises and sunsets. On the ground though, it's the medieval churches. Suffolk has about 600 and Norfolk about 900, one in each village.
What is your East Anglian Hell ie what you hate most about living here?
I'm sorry but it's the A14. It attracts too much development.
What's your favourite East Anglian restaurant?
Wyken Vineyard. Good food and an interesting place to take visitors.
What's your favourite way to spend an East Anglian evening?
Out on our back terrace with family and a bottle of wine, cooking on the barbecue and watching the sun go down.
What's your favourite East Anglian landmark?
When I lived in London it was Woolpit church spire, delicately lit up at night. The A14 does have its uses - seeing the spire meant I was nearly home.
The best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?
I'm biased, but many say it's 'Weird and Wonderful Wood' here at Haughley Park. Everyone talks about the 'atmosphere'. It's not happening this year but will be back in 2021.
What's your specialist Mastermind subject?
In London I was a furniture designer/maker (his business was Pearl Dot Furniture Workshop in Islington), so possibly the different species and uses of wood, but I'd have to do a lot of swotting.
What is always in your fridge?
Three or four bottles of plain water at present. My wife is trying to stop me drinking so much orange juice which she says is bad for me.
Your simple philosophy of life?
Do what you love doing if it doesn't harm anyone.
What's your favourite film?
The Shawshank Redemption.
What was your first job?
I worked for my father, but the first job I got for myself, in 1967, was as a 'Layout Planner' with Dexion Storage and Logistics. I have a degree in history but ended up designing warehouses for their French subsidiary. Did you know that the French for Fork Lift Truck is Chariot-Elevateur?
What is your most treasured possession?
My 1928 Bentley. I love its engineering quality, its simplicity and the way it so clearly expresses what it does in the way it looks - it's also wonderful to drive on our country roads.
Who do you admire most?
Pioneers like Brunel. People with imagination and foresight. My father was one.
What is your biggest indulgence?
An open log fire in the hall, which we bank up at night and keep going most of the winter.
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What do you like about yourself most?
My digestive system. It seems to work really well.
What is your worst character trait?
What is your favourite holiday destination?
If I'm allowed only one, it has to be France.
Best day of your life?
The day I made the prototype of my 'Plank Back Chair', but the births of my two daughters come close.
What's your favourite breakfast?
My only really healthy meal: rolled jumbo oats with a ground-up seed mix and sultanas, soaked in apple juice and with blueberries and whatever fruit is in season, cut up.
What's your favourite tipple?
I do like a nice whisky with San Pellegrino water.
What's your hidden talent?
I used to be able to take people's headaches away by hovering my hand over their head. All in the mind of course.
When were you most embarrassed?
When I was invited to watch a big event on Horse Guards Parade and went wearing a dinner jacket.
What's your earliest memory?
My friend and I, aged around three, were playing on one side
of our road when a man with a wheelbarrow stopped on the
other side and stared at us. In his barrow there was a sack with something moving inside it and we both knew immediately that he must be a German collecting up little English boys. We took one look at each other and fled home. I still don't know what was in that sack. I'm now married to a German though.
What song would you like played at your funeral?
Maybe Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.
Tell us something people don't know about you?
I have never bought a CD.
What's the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?
F-off Four-eyes! I had caught someone throwing fast food litter out of a posh Range Rover and told them to pick it up.
Tell us why you live here
I want to keep this lovely place going.
What do you want to tell our readers about most?
A new event here in February: SPECTACLE of LIGHT. It's an after-dark walking trail through the gardens of the house. The trees and buildings will be illuminated and there will be amazing light installations accompanied by a musical score. Very much a family event.
See our website: www.haughleypark.co.uk
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