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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

James Herriot’s TV House: Part 2

Askrigg's own Skeldale House

After visiting Aysgarth Falls, our next stop was the village of Askrigg.  Compared with everywhere else we had visited on this trip, Askrigg was a welcome respite from everyday English life.  You could park virtually anywhere, for as long as you wanted, for free.  Hardly any cars passed as we walked through the town.  Only a few people walked the quiet street.  The road climbed a gentle rise, and we passed pubs, shops, and homes.  And then, suddenly, there it was: the Skeldale House from “All Creatures Great and Small.” 

Hmm....  This doesn't look like James Herriot's car.

It seemed almost too good to be true.  I had imagined I would have to hunt it down.  But now, the house sat just as the road curved to the left opposite the village church.  Not only that, but it was For Sale!  I headed across the street, and peered through the front door windows.  One look told me that the interior looked nothing like the TV show had depicted.  The rooms looked in disrepair, neglected, and faded posters hung on a bulletin board in the hall.  I walked to a candy store next door, and asked the man there about the house.  The six-bedroom house had recently been used as a home for the mentally ill.  He told me the sales price, and I did a quick conversion from pounds to dollars.  Yes, we could probably afford it, if we sold our own home.  But oh, what a commute to work!

The remaining back yard of the real
Skeldale House in Thirsk.

One of the striking aspects of the TV version of Skeldale House had been the unique diagonal driveway behind it.  In the books, a man hung out in the barn, and in the TV show, the grounds included a large back yard, a barn and a garage.  The real Skeldale House in Thirsk also had a large back yard, but the lot was later divided, and the excess land sold.  In the TV series, James could walk his dog across the back yard, and then into a seemingly endless field for grazing animals.  I walked around the TV house in Askrigg, only to discover that the driveway was actually another street.  So the house had no yard whatsoever!  It wasn’t even rectangular, but wedge-shaped. 

"Wait a minute!  Where'd the back yard go?"

While I was initially disappointed, it soon struck me that this was the magic of film: to create wondrous places that exist in our imaginations.  The Skeldale House in my mind was so much grander than the house in Askrigg.  A part of me, a very unrealistic part of me, yearned to give up life in San Diego and move to this quiet English village.  I could buy the house, and carefully modernize it into a house worthy of its James Herriot heritage.  But a better dream might be to invest the home I have with all the love and majesty that I respect in the TV show version.  It was that love and devotion to the house that had drawn me here.  To make my own home into an equally special place seems a more worthy challenge.

A recent Google search revealed that the Herriot house in Askrigg had been sold. I wish the new owners well.  May they find happiness there, and lavish much love upon this historic building.

Dragon Dave

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