The lady, who twice saved Shipton Court from being demolished, celebrated her 90th birthday surrounded by her friends on 19th September. Oggie Arathoon no longer has any close family members but says that “friends have made my life and given me a reason to live”.
Everything was different in 1944 when her family home near Croydon was wrecked by a flying bomb. She lived there with her mother and three sisters, Adrienne, Alex and Helen. Her father, Adam, who had a thriving perfumery business had died in the mid 1930s. The ladies decided to seek out completely different surroundings. Adrienne, who was an excellent cook and had a desire to run a hotel, saw in Country Life magazine that the Court was being sold off in lots. It was a struggle and cost more than the original estimates but they managed to buy the main building and much of the grounds so that they could move in by 1947.
The discreet, private hotel only ran for a year. Adrienne did the cooking and Oggie looked after the administration. Adrienne got married to a brewer from Stow; Alex married and went to live in Hove and Helen too got married and travelled overseas with her Civil Engineer husband. Oggie and her French mother Rose stayed on at the Court and rented out accommodation often to American service men and teachers. Oggie also worked in finance at Brize Norton.
Her mother died in 1963 and Oggie struggled on alone, helped for decades by Michael and Winnie Allen. She was approached by a developer and was tempted to sell up but she found out what the developer had in store for the Court – basically to knock it down and fill the grounds with executive housing. The idea of this horrified her. She sent the developer packing and moved into the cottage in the grounds where she lives now. With the help of her sister Helen who had a flair for design, she restructured the interior of the Court, splitting off the front and creating a number of self-contained flats but all done so that the whole could be restored easily if needed.
Helen lived with her until she died in 2012. Now Oggie enjoys the company of her many friends and is surrounded by her legacy in the form of one of the UK’s most splendid Jacobean country houses. She is adamant, “I will never let it go”. Without her Shipton would be culturally and historically poorer.
December 2016 – January 2017