In the leafy, historic village of Wargrave, Berkshire, in a quiet and exclusive road known as Mill Lane, lies a beautiful property once owned by Kenneth More and family. To this day, it looks like something out of an English fairy tale. An aspirational monument to the perfect country house…
Kenny recalls Lock End in his autobiography, ‘More or Less’: “The house was delightful. Closely trimmed lawns sloped down to the river, and tall chestnut trees marched on either side of the drive, trimmed in the shape of enormous bells.”
Kenny, wife Mabel (Bill) Barkby and daughter Sarah, moved here in the late 1950’s when the family was prospering well and Kenny’s star was at its highest, following a string of box office successes.
Kenny recalls: “Bill furnished the house in style. The dining-room had a lime green fitted carpet, pale green and white curtains, with period furniture. Our dining-room was in Georgian style, the bed rooms in blue and pink. It was almost too beautiful, rather like a stage or film set, the background for elegant happenings; a lovely house…”
It was a place to be seen and photographed. The British press often visited, interviewing Kenny before taking photographs of the family at play.
A half timbered house with seven acres of land, Lock End was a far cry from busy streets of Eaton Square where Kenny also lived at the time. The country house was luxurious and stocked with antiques. It also was well looked after by a gardener, cook and housemaid. To this day, daughter Sarah, has fond memories of her upbringing in Wargrave. The two photographs below (courtesy of Getty) are ones we focus on here in particular. The first, a lovely black and white photo of Kenny and a gorgeous looking dog…
Sarah recalls: “Buster was a pet of ours… My prank loving godfather Leslie Dawson gave the puppy to my mother telling her it was a toy poodle… Of course it was a standard poodle and therefore huge. My parents kept him for a while but he was too boisterous and kept knocking me over. He then went to a loving home of someone they knew and lived a long happy life.”
Like everything, Kenny took pride in his personal possessions. Here he is photographed with his shot gun. Sarah again: “My father did shoot when he was married to my mother… I do not think he pursued it once they split up… I do remember going on a shoot with him when I was small. Not sure where but we were spending the weekend with friends for a pheasant shoot.”
As time went on, the upkeep of Lock End became an increasing problem. Kenny again: “Every time I arrived in Wargrave from the theatre or studio, someone seemed to want more money; the gardener, the cook, the housemaid. Then there were repairs to central heating, to relaying the garden, to relaying the relaying of the garden, to all manner of items I had never imagined needed such regular expenditures. The rich accept these constant demands on their pockets as unimportant; if such trivial things worry you, then clearly you can’t afford them. But those of us not born rich, who have had to work hard for our money, find such bills an increasing irritation – and gradually a focus for discontent…”
Finally, with Kenny increasingly needing to be closer to work, and the couple feeling distant from their friends, the family decided after a few years that Wargrave was just too far from London and they took the decision to move back.
In recent years Lock End has had quite a bit of renovation work (see here), but it still hasn’t lost is charm. It has continued to serve many families well, just as it once did The More’s.