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The house that May built

06:50 28 November 2007

May Savidge at work on the house

May Savidge at work on the house

It was a truly moving story of one woman's fight to keep the fabric of her beloved home.

The tale of the elderly spinster who single-handedly shifted her medieval house from Ware in Hertfordshire and rebuilt it brick by brick and timber by timber on a plot of land in Wells caught the public imagination.

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Producer Eddie Anderson with Christine Adams

It was a truly moving story of one woman's fight to keep the fabric of her beloved home.

The tale of the elderly spinster who single-handedly shifted her medieval house from Ware in Hertfordshire and rebuilt it brick by brick and timber by timber on a plot of land in Wells caught the public imagination.

May Savidge toiled away year after year to rebuild her home which originally dated back to 1450. Even in her 70s she continued to clamber up ladders and scaffolding with great agility.

Now Miss Savidge's story is being retold to a new generation in the Bygones series on Anglia TV.

Freelance producer and presenter Eddie Anderson has researched the story and talked to May's niece-in-law, Christine Adams, who now lives in the house, called Ware Hall House, off Plummers Hill in Wells.

It was in 1969 that the then 58-year-old Miss Savidge, a retired technical illustrator, was told her home in Hertfordshire was to be demolished to make way for a new roundabout.

In June 1970 she began the mammoth task of piecing together its 1,000 numbered sections.

The facts are mind-boggling. For instance, it took 11 trips to bring all the pieces to Wells. Apart from some help with the foundations and the main frame of the building, Miss Savidge did all the work herself.

Mr Anderson said it was an amazing story of one woman's dogged determination to start the project and see it through to a conclusion.

She first came to his attention when Mrs Adams appeared earlier this year on the BBC's Antiques Roadshow recorded in the grounds of Holkham Hall.

Mrs Adams described how Miss Savidge never threw anything away and her Wells house was crammed full of everything, including every receipt she had ever had and a complete collection of the Radio Times going back to the 1920s. “It really is an amazing story and you can't really underestimate what an extraordinary story it was,” said Mr Anderson.

He added: “I remember the building of the house as a local story but because of May's shyness people thought she was eccentric and dotty.

“As soon as I spoke to Christine I realised she wasn't - she was strong-minded and didn't suffer fools gladly and that's why she was seen as a bit of an outsider.”

He said that he suspected that these days planning authorities would not allow a project like this to happen.

Mr Anderson said people had always been fascinated by the story of May, adding: “My assistant Wendy Hurrell said to me, 'You must remember Eddie, that your memories are my history'”.

Mrs Adams has been continuing the restoration and is now involved in writing a book about Miss Savidge's life story and the house rebuilding project she hopes will be published next year.

“I see the publication of the book bringing this chapter in my life to a close,” she said.

“I feel I will then have done what I promised May I would do when I spoke to her before she died in Wells Cottage Hospital.”

The Bygones programme is on Anglia TV tomorrow at 7.30pm.

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