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Home of a hero for sale for £1.3m

PUBLISHED: 14:31 27 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:25 27 January 2020

Lieutenant-Colonel John Robert Harvey who lived at Holmwood, Harvey Lane in Thorpe, Norwich, which is for sale at auction for £1.3m. Picture: Archant Library/Allsop

Lieutenant-Colonel John Robert Harvey who lived at Holmwood, Harvey Lane in Thorpe, Norwich, which is for sale at auction for £1.3m. Picture: Archant Library/Allsop

Archant Library/Allsop

He was awarded numerous medals for his bravery on the battlefield including at Gallipoli during the First World War.

Holmwood, Harvey Lane in Thorpe, Norwich, which is for sale at auction for £1.3m. Pic: Allsop.Holmwood, Harvey Lane in Thorpe, Norwich, which is for sale at auction for £1.3m. Pic: Allsop.

But lieutenant-colonel John Robert Harvey, who survived so many conflicts around the world and did not retire from the military until he was 57, died in a tragic accident in his Norfolk garden.

Now his former home, which is believed to have been gifted to him by Queen Victoria as a reward for his devotion to military service, is coming up for auction.

The 12-bedroom property, Holmwood, in Harvey Lane, Thorpe St Andrew, was most recently a care home but closed in December 2018 after a damning inspection report.

But its sale has brought into the spotlight the story of the incredible man who once lived there, impressive both on and off the battlefield.

Lieutenant-Colonel John Robert Harvey as Norwich mayor in 1902-1903. Pic: Archant libraryLieutenant-Colonel John Robert Harvey as Norwich mayor in 1902-1903. Pic: Archant library

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In a tragic twist of fate, after being retired for only three years, Lieutenant-colonel Harvey - also a former Norwich mayor - was found dead in his garden at Holmwood in July 1921.

Records show he accidentally shot himself while trying to kill rats. He had been climbing over a wire fence and apparently got his foot caught. His gun, which he had rested on top of the fence, then went off.

A report from the Eastern Daily Press in 1921 states: "It seems that early in the evening the colonel left his house with his double-barrelled gun for the purpose of shooting rats, which had been causing mischief amongst his poultry. The members of the household did not hear any unusual noise, but at about a quarter to eight his daughter, Miss Hettie Harvey found her father lying dead."

The EDP report from 1921. Pic: Archant libraryThe EDP report from 1921. Pic: Archant library

Giving evidence at the inquest, his widow Florence said the last time she saw her husband was when he had come into the house to get some bread so he could mix up the rat poison. A verdict of accidental death was recorded by the coroner.

Lieutenant-colonel Harvey is buried near to his former home, in Thorpe cemetery, in a grave marked by a special headstone bearing a large cross and sword.

The son of a colonel and great-grandson of a general, the lieutenant-colonel, who was born on July 31 1861, was captain of the 43rd Suffolk Hussars in 1899 and commanded the 25th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry in South Africa. He also led the 4th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment, in Gallipoli, when he was aged 54.

He was shipped back to the UK in December 1915 only after falling ill.

The gravestone of hero Lieutenant-Colonel John Robert Harvey, a former Norwich mayor, and who served in countless battles but who tragically died in an accident in the garden of his home at Holmwood. Pic: Archant libraryThe gravestone of hero Lieutenant-Colonel John Robert Harvey, a former Norwich mayor, and who served in countless battles but who tragically died in an accident in the garden of his home at Holmwood. Pic: Archant library

In between military service, he was Norwich mayor from 1902-3, deputy mayor and also a Justice of the Peace. He married twice and had two daughters and a son, Robert Parsons Harvey, who fought in the First World War but died from injuries sustained in aerial combat in 1916. He is buried alongside his father.

Interestingly, when the Lieutenant-Colonel came to Thorpe, he had just retired from the military. However, the next year saw him gazetted as captain to the Loyal Suffolk Hussars and his bravery in South Africa saw him met at Thorpe railway station on his return with his men for a grand civic welcome.

In 1915, aged 54, he returned to war.

His obituary recounts: "Notwithstanding that he was no longer a young man, the military spirit again took eager possession of him. There is no occasion to recount the events of his service in Gallipoli, where in 1915 he commanded the 4th Norfolks. For they are recent memory, and many are his fellow survivors who shared it with him, and learned to admire the force and rigour of his character."

Holmwood, Harvey Lane in Thorpe, Norwich, which is for sale at auction for £1.3m. Pic: Allsop.Holmwood, Harvey Lane in Thorpe, Norwich, which is for sale at auction for £1.3m. Pic: Allsop.

Described as "a man of active habits and wiry frame," he enjoyed yachting, hunting, polo, shooting and other sports as well as writing two books. He was also renowned for his mechanical engineering expertise and installed an intricate model railway at Holmwood.

In 2003 some of his medals, including the Distinguished Service Order for his actions in the Boer War went up for auction.

Holmwood, Harvey Lane, (the street was named after the lieutent-colonel's family) is being auctioned on February 13 with Allsop.

It offers 12 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms and 12 reception rooms in the original house with planning for an additional building providing 12 more bedrooms. Much of its original grandeur has survived intact, including am opulent cantilevered staircase, wooden panelling, fireplaces and a castellated balcony.

Holmwood, Harvey Lane in Thorpe, Norwich, which is for sale at auction for £1.3m. Pic: Allsop.Holmwood, Harvey Lane in Thorpe, Norwich, which is for sale at auction for £1.3m. Pic: Allsop.

The gravestone of Lieutenant-Colonel John Robert Harvey's son, Robert Parsons Harvey, who also served in the military, but who died from injuries suffered in aerial combat in 1916. He is buried, alongside his father, in Thorpe cemetery. Pic: Archant libraryThe gravestone of Lieutenant-Colonel John Robert Harvey's son, Robert Parsons Harvey, who also served in the military, but who died from injuries suffered in aerial combat in 1916. He is buried, alongside his father, in Thorpe cemetery. Pic: Archant library

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