The House In The Clouds

Down to earth: Wilson dwarfed by the House in the Clouds – but some of his family put in appearances

We recently invited my four daughters and their children to spend an intriguing weekend in a bizarre but magical seaside retreat just up the coast from Aldeburgh in Suffolk. From a distance, the House in the Clouds resembles a cottage that has been plucked from its foundations by a freak tornado and abandoned in the trees. It is perched so high that swifts soar below you rather than above.

The “cottage” turns out to be cosmetic. It crowns a 70-foot tower built in 1923 to store water pumped from a nearby windmill to supply Thorpeness Village, created in 1910 for “middle-class” holidaymakers. The sturdy, weatherboarded tower has five bedrooms and three bathrooms. They are reached via a staircase which continues up to the cottage, where the water tank, once holding 50,000 gallons – ” an ocean for an ant” – once stood. It is now a games room, complete with full-sized billiard table, table-tennis, and table football.

Although it is difficult to hear the dinner gong from up here, the room turns out to be a godsend when inclement weather lashes the Suffolk coast and incarcerates the occupants, one of whom suggested “it was like sleeping in the crow’s nest of a tea-clipper making passage round the Horn.” (In 1943, while firing at a V1 flying bomb, an English Bofors shell passed through the tank without disturbing the slumbers of the two Miss Humphreys in residence.) Other popular wet-weather day games include trying to break the record time for a dash up the 68 stairs and down again (there is no lift).

According to the visitors’ book, this has been accomplished in 27.5 seconds. “Not a problem with the stairs” wrote one visitor, “after doing the Inca Trail in Peru.” Another guest suggested oxygen should be made available in the games room. The children loved it. So did we.

© Arnie Wilson

For more information about the House In The Clouds telephone Sylvia Le Comber on 0207 224 3615