Life at Zimapan
Holidays at Zimapan
Pauline Straker, who lived in Pinner, Middlesex when she was a child, used to spend many "blissful" weeks
holidaying at Zimapan during 1950s & 1960s. Her parents were great friends of the De L'Arbres, and
her family always referred to them as the Dee's, or Little Mum and Mr Dee.
Favourite room in the house
Her fondest memories of those holidays include swinging on Zimapan's large garden gate, sharing an upstairs
bedroom opposite the walk-in attic door with her sister, and being with Mrs Dee (Daisy May de L'Arbre de Malander) in her kitchen, Pauline's favourite room
in the house, and which was always kept warm by a well-stoked Aga. She recalls that Mrs Dee always had homemade
soup on the simmering plate, and that she "loved the kitchen—memories of scones with jam and cream, and lunches
that would have fed an army".
Listening to Pop's stories
Pauline would often cross over the road and spend many an hour sitting listening to Pop Matthews, a man who
she thought was 100 years old, who lived with his family opposite Zimapan in 2 Tregullow
Cottages, the cottage nearest the road. 'Pop' used to spend his time making and mending things, and used to
tell her stories about local folklore, pixies and smugglers as Pauline sat, absorbed, on a small rectangular stool
that Pop had made himself.
The Count and Countess
Pauline remembers the De L'Arbres as a somewhat eccentric Belgian Count and his wife who called themselves the
"Count and Countess Joseph de L'Arbre de Malander". Her family always referred to them as Little Mum and Mr Dee.
Mr Dee (Joseph de L'Arbre de Malander) was a tall man who always
wandered around without his shirt on, and who kept pigs and bred dogs. When the Dee's quarrelled, Mr Dee would
check into a private hospital "alleging breakdowns".
Her most unpleasant memories include using a non-flushing outside toilet outside at the rear of the old (original)
cottage. Zimapan had an outside toilet connected to the old cottage; it was a "wooden shelf seat".
There was no flushing water so she had to "fill a tin pail with water and flush it into the abyss". She is certain
the house was haunted back then. (See 'Garden & grounds').
Pauline recalls that
Zimapan was originally a local tin mine office. Mr Dee (Joseph de L'Arbre de Malander) apparently had a
number of documents to support this. The front of the house is a "later addition to the original cottage", which is
at the rear ("rear cottage").
According to Pauline, the house was "simply magnificent". The front house (the main house) was single storey. It
had a very big entrance hall with a black-&-white tiled floor. As you entered the building, there was a large
lounge on the left which had a very ornate fireplace. The fender was very large and had two seats. There were two
large bedrooms to the right of the lounge. The house was apparently haunted.
A connecting door and corridor linked the front of the house to the (original) rear cottage with a walk-in cupboard
half way down that corridor. This cupboard was "always icy cold and extremely sinister". The corridor emerged
opposite a bathroom where Pauline and her sister often heard "noises or voices".
Bathroom and toilets
The ground-floor bathroom had a toilet, the only indoor toilet in the house, although there was another toilet in
the rear cottage, outside, next door to the pig pen.
The original entrance to the cottage is at the rear1,
which Pauline says, "should not to be confused with the back-door entrance to the kitchen in the newer [ed. front]
part of the house. When you entered by the original entrance, you found yourself in the buttery, which
contained an iron range, a Belfast sink and a red-tiled floor.
The side wall of the kitchen was close to the (stone) garden wall next to the Scorrier-St Day Road, and had an
Morning room/dining room
There was a morning room/dining room towards the rear. It was a dark room and had glass doors that led to a massive
Attic and bedroom (first floor rear)
In the 1950s and 1960s, there was a large walk-in attic with a sloping roof where the Dee's stored much of their
artwork [ed. collection]. Pauline recalls that "it was not a nice place to be". Opposite the attic was the bedroom
where Pauline and her sister slept when they were holidaying at Zimapan. The bedroom window overlooked the
Photo: Rear view of Zimpan from
Scorrier-to-St Day Road,
showing various extensions and lean-to
(far rt.), Apr 2009
The front garden was walled and had a central lawn2 surrounded by flower beds. The garden had been decorated by 'Little Mum'
with hundreds of shells of many types.3
There was, and still is, a big garage to the left of the wide garden (farmer's) gate as you enter from the
road. There was an outside toilet connected to the rear cottage which had a "wooden shelf seat no flushing
water. You had to "fill a tin pail with water and flush it into the abyss" Close to the WC was a room with pens
for Mr Dee's pigs (perhaps sheep). The space "was not large and had little headroom, so it could not have been
Facing the front house, to the right, there is a large open area belonging to Zimapan, which goes right
round the building. Pauline called it the 'allotment'. It was always full of fruit bushes and trees. Mr Dee
allowed the dogs to use it as an 'exercise yard'.
1. The rear cottage had two floors.
2. The outline of the central, circular lawn in the front garden, which by
2009 had all but disappeared, is just discernible from the air (see aerial photo of Zimapan,
3. In ca. September 2010, the front garden was covered over with shingle
to create a car park (Sep 2010).
Recollections of Pauline Fanning (née Straker), Sep 2009.