Saturday 08 August 2020

Westcott Birches

Westcott Birches was built as the mine manager's house for Westcott copper mine and the remains of the engine house still stand in the garden.

The present owner of Westcott Birches, John Pope, acquired the property after the demise of the previous owners Joyce Herklotz and Evelyn Shepherd – known by their friends as Herk and Shep.

These two ladies had been friends since university and both had worked as educational missionaries in Nigeria during the Second World War. Evelyn actually survived being torpedoed during the war and was head of a large girls’ school there while Joyce achieved a high position in the Ministry of Education.

They both had relations in Shropshire and used to visit the county for holidays so it was a natural place to retire to. It happened that Joyce took a job with the World Council of Churches in Geneva for five years while Evelyn set up their home at Westcott Birches and taught English at the Priory School in Shrewsbury during this period.

The ladies were pillars of the church in both Habberley and Minsterley, where Evelyn was the organist.

Professor Herklotz, Joyce’s elder brother, was a world famous botanist at Kew Gardens and travelled the world collecting plants. (He is also alleged to have grown tomato plants from a pip while in a PoW camp during the war). He supplied many of the rare plants and special species, particularly Azaleas and Rhododendrons, that were planted in the large garden created largely from the spoil heaps of Westcott copper mine.

The gardens were spectacular and besides occupying the owners for much of their time required extra help from handyman John Fraim and another local man. John Pope continues to maintain this site.