The Brian Jones Trip
Here's an old article I found in my files – snitched off the LARS board long ago. Pretty interesting, and I have added a photo of Cotchford taken in March, 2001 which shows some of the details mentioned in the story.
I want to point out that the author is apparently quoting from murder theory books at one point – a very big no-no around here. It’s not like those are history books, for Christ sakes! Also, he would have to stick in the “fat-mummy-loser” stuff – grumble, grumble. But, at least Gwyther did go out and get some fresh interviews – and no Pat Andrews popping up to explain it all - that’s always a plus! Enjoy!
“It was home to writer A A Milne and Rolling Stone Brian Jones.”
Side view of Cotchford. On the left the driveway leads up to Cotchford Lane. The swimming pool where Brian Jones drowned is located to the right. No, the photo isn't warped, it’s the house!
Daily Telegraph - Inside Story: Cotchford Farm
Saturday 8th April 2000
Matthew Gwyther reports:
To live in a house once occupied by a celebrated individual can be trying enough but when your home once belonged to two of them, separately, the flow of unwanted pilgrims can become an ordeal.
This is exactly the double-whammy experienced by Alastair Johns and his wife, Harriet, owners of Cotchford Farm in Sussex. Cotchford is the "House at Pooh Corner" and was bought by the author A A Milne, who lived there on and off from 1924 with his wife and son Christopher Robin. Nearby are the "100 Aker Wood", "the six Pine Trees" and the Poohsticks Bridge. The bridge has recently been rebuilt to accommodate the thousands of Winnie the Pooh fans who flock to the area, strip the surrounding trees and watch their twigs float in races downstream. More notoriously, though, Cotchford was also owned in the late 1960s by the Rolling Stone Brian Jones, who drowned in the swimming pool in 1969.
Every year Mr and Mrs Johns put up with several hundred unwanted visitors on their doorstep. "On the whole the Brian Jones lot are incredibly nice and polite. They apologise for the intrusion. "The Winnie the Pooh bunch, on the other hand, think they own the place. One afternoon we caught a couple in the garden who had lined up 16 teddy bears to photograph."
By contrast, soon after the Berlin Wall came down three East Germans drove all the way to Cotchford in a Trabant to pay their respects to their dead Rolling Stones idol. They quietly asked to have a look at the pool. "The drive down to the house is so steep," says Mr Johns, "that they couldn't get back up in first and had to turn around and drive back up in reverse."
Cotchford did not have altogether happy memories for Christopher Robin Milne, who spent much of his time up one of the trees. The ten acres of grounds leading down to the stream contain at least 50 mature oaks. Mrs Milne employed three full-time gardeners and turned muddy fields and paths into terraced lawns with walkways and a summerhouse. Her son later spent much of his life in embarrassed retreat from his unwanted fame and thought "that my father had got to where he was by climbing upon my infant shoulders, that he filched from me my good name and left me with nothing but the empty fame of being his son".
With their more welcome fame and newfound wealth, the Rolling Stones invested in large country mansions. Mick Jagger bought Elizabethan Stargroves in Berkshire, which had been owned by Oliver Cromwell; Charlie Watts bought a place in Sussex from Lord Shawcross; Bill Wyman acquired a place in Suffolk and Keith Richards bought and still owns a house in West Wittering, West Sussex.
Unlike his colleagues, Jones had never owned his own place before Cotchford. The purple haze of 1967 never left him as he shifted from rented flats to hotels to the Priory Clinic. He suffered two highly publicised drugs busts and lived in terror of being arrested again by the police. By the time he reached the sanctuary of Pooh's place, for which he paid £35,000 in November 1968, he was in a mess. Blues musician Alexis Korner said he looked like "a fat, mummified Louis XIV". He felt robbed by the musical direction the band was taking, which was anathema to him and - worse - he had lost his girlfriend Anita Pallenberg to Keith Richards. "First they took my music," he moaned, "then they took my band, and now they've taken my love."
Jones decided that his new property required much building work, inside and out, including a proper drainage system. Being towards the bottom of the slope, Cotchford suffers from flooding when heavy rain falls. ("We've been flooded seven times since we arrived," says Mr Johns, "and last Christmas Eve I was up fighting the water until 1am.") Jones fell out badly with his builders, a foreman - who moved into Cotchford for the duration - and his four-man gang. The £10,000-worth of works proceeded at a crawl and, such was Jones's suspicion that he was being taken for an expensive ride, he installed an Intercom system upstairs so he could hear what they were up to below.
Mr Johns thinks it just as well the work was never finished. "He was just beginning to ruin it when he died. One of the only things his builders achieved inside the house was to paint the spaces between the ceiling beams denim blue." During that 1969 summer, when he wasn't crashing his Vespa through the front window of a village shop after a visit to the Haywagon pub, Jones spent long hours in the garden lounging with white wine or brandy by his two statues and upsetting the locals with loud music. Both statues are still there. One is a life-size figure of Christopher Robin, the other a sundial with hand-carved figures of Piglet, Eeyore and Pooh dancing, accompanied by the inscription "This warm and sunny spot belongs to Pooh and here he wondered what to do".
Jones was indeed left wondering what to do after he was fired from the band in late May, 1969 with a £100,000 pay-off. In the early morning of July 3 he was found face-down in the deep end of the pool, "his hair floating around him like a fan", as one of the Stones' biographers wrote. The coroner's verdict was one of misadventure -"swimming whilst under the influence of alcohol and drugs". However, since his death there have been suggestions in a book, Who Killed Christopher Robin?, that Jones was murdered.
Cotchford is far more peaceful these days. Mr Johns, who found it in a newspaper small ad column in 1970, says he still finds it agreeably "soporific". The building, Grade II listed with six bedrooms, is not a classically proportioned farmhouse.
Its original section dates back to about 1580 but the next four centuries saw numerous modifications. One of the later additions was a Velux window in the ceiling of what had been Christopher Robin's bedroom. Mr Johns thinks Cotchford must now be worth about £1 million. John Powell of Powell and Partner, the local estate agent, thinks that might well be a realistic price. There is strong demand for property in the area as people move further out from London. "Cotchford would sell instantly," he says. "Even empty building plots are going for £500,000."