Faringdon seems a normal and very pleasant market town until …
you approach the Pump House where there is a stone diving helmet and some words that when you first read them do not make sense … ‘a man who never has an occasional flash’ … ‘of’ … ‘silliness’ … ‘Mistrust’.
But start at the right place and you get ‘Mistrust a man who never has an occasional flash of silliness.’
In the Pump House is an exhibition about Lord Berners who lived in Faringdon House.
He was a composer , painter, and author. Besides writing an opera and five ballets , he composed the film music to “The Halfway House ” in 1944. As an artist he staged at least three exhibitions in various London galleries. His writings included First childhood, The Camel, The Girls of Radcliff Hall, Far From the Madding War, Percy Wallingford and Mr. Pidger, Count Omega, The Romance of a Nose and A Distant Prospect. To his parties were invited many famous people we still know of to this day, such as Igor Stravinsky, Salvador Dalí, and H. G. Wells.
The museum has displays to remember how he dyed pigeons at his house in Faringdon in vibrant colours and entertained Penelope Betjeman’s horse Moti to tea and painted its portrait.
As well as being a composer, painter, and author, he also built the last ever major folly tower in 1935.
He built the folly tower on the hill overlooking Faringdon.
He liked silly notices and there is a notice ‘Members of the public committing suicide from this tower do so at their own risk.’
Nearby is a piano. The keys no longer play after a long time out in all weather. Lord Berners had a small clavichord keyboard in his Rolls-Royce.
When you look about you can see that Lord Berners continues to influence the people in the town in the number of dyed pigeons and silly notices.