Novelist Dennis Wheatley and his Lymington Crinkle-Crankle
Lymington has some excellent examples of curved, serpentine walls
The novelist Dennis Wheatley bought Grove House in Church Lane in 1944 and wrote 30 of his popular novels whilst living there. For relaxation he enjoyed bricklaying and he has left one very visible piece of work in the form of a serpentine (or crinkle-crankle) wall in Church Lane.
Dennis Yeats Wheatley (8 January 1897 – 10 November 1977) was an English writer whose prolific output of thrillers and occult novels made him one of the world's best-selling authors from the 1930s through the 1960s. He left a record of his bricklaying achievements in a semi-autobiographical work called, ‘Saturdays with Bricks’ published in 1961.
He sold Grove House in 1968 and the house was demolished the following year making way for a neo-Georgian housing estate, no doubt inspired by the design of Grove House itself.
Dennis's crinkle-crankle remains to this day on the left hand side as you drive down Church Lane.
This short Pathé film is all about Dennis Wheatley and his bricklaying hobby: https://www.britishpathe.com/video/novelist-bricklayer
A crinkle-crankle wall (also known as a crinkum crankum, serpentine, ribbon or wavy wall) is an unusual type of garden wall that economises on bricks because it can be made just one brick thin. If a wall this thin were to be made in a straight line, without buttresses, it would easily topple over. The alternating convex and concave curves in the wall provide stability and help it to resist lateral forces.
The oldest Crinkle-crankle in Lymington
According to Dennis Wheatley in ‘Saturdays with Bricks’, “It was the French prisoners-of-war in Napoleon’s time who introduced serpentine walls into England. Following their capture, they were shipped to Portsmouth, then confined in the Isle of Wight. After a time, some humanitarian suggested that they should be allowed out on ticket-of-leave to work in gardens. That is why there are many more serpentine walls in the Isle of Wight and South Hampshire than in any other part of the country. They are said to have originated in Brittany, and it is highly probable that the Frenchman who first thought of making a wall wavy was not inspired by any artistic motive, but by economy.” (p95)
No doubt an inspiration for Dennis Wheatley's crinkle-crankle wall is the example opposite in Church Lane. The wall at Elm Grove House is the oldest crinkle crankle wall in Lymington, thought to have been constructed in the early 19th century, possibly by Hanoverian soldiers when they were in exile in Lymington from the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) living in the adjacent house.
Source: British Pathe´, https://www.lymingtonanddistricthistoricalsociety.co.uk/, So you think you know about Lymington - Francis Frith Collection.