1 April 2015
Julia Monkman 1931-2015
Julia Monkman was in at the start of the Laurence Sterne Trust. With her husband she came to visit Shandy Hall. That visit stirred their shared vision for the house. It was then not only unkempt but perilous, its ‘shandy’ chimney ready to topple at the next gale. Together they launched the campaign that saw the house conveyed to the Trust that they set up, and then slowly and carefully restored. Every detail of this benefited from her care and eye, the architect’s plans scrutinised, the builders’ work watched over, until the house was safe and ready for occupation. Her charm and enthusiasm helped to raise the funds, and persuade the first supporters to provide not only money but practical help. She took the lead in collecting appropriate furniture and ornaments; combined with Kenneth’s prints and books, and the whole arranged with exquisite care, the result was an interior that looked as if Sterne had just stepped out and might be back any minute. But her real legacy is the garden. A waste land when she started, it became under her hand a model of its kind, new beds created, new (but authentic) plants grown, an apt surrounding for the house. It was her inspiration to convert the overgrown quarry adjoining it into a ‘wild garden’ of special charm.
But her contribution did not stop there. She invited friends and neighbours to join her in watching over this creation. She engaged their support, creating the roster of volunteers who keep Shandy Hall in good order, open it to the public, beguiling visitors with the story of the house, providing the contents of the shop as well as plants to sell. This is the tradition she has left us. She did not move far away when she retired. Verity Cottage in the village street became her next home, a Shandy Hall in miniature. There she died on 14th February, leaving us with the memory of a presence that once played the same part in the house as did the shade of Eliza Draper when Sterne too lived at Shandy Hall.