Caldicott Place was first published in 1967. The US edition
(1968) was entitled The Family at Caldicott Place. It is
now out of print.
Story | Background
| Thoughts | Editions
Bill, Carol and Tim Johnstone live, with their parents and their
dog, Jelly, in a house with a garden and garage. In August of
the year when Bill is twelve, Carol eleven and Tim seven, their
father is involved in a car accident. A chauffeur driven car comes
out of a driveway and crashes into him. The chauffeur is killed
instantly, and the children's father and the passenger of the
other car are taken to hospital unconscious.
It is three weeks before their father recovers consciousness,
and when he does he has changed. He has no memory of the accident,
and doesn't seem interested in what is happening to him, or to
the family: there are plans to move him to a psychiatric hospital.
Bill is allowed to visit him before he moves, and is shocked by
the change. Carol and Tim are not told that the accident has affected
him, and are upset that they are not allowed to visit.
Not knowing how long the children's father will be ill, their
mother decides that they will move out of the house to a small
flat in London. This means that they will be able to rent out
the house, and she will be able to get work as a secretary. The
problem is that the flat only has two bedrooms, so Bill and Tim
will have to share one of them, and the other will be shared by
Carol and her mother. Even worse, the flats do not allow pets,
so Jelly cannot stay with them. Fortunately, the people who are
taking the house will look after him. The children are horrified:
they are used to having their own rooms, and Tim cannot believe
they would leave Jelly behind. Carol is also upset that she will
have to leave her dancing school.
Tim is determined to talk to his father about it: he is sure
he will understand, and be able to fix everything. Taking gladioli
from the garden, he makes his way to the hospital. However, he
is not allowed into the ward. Wandering around in the hospital,
he finds himself in the private wing, and hears a woman moaning.
Looking at the name on her door, he discovers it is Lady Paine
- the person who was in the chauffeur driven car that caused the
accident. He goes in to see her, and finds himself telling her
everything that has happened to them since the accident. When
he goes, he leaves the gladioli for her: there are no other flowers
in the room, and it seems "sad to leave her alone with a
broken leg and no flowers" (Caldicott Place, 1967:37).
The family moves to the flat, and they all hate it. Then one
day they receive a letter: Lady Paine has died, and she has left
Tim a house in the country - Caldicott Place. Tim is determined
to move there, as it will be a good place for Dad to convalesce,
and there is heaps of room for Jelly. Their mother does not see
how this can be managed, until one of Lady Paine's solicitors
has an idea: the firm has three children under their care who,
for different reasons, have plenty of money, but nowhere to stay
during school holidays.
So Tim, Carol, Bill, their mother and Jelly move to Caldicott
Place, where they are soon joined by the other three children:
twelve year old Freddy, the son of a Baron who lives in Australia
and does not want him; eleven year old Athene, whose parents must
travel the world looking after their business interests; and Sophie,
nine, a "problem child" who was rejected by a couple
who were planning to adopt her, and has since run away from four
Nancy Huse describes
Caldicott Place as "one of many books in which Streatfeild
explored her childhood memories of her grandparents' house"
(This section contains "spoilers" for those who have
not read the book.)
Caldicott Place is the only one of Noel's books for
children in which she touches on the idea of a family falling
apart under stress. This is not, of course, the main aspect of
the book: it is at the end of the first quarter of the book that
Tim inherits Caldicott Place, and the remaining three-quarters
focus instead on the healing effects of the house.
However, it is quite interesting to consider why this family
almost falls apart, whereas other families in Noel's books for
children are mutually supportive. One reason is, of course, that
the Johnstone family is subjected to far greater trials than the
other families - their financial difficulties are far more immediate
and pressing, and there is the added stress of Mr Johnstone's
illness, which seems more acute and distressing even than John
Winter's (The Painted Garden).
However, another reason is the family dynamic, which seems closer
to that in Noel's adult novel Saplings
than to anything in her writing for children. In Saplings,
Noel had looked at the destructive effects war has on children,
by presenting a family which disintegrates after the father is
killed. While it is unfair to draw too close a comparison between
Lena Wiltshire and Mrs Johnstone - Mrs Johnstone is far less dependent
on her husband, and also less distant from her children - it is
nevertheless true that in both books it is the father who is the
emotional centre of the family.
In her children's books, Noel usually presents families who provide
a mutually supportive network. In Caldicott Place, however,
it soon becomes apparent that everyone's primary connection has
been with Mr Johnstone, and only after that with other members
of the family. When he is ill, therefore, the family unit begins
to disintegrate. All of the children feel that their father would
have understood their problems, in a way that their mother and
siblings do not. Even though they all try desperately hard not
to blame each other, all of them feel alone, rather than part
of a supportive family.
this family disintegration is complete, with all of the children
emotionally traumatised by the end of the book. However, the implication
is that they may yet recover ... healed by a house in the country,
and the support of the people who belong there. None of the Johnstone
children suffers the psychological scarring of the Wiltshires,
and the book finishes with family stability returned even more
strongly than it had been at the beginning. However, the potential
was there, and may only have been averted because the Johnstones
attained their house in the country at the end of Chapter 6, rather
than at the end of Chapter 60.
Editions and Availability
Caldicott Place was first published in
1967 by Collins, and reprinted in 1984. It was illustrated by
Betty Maxey, and these illustrations appear to have been retained
for all subsequent UK editions.
An Armada Lion paperback was released in 1971.
This edition was reprinted in 1973.
In 1989, Chivers Press/Swift released a new hardback
edition with illustrated boards.
In 1990, a new paperback edition was released
by Red Fox.
It was released in the United States in 1968,
by Random House, as The Family at Caldicott Place. This
edition was reprinted in 1970.
There does not appear to have been a paperback release in the
As I have not read the US edition, I do not know if the text
was in any way amended.
Out of Print
Caldicott Place/The Family at Caldicott Place is
out of print. In February 2004, second hand copies through
online booksellers start in price at about £3. (Source: Addall
Used and Out of Print Book Search.)