Since the inception of the Park proper, in 1878, there has always been a keeper that lives onsite in a purpose-built home.
After the departure of Jim a few weeks ago, an election was held amongst the keepers as to whom should have the honour of taking up residence in Hurle’s Lodge.
So named after one of the Park’s first benefactors, very little is known about Mr. Hurle other than he was involved in founding a Gentleman’s Club at some point in the 17th Century. Claiming the vast acreage of land for himself, his club and their ancestors, Mr. Hurle was adamant that the land remain as close to it’s natural state as possible.
The purpose of building Hurle’s Lodge was to guarantee that at least one man remain on the property at all times. At the time Hurle had purchased the land for, what was then, a small fortune. He piled thousands into the Park, ensuring that the Lodge stay in good repair and that there was enough keepers employed so that it was never without an occupant.
Hurle’s Lodge has remained largely unchanged since it was built back in 1890. Taking a handful of fallen trees from the surrounding forests, timber makes up a large part of the construction with light grey slate and granite providing solidity and insulation. Unfortunately, the Lodge is lacking somewhat in modern amenities. A singular phone line is the only point of communication, with no phone signal or internet access, it truly is a lonely place to live.
Each year, every year, since the Park’s inception a grand sum of money has been transferred to the Park’s fund. This money used to be able cover the Park maintenance, the staff’s wages and the upkeep of the lodge. However, over the course of the last thirty years or so, more preference has been given over to the former, rather than latter. As a result, although the Lodge remains structurally sound, certain features and fixings have fallen into disrepair.
The kitchen, once a marvel of Victorian design, has been blackened with neglect and the New World cooker problems, which started out as merely a nuisance, have now deteriorated to the point where only a single gas hob functions. With no television, radio or other means of entertainment – life in the Lodge has started to seem like more of a sentence than a privilege.
Initially, a rota system was put in place. One of Mr. Hurle’s rules, one that remains to this day, was that only one man could occupy the Lodge at any one time. He could not bring his family with him, as the forest was deemed to be no place to raise children – so the Lodge was occupied by single men; usually bachelors or widows. Over time, these became the only types of men that would apply for the role of keeper.
Although the role of Resident Keeper is still seen as an honour (reflected in a significant increase of pay) Mr. Hurle requested that an election system be put in place to guarantee that only the most respected of keepers gain the position, therefore eradicating any possibility of envy. The idea was that the man who was elected would have the favour of the entire keeping staff and would also be more likely to receive the support of his fellow men.
With Hurle Lodge once more vacant (the 5th time in the space of 2 years), the votes have once more been cast. Jim was a good man, but it would appear that the role of Resident Keeper requires one to be more than simply ‘good’.