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Alison Jackson heard at a dinner party that her childhood staple had been sold…


BAFTA-winning artist Alison Jackson was at a fancy dinner party in London when she accidentally discovered her family’s beautiful and beloved mansion, bequeathed to her older brother.

“I only found out because the person next to me told me to drive to Gloucestershire after dinner. When I asked where to, he mentioned the name of the house and I said, ‘Oh, that’s funny. That’s my childhood home you’re driving to.’

“He said, ‘No, not anymore, it isn’t. It’s mine.” He just bought it.’ She looks, and maybe, really bewildered.

Alison, 61, is the feisty photographer who both shocks and amuses with her hilarious parody of the rich and famous, such as lookalike Meghan Markle wrestling a fake Duchess of Cambridge by her hair on the floor. But for her, this – the sale of her childhood home – is more than a parody.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “I still can’t do it, but I had to keep putting on a pretty normal face. I was at a real dinner party, so I couldn’t scream.

“You would think there would have been a call from my family, but no. Nothing. Instead, I found out from the person who bought the house.’

Alison’s horribly large family home, Poulton Priory, once the site of an 11th-century Gloucestershire monastery that sold for £11.5 million six years ago, was part of an impressive 3,000-acre estate of ‘many houses’. She thinks the huge piece her brother didn’t sell is worth “many tens of millions” today.

Poulton Priory in Cirencester, Gloucestershire. Alison Jackson was at a fancy dinner party in London when she discovered, quite by accident, that her childhood home had been sold

Her father, the eccentric, Bentley-loving landowner George Hulbert Mowbray-Jackson, bought it in 1972 after being awarded £5.6 million in a forced purchase order for his Georgian estate in Hampshire. [the then government wanted to build the M27 through his parkland].

From age 12, Alison recalls ‘an army of gardeners, people to do the tennis court, another army of people to do the horses’ [her mother Catherine was a horsewoman], people to maintain the gas pump [her motor-enthusiast father’s indulgence]. There were also squash courts, a swimming pool and a vegetable garden with ‘delicious’ muscat grapes, nectarines and apples.

“My father was constantly building ponds, so there were all these ornamental ducks—two, three hundred—and geese, guinea fowl. You would go up the driveway and there would be peacocks everywhere. And horses. My mother had about eight dogs and ten horses.’

She swells up like one of those peacocks and laughs in a thoroughly “life-was-such-a-lark” kind of way.

Alison learned to drive at Poulton (“although my first car was an Austin from England when I was nine”), drove there (“I went hunting and had pictures of me on a donkey when I was two”), and celebrated her 18th birthday there (“Daddy would always claim my friends and end up getting them drunk and having a raw time”). She thought this “fantastic, wonderful” life would never end.

Pictured: Famous spoof photographer Alison Jackson

Pictured: Famous spoof photographer Alison Jackson

But her father, a “larger than life” character who was “king of his castle,” left the fate to her only sibling, Julian. “Because he was a boy,” she says. “My father really believed this was the right thing to do. I don’t want to diss him.

“Victorian values ​​have shaped his character. He felt that children should be seen and not heard, in discipline and served formal meals by staff. I’ve learned to sit up straight or I’ll get a fork in my back.

“Everything had to be done right, but I loved my father.” She stops. Looking at me with eyes accentuated by Kohl. ‘I could have had one field, couldn’t I – just one field?

“I don’t want to use horrible words like mean, but it’s unfair and it shouldn’t be happening. There should be more facilities for women in the times we are in. Point. But it never really dawned on me that I wouldn’t have that wonderful, wonderful time all my life, because when you’re in it, you think it just goes on.”

Her charmed life ended with her mother’s death in 2001. Catherine, a former debutante who suffered a terrible driving accident at age 59 that left her in a wheelchair, had outlived her husband, who died in 1992, by nine years.

So Alison continued to spend ‘fantastic’ weekends with her mother at Poulton Priory, close to where her brother, two years older and now a widower, lived on the estate’s farm with his only son.

“I was in the hospital with my mother when she died in 2001. The undertaker said, “Get something to put in her coffin. That is the tradition.” I thought, “Okay, I’ll take a little bit of dog fur — she loved the dogs — or a little bit of horse mane or tail.”

“So I got in the car and drove to the family home to get something. But let’s just say I couldn’t get into the house. My mother wanted her ashes scattered in the rose garden, so I did too—alone.’

Alison says she and Julian had some strong words that day. She is still furious and feels like she is out in the cold when it comes to the home she once loved.

“I remember yelling at him because I was so angry. But yelling doesn’t change anything. Men get everything and women get nothing. That’s ridiculous these days. I think that was the last time I spoke to my brother.’

Pictured: Julian Jackson, brother of photographer Alison Jackson.  Julian is the Managing Director of the Priory Estate in Poulton, Cirencester.  He sold the family home after inheriting it from his and Alison's parents

Pictured: Julian Jackson, brother of photographer Alison Jackson. Julian is the Managing Director of the Priory Estate in Poulton, Cirencester. He sold the family home after inheriting it from his and Alison’s parents

Alison is actually the kind of person who, I suspect, has enough energy to form a collective and resolve Boris Johnson’s concerns about carbon emissions. She pushed herself through art school to become the respected artist she is today.

But she remains angry that women are still lesser citizens when it comes to the attitude of the landed gentry.

‘I had a nice life in London/the countryside thinking I was part of Gloucestershire and then suddenly my life changed dramatically. No more riding, no more going to the countryside, no more going to the house, the estate – everything changed.

‘It’s cruel. For me, when I look at this, my brother was completely within his rights because everything was left to him. But does that make it okay?’ She sighs.

“People always think I’ve had a fight with my brother, but I’m not. I just never had a relationship with him.

“It’s like one of those old-fashioned novels where people are just written out of the script.

‘But I won’t be. This thing propelled me into a world of freedom and individuality that not all people enjoy.’

Alison’s story is not one of bitterness, but one of inspiration. However, I’m not so sure if, like a piece of romantic fiction, it has a long and happy life. She never married, never had children and recently separated from a friend of ten years.

She tells me: ‘Hey [a fellow artist] used to argue with me about my job and career. It was just a nightmare.

“If I talked too much or said the wrong things, it would always be an argument and that’s what drives us apart.”

Pictured: Alison Jackson (center) with her parents Catherine and George

Pictured: Alison Jackson (center) with her parents Catherine and George

Alison’s father was also a man in charge. She tells me that the family home was “all his, his house.” He took up every space.

‘I had to be seen and not heard. I remember some ghost friends who used to joke and say he used to yell, “Alison, get another bottle of champagne from the cellar” and so I walked away and grabbed another bottle, but the point is… I kept really his.’

Her father, due to the sad passing of numerous male heirs, was the heir to the vast Hulbert fortune.

His mother checked the wallet, so rarely let it out of her sight. But somehow he managed to arrange a passage on a trip to South Africa, where Alison’s extraordinarily beautiful mother was located. They fell in love.

When she broke her neck in a horse riding accident and spent 18 months in hospital in 1989, he collapsed.

“I think it was so hard for him to see my beautiful mother – a six-foot Amazon who looked like Ingrid Bergman – destroyed or half-destroyed by this accident.

“She was on a ventilator for 18 months and, according to the doctors, should not have lived.

“She was my father’s rock, so it just sent him into a total meltdown. He absolutely hated it. I hated that she was in a wheelchair.

“All the worst things you don’t want to hear came from my father’s mouth. I hated him for it at the time. On reflection, I feel terribly sad that I did not fully understand his position as I think it was devastating to him. It would be for everyone, but my father was a very emotional man and I really don’t think he could handle it at all.”

Her father suffered a fatal heart attack three years after his wife’s accident. Alison worked in London and says she doesn’t remember much about it.

Friends of the family said she sobbed for three days, unable to move. She didn’t see his will.

‘Why would I?’ she asks, “I wasn’t there.” In addition, the estate had already been placed in a trust to avoid inheritance taxes. Alison and her brother – who were approached by the Mail for comment – continue to benefit from a separate trust set up for them in 1972.

“The counselors were just old men,” she says. ‘What do they call that? Masculine, pale and musty.’

Pictured: The Queen sings with Elton John in one of Alison's spoof images

Pictured: The Queen sings with Elton John in one of Alison’s spoof images

She pauses. thinks. “Look, I don’t want to sound like a whiny thing. I wouldn’t trade my parents for anything or anyone else. I understood that the only way I could be anyone—other than a woman held by her husband—was not to change them, but to change myself.

“So after my thirties I studied for ten years — evening classes, short courses, a BA and MA, all in Kensington and Chelsea.

“If I hadn’t had that training, I think I would have absolutely shriveled up and died. But I’ve been fighting in a man’s world all my life, that’s why I’m talking about it now.

“You have to remember that I needed to be seen and not heard, so I really didn’t speak. I was stupid until I was 16. When you don’t speak, all you do is observe.

“What happened is cruel. It is wrong and it should not exist in the world we live in today. I can whine and cry and say I’m hurt, but it doesn’t matter. It’s just wrong.


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