Eileen Webberâ€™s house at Wheddon Cross used to be the workplace and home of one of the villageâ€™s tailors, the family she married in to. Now mainly a farming family, Webbers of all generations spread across Wheddon Cross and beyond. During my research I have met many of them and they have inspired the Exmoor National Dress.
My unannounced visit (I do a lot of those on Exmoor) interrupts Eileenâ€™s morning baking, but nevertheless I can hardly stop her from getting the Dress on for a try-out in the kitchen. Soon her son Roger joins us, an engaging farmer whoâ€™s much involved in local planning and has just visited my home turf, the Lake District, in that capacity. Like many of the Webber family, he has startling eyes set in his ruddy complexion, and in a gentlemanly way swaps his hay-covered sweater for a smarter pullover. Gamely, he chooses to wear the cape with the â€˜hunting sceneâ€™ print, and gladly poses with his mother in front of the Aga. He then gives me a delightful tour of the house, which retains many signs of its past as a workshop. They still have the â€˜log bookâ€™ in which his tailor grandfather noted down his sales and also his outgoings â€“ not only fabrics but the occasional musical instrument sent down from London.
I make a proposal to Eileen and Roger: when the photographs Iâ€™m taking return to Exmoor for the exhibition, could we put the Exmoor National Dress itself in their front window, the one that used to be the tailorâ€™s shop window? Would they mind a little bit of extra traffic, and people gazing through the window for a few weeks? Eileen is concerned about getting the windows washed beforehand but they both like the idea.
Before I leave Eileen presses two freshly baked rock buns into my hands for the train journey home. Theyâ€™re delicious.