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Last Updated: Friday, 19 March, 2004, 16:07 GMT
Facing eviction from Gittisham
Villagers fear Gittisham will lose its character

As more than half the households in the Devon village of Gittisham contemplate eviction, BBC News Online talks to one of the families about the future.

Bill and Pauline Griffiths have resigned themselves to leaving their thatched home and the village where they have spent nearly 20 happy years.

On Wednesday, they received one of 28 letters from landlord Richard Marker terminating their tenancy on 23 June.

"It was a total shock," said Mr Griffiths, 49, who repairs ancient buildings.

"And it's really sad - this is where I've lived for 17 years and my two children have grown up here.

"I rang bells at the church and I've even got my name on the same church bell as Richard Marker because we fund-raised for two new bells."

Even the people who own their properties in the village are devastated because the community will die
Bill Griffiths

The Griffiths have the option of buying their rented cottage but it's too expensive so they have been forced to look elsewhere.

"We haven't found anything yet. We won't find anything in the village but even getting something in the surrounding area will be hard.

"It will be very, very difficult, especially with 27 other families looking for somewhere to rent as well."

The family will also miss the garden, which Mr Griffiths said is kept immaculately and resembles a typical English cottage garden.

Ben Griffiths, 18, and his brother Robin, 16, who attends school locally, have spent their whole lives in Gittisham.

'End of an era'

"My two boys are pretty fed up and a bit scared. Some people in the village have been angry but mostly there has been sadness.

"It's the end of an era and even the people who own their properties in the village are devastated because the community will die."

He fears the properties will be bought by Londoners as holiday homes because that has happened elsewhere.

Such a move could spell the end for what he loves most about the village - its community spirit.

The man responsible for these fears, Mr Marker, has said he hopes tenants can buy their homes and if not they should speak to him.

Mr Griffiths said he had never hinted about his intentions and had always been an ideal landlord who took part in village events and mixed well with people.

If the prince had ever been here, he would have fallen in love with it
Bill Griffiths
Looking ahead to a press conference with Mr Marker due later on Friday, he said: "I'll ask him, does he not think his privileges come with responsibility?

"I don't think we can talk him round, but who knows?"

Prince Charles is often quoted in the papers as describing Gittisham as the "ideal English village".

Remarkably, Mr Griffiths claimed that the prince had never been there and the remarks were actually made about Dittisham in south Devon.

When contacted by BBC News Online, neither St James's Palace or the tourist services at South Hams District Council could clarify if that was the case.

But the confusion makes no difference to Mr Griffiths, who said: "If the prince had ever been here, he would have fallen in love with it. It's far nicer than Dittisham."

Villagers facing mass evictions
19 Mar 04  |  Devon

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