LIFE took a turn for the better when Peter Ponting moved to Cotuit Hall, the Oxford children’s home.

His childhood was traumatic, with his father leaving home, the family evicted and his mother dying from heart problems at the age of 47.

He writes: “This was when my life changed forever and Lady Luck placed me under the wing of Lucy Faithfull, the head of Oxford’s children’s services.

“Aged 11, I found myself transported into a totally different world – to a beautiful mansion called Cotuit Hall, a children’s home in Pullen’s Lane, Headington. “The heads of house were Aunty and Uncle Wright, who ran a tight ship. They believed that not only was cleanliness next to Godliness, but discipline and hard work too.

“But the good things made up for the bad – for the first time in my life, I had my own bed (and didn’t have to share it with others), three square meals a day, clean clothes, new shoes and pyjamas (I didn’t know what they were when they were given to me).

“We also had regular hot baths, a huge garden to play in with a cricket cum football pitch, and a vegetable garden and orchard to help nurture.

“Pocket money of 2s 6d per week was paid on Saturday mornings and within hours, it disappeared into the tills of the St Clement’s shops.

“In my case, it all went to Papel’s model shop, where I bought model aircraft kits – I assembled and flew them on the large lawn at Cotuit Hall.

“Our rich neighbours included the Simoniz family, of wax polish fame, and Mr Shuttleworth, the boss at Pressed Steel, who had a chauffeur-driven Humber Super Snipe and always waved as he passed (like the old gentleman in The Railway Children).

“Across the road were girls of Rye St Anthony boarding school, whose company we sometimes enjoyed (nay, craved!).

“Christmas at Cotuit Hall was very exciting as we were given much by various benefactors, including the Americans at Heyford, who sent a truck full of food and toys, and Smith’s Industries, of Witney, who gave us watches and other fabulous presents. Some of our neighbours were very generous, too.”

It was a sad day when he and his younger brother, Graham, had to leave Cotuit Hall.

But they were able to keep in touch as they moved to foster parents in nearby Harberton Mead.

Mr Ponting, of Leyshon Road, Wheatley, kept in contact with Miss Faithfull for many years. She later became Baroness Faithfull and spoke in many debates on children in the House of Lords.

Cotuit Hall was originally known as Napier House, named after Arthur Napier, Professor of English at Oxford University, who had it built and lived there from 1892 until 1916.

It was sold and became part of Headington School. It was renamed Cotuit Hall and reverted to being a private house. It was Oxford’s children’s home from 1949 to 1955, then became part of Oxford College of Technology, now Oxford Brookes University.

The present owners are EF International Academy, whose plan to turn it into a sixth-form boarding school with more than 400 students has aroused strong opposition.