Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Living History

(Click on photos to enlarge)

A re-used beam, bolted to an even older re-used beam in our first-floor bathroom(out of sight behind it and covered with plaster). I'd love to know where they came from and whether it was the great hall here . . .

I am very fortunate to live in an very old house, on the site of a very much older one. I have found out some of its history, but much is still hidden. When I was tidying up this week, I found some of the research I had done on the house - at one time it was going to be the topic of my Dissertation for my archaeology degree, but then I decided I would write about the equine iconography of Pictish sculptures instead. Now it will be an illustrated booklet - a copy for us and a copy for the next custodians of this house when we finally move and downsize.

When looking at Parish registers, I found several of the servants from our house (when it was a working farm and farm-servants lived-in) marrying in the locality - one married the blacksmith's lass from just down the bottom of the hill. One of the tenant-farmers here married the tenant-farmer from the ancient farm 3/4 mile away. An orphaned tenant-farmer and her brother farmed here in Victorian times, and on the census I discovered two of her younger siblings were categorized as "idiot". Perhaps that explains the chain catches still on some of our doors - that they had to be locked up for safe keeping when everyone was working on the farm....

People were virtually self-sufficient within our parish - the blacksmith lived at the bottom of the hill, and the miller a bare half a mile away. There was a tailor, a sawyer, a shoemaker, charladies, many labourers, a carpenter, seamstresses, a clockmaker, weavers, a hat maker, farmers and the occasional "gent" of this parish.

Farmers paid steep tithes - 2 pence for every cow; 2 pence for the wool for every score of sheep and 4 pence per hive for the bee/honey tithe.

I don't doubt that there were some good times and bad. Revelries perhaps, when Lady M lived here in the mid 18th century - not long after the house had been "modernised" - I found some incredibly fine glass in the footings of a wall when I was extending a border in the garden recently. As for the older pre-Tudor "great hall", and its inhabitants, spoken of with eloquence by bardic poet Lewis Glyn Cothi, I wonder what it looked like? Did the rafters ring when this house provided High Sheriffs for the town, when prestigious marriages were agreed, or when positions of high office (esquire to the King's body no less) were achieved? So many hundreds of years ago.

There are still some enigmatic reminders of the farmhouse's past. . . the putlogs which were left in place when the house was extended; the date of 1831 carved into a massive beam, showing when the house was re-roofed; the marks on massive beams - either builders' marks or witch marks?

Date-mark from when the house was reroofed.

Part of the mill machinery went through here. There is a corresponding wear-mark in the oak flooring 1 1/2 floors lower.

A putlog from 18thC? or earlier building scaffolds.

We have found other protections against witches over doorways in the house - a cat skull, a child's much-worn and rat-nibbled tackety boot, and a mummified rat.

The old mill pond now has trees growing from it, but we have moved the leat which powered it further away from the house. At one time, all farmhouses by a water source would have a water-powered mill for cutting timber or milling flour. Self-reliance again. What we know as the old cart shed, has a window above it, and a window in the back wall and I believe may well have been the bake house back in the early 18th century. I found the footings of a wall of a building identical in size just above this one, so perhaps that was the brew house? "Finds" are few, as the yard was concreted over back in the 50s and we have concreted (from necessity) over the top of that too. Just a couple of old donkey shoes, the candle sconce from an old piano, and metal bolts and screws from old farm implements.

Well, things change, life goes on. My menfolk are taking advantage of the sunshine and making the bench which matches the Medieval table I pictured a few weeks back. I shall take photos when it's polished up and finished.


Pixiedust said...

I'd love to live in an old house with lots of history. The rat, scull and shoe are great finds. I would have been really excited to find those.

Goosey said...

How amazing to have a house with so much history, a fascinating blog. BW Goosey

Mam said...

Oh, Jennie, call me a lurker, if you will, but I've been enjoying these posts so much without leaving comments. I've been off my blogging habit lately with artistic pursuits really distracting me. I love your house and the site and the history of it and the surrounding area. Thank you so much for sharing this precious stuff.

Bovey Belle said...

I guess living in this house has helped to shape our mindset to a living-in-the-past one! I always enjoy finding out more about this house and the area, and sharing it with friends online. Nancy - don't worry, the long dark evenings will be with us soon enough, and then blogging will probably take over from art again. My crafts generally get made in the autumn/winter.

Josie said...

I'm just blog hopping and stumbled across yours - I love you're posts!

Brings up great memories for me. My grandparents live in a 600 yr old thatched farm house in Devon. they recently converted the old barn into a house and as they pulled the roofing off discovered it had the old rafters still in place - all held together with wooden pegs. I gathered probably 2 dozen of them and brought them back home with me.... we americans have no concept of "old" :)