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ARCHIVE NEWS

3 APRIL 2001

Building survey

The Yorkshire Vernacular Buildings Study Group is near to completing its survey of the building. A draft report is due shortly. The survey started about 18 months ago and has been extended each time new finds have come to light. 

Recent finds

Since the last visit of the YVBSG we have opened up an entrance into the long demolished rear bay of the West wing. We discovered the evidence of the entrance about six months ago and a knowledgeable conservation officer from Kirklees MBC advised us not to disturb what looked like stone flags lining one side of the entrance.

On the left side of the entrance is one of the main posts of the timber frame. On the right is the end of a stone wall forming part of the snug, the end of which is lined with stone flags. Above is one of the main beams of the wing with holes in the underside for studding. In front is the present outside wall. About a foot below we found the remains of what looks like an earlier floor.

During the removal of the rubble immediately behind the infill  we found a number of small artefacts, mainly clay and straw daub, painted plaster, broken glass and pottery. We also a found a void running between the outside and the snug walls. 

The interesting aspect of this void is that the back of the snug wall is lined with clay and straw daub covered with plaster, which is painted brown.

The void is narrow, but a couple of weeks ago an agile structural engineer squeezed in far enough to see  a fireplace and flue in the back of the snug wall. We still have to confirm this find. Whether it is correct or not, the presence of the plastered wall is sufficient evidence to show a room to the North existed at one time.

Carpenters' marks

The Hall  has an abundance of carpenter's marks, but we have not yet identified one particular symbol. Where it appears it does not relate to joints in the frame and in a number places is on top of beams and the underside of large planks forming an old floor.

The symbol is a vertical line with the rough shape of an "M" on its side zig- zagging across it. Initially we found four in an upper room with three on the ceiling of the floor below. Following cleaning of wood we found another four in the upper room and one nearby.

One idea is they are medieval "witch" marks designed to protect the house from evil. Another is the symbol makes out a stylised "AMV" which may stand for "Ave Maria Verum".

Suggestions will be most welcome.

30 MAY 2001

Easter opening

We had 110 visitors over the weekend. The article written by the Huddersfield Examiner was a great help in publicising the opening.

Since Easter, we've had pleasure in welcoming a group from Oakwell Hall Museum.

Work to the kitchen

We have bitten the bullet and decided we shall move the sink unit from the back hall to the kitchen sometime in June. It is one of those messy and disruptive jobs that we can find plenty of excuses not to do. Once we have committed ourselves it will get done quickly

Proposed Listed Building Applications

Shortly we shall submit LBCs applications for a number of items of exploratory work in the drawing room, dining room and small bedroom.

Update of earlier items

More items have come out of the void behind the snug wall. Two more loom weights, a number of animal bones, plenty of glass, pottery and coal, and one clay "marble".  More debris needs to come of the void and then we can decide what to do with hole!

Courtyard

The inner courtyard at Woodsome Hall gave us inspiration and we intend to make the back of the Hall more private. Thirty odd years ago the garden walls along the West side of the house were much higher and what remains has deteriorated. We have started rebuilding these with proper foundations and better quality stone. The result will be an enclosed area with flag stones and, we hope, a fountain.

We also intend to take down the greenhouse attached to the garage at the end of the year and rebuild the wall along the lane to the rear gate and then to the back of the garage. This will improve the privacy and remove a 1970s structure which is out of place.

2 August 2001

Another blocked up doorway

The re-positioning of the pine cupboards at the right of the kitchen chimney revealed a blocked doorway with a three part wooden lintel and lining stones on the left side - similar to the one found in the snug. This doorway would have gone into the drawing room. The 1884 architect's plan showed a doorway in this position, but we thought it was a proposal that was not carried out.

The plan also showed a cellar under the back hall and as there is no sign of it we thought this was another area of work not done. Maybe it is there after all. The back hall will be the last room we renovate and will involve the removal of the concrete floor - who knows what we'll find?

Alterations

With the re-wiring just about finished the plastering has started.. The kitchen has a temporary sink pending the completion of the design for the new units. At long last we have removed the old sink unit from the back hall.

We discovered a few more carpenter's marks - all in the right position. A wall plate in the main bedroom is covered with a nasty sticky black paint and under this we found a number of marks and symbols that we cannot identify. We aim to clean off the paint shortly.

In the kitchen wall we found a bracket of levers for an old bell system. Earlier, in an adjoining wall we had found thin wires, which must have some connection to the bracket.

The plasterer has finished for the time being, until we make more progress. He has finished the kitchen, most of the snug and the a couple of bedrooms.

Survey report

The Yorkshire Vernacular Buildings Snug Group published an initial report on the Hall in issue 29 of its journal, Yorkshire Buildings. Copies cost 4 plus 75 pence postage from Lorraine Moor, 102, Queen Victoria Street, South Bank, York YO23 1HN. The Group's Website is at http://www.yvbsg.org.uk.

23 September 2001

An important visitor

We had a visit today from Miss Kathleen Milnes and members of her family. Miss Milnes was born at Longley Hall in 1908, where her father was the coachman and her mother a cook. She can remember her father changing from horse drawn carriage to car. Also, she recalls seeing Sir John Frechville Ramsden riding his horse. She lived there until about 1914.

Miss Milnes  came to the Old Hall on a summers day in 1913 or 1914 when her mother helped in the kitchen at a wedding meal. She remembers her mother telling her not to mix with the guests and was banished to  corners outside the dining room window and to a bench on the right of the kitchen fireplace. 

This solves one small matter that had tickled our consciences. There was some speculation that the cupboard we moved recently from the right of the fireplace dated from the early 19th C. As Miss Milnes sat on a bench there 1913, clearly the cupboard is modern.

She can't recall the names of the bride and groom, but we shall do some research. We have a photograph of the drawing room, most probably taken during WW1 and this shows photographs of an army officer and a nurse. There is a memorial stone in St Mary's Church, Longley, to the son of the estate manager, who died at Gallipoli. The marriage must have been of someone close to the Ramsdens' for staff from the "big house" to help at the wedding.

Later note. The husband was a member of the Lister textile family from Bradford, and the wife lived in a on Somerset Road.

9 March 2002

Garden

Oh dear! I am afraid our ambition and enthusiasm (with a little touch of the weather) outweighed the practicalities of planning the knot garden this year. We have made little progress, apart from reading a host of books on designing and building. We know most of the plants we need and have found a grower, just a few miles away, who can provide many of them, so that is a bit of forward movement.

However, in the next week or two we shall receive 150 hawthorn, blackthorn and hazel saplings for planting along the Northern and Wood Lane boundaries. These will form part of a traditional hedge and we shall add holly, elder and other hedgerow plants that have self seeded in the wood.

Kitchen

We received the first practical designs for the new kitchen today. They are still at an early stage, but have the style of what we are looking for.

Survey

David Cant of the Yorkshire Vernacular Buildings Study Group paid us a visit a few weeks ago to do some more of the survey. He showed us some preliminary sketches of what the Hall may have looked like at the height of its timber framing. The building does not give up its secrets easily and the list of questions grows at each visit.

Listed building application

Last year we applied for permission for the following work:

1    Removal of the bricks surrounding the dining room fireplace and exploring underneath. Those of you who have seen the fireplace will know how inappropriate it is

2    Removal of the back of the drawing room fireplace to examine whether an earlier one remains underneath, and to improve the draught

3    Removal of plaster from the drawing room wall to expose possible timber framing

4    Take down the painted panels and examine them to try and establish their age.

5    Take down laths in the kitchen chamber

6    Remove external cement pointing and replace with lime mortar

7    Replace the chimney pots removed in the 1970s

8    Remove the Baxi fireplace in the upper floor of the West wing to explore the earlier fireplace

We are preparing the details of methodology for the Planning Services Department and hope to have final permission to start work in a few weeks, subject to the conditions imposed.

Peter Thornborrow, of the West Yorkshire Archaeological Service reported on the application. He made an interesting comment about the painted panels in the drawing room. He pointed out they are the top frieze of an oak panelled wall and it is likely they date from the mid to late 16th C. Similar panels appear at Woodsome and Fenay Halls. We believed the panels were old because the quotation is from the pre-King James' version of the Bible and this new information has increased our respect for them  

30 April 2002

Listed building applications

We received consent for the restoration and exploration work and hope to have the house in some sort of order in time for the Golden Jubilee weekend.

Drawing room

The painted panels have come down and we will fix in another part of the house. They are in good condition and will need only superficial cleaning. The moulding on the top of frame shows evidence of it having been fitted against an uneven wall rather than the plastered wall in the drawing room; so maybe it was in a different position originally.

Exploratory work under the plaster did not reveal the expected beam in the west wall - quite a disappointment! However, the oak post is there to the right of the panels, although it has suffered from rather crude hacking, presumably to enable the fitting of the wall panelling in the room. An oak lintel came to light to the left of the chimney and this seems to correspond with a lintel in the kitchen wall.

We shall spend this weekend removing old plaster. We may be able to save some, but a great deal of it is loose or decayed. The plasterer will start work on Wednesday using traditional lime based plaster with hair.

The back of the fire place should be opened up in a week or so.

Snug

The hole in the wall is almost no more. We shall fit an opening to show the void and the beams.

Lady Guendolen Ramsden

We have had the good fortune to purchase a copy of Guendolen Ramsden's Birthday Book, published around 1895. Lady Guendolen was a daughter of the Duke of Somerset (hence Somerset Road and the Somerset Hotel) and married Sir John William Ramsden.

20 May 2002

Drawing room

We put up with two weeks of dust and mess resulting from the removal of the plaster and then re-plastering. As we know from experience the dust drifts throughout the house and some rooms and furniture  still have a film on them.

The disappointment of not finding substantial timber framing in the  room was compensated for other things revealed when the plaster came off. We knew of blocked doorways into the room from the kitchen and the back hall and a third came to light in the SE corner going into the front hall. The two long walls have a number of oak "stretchers" built into them, the purpose of which we have not identified;   they must have some constructional importance, but what?

A lintel above the salt box runs behind the chimney breast, which gives a clue that it came first. This is borne out by the mortar around the box being of the same consistency and look as that in the front wall, possibly indicating the box dates from the building of the stone structure. This lintel has a number of flame burns on it, which means it had an upright position at one time with a candle holder fitted lower down.

We managed to remove a small piece of mortar from by the salt box to try and test the theory of a hiding hole being in the wall. It was not enough to look in, but a thin stick went in for two feet before stopping. We'll let someone else make the discovery.

The chimney had some major alterations in the 19th century, most probably when the fireplace was put into the bedroom above. We have deferred the replacement of the fireplace in the drawing room until we have examined the structural implications of moving it.

The painted panels have come down. An expert examined them and said the method of construction is consistent with the late 16th and early 17th centuries. We have some doubt about whether the lettering is contemporary and will do more research. As a condition of the LBC, we shall refix the panels in another part of the building.

David Cant of the YVBSG took the opportunity to continue his survey of the building.

The Woodd family of New Zealand

A couple of months ago I received an e-mail from Bruce and Ann Woodd of Winton, who are researching their ancestors at Longley. Carol, Bruce's mother, then sent me a family tree of the Woods of Longley, and other parts of Yorkshire. The papers contained information I hadn't seen before, eg the Robert del Wodde who died in 1342 had the alias of Robert de Bosco.

Ann and Bruce plan to come to the UK in June or July and I hope we shall have the chance to swap information.

13 July 2002

Today we had a visit from about 50 members of the Regional Furniture Society. Fortunately they came in two parties, otherwise it would have been a bit of a crush. 

19 July 2002

 Ann and Bruce Woodd visited us today. Pat Dyson, the local historian, came to give details of their ancestors' history at Longley. Ann came across this web site  whilst searching for information about the Woods' of Longley. I suspect her surprise on finding it was equal to mine when I received her e-mail!

7 September 2002

There was a surprising post script to the visit of Ann and Bruce Woodd. When they returned to New Zealand Ann sent an e-mail to say they had met her family in Mexborough and her cousin had married a John Ramsden who is a descendent of the Longley family! It has taken a visit from New Zealand and a gap of 450 years to link the two families again!

October 2003

New leaded lights fitted in the reception room by Heritage Glass of Sowerby Bridge

6 December 2002

Filming at the hall for a Channel 4 programme in the New Year

March 2003

16 March - The Sunday Times had a feature about the hall

24 March - The BBC Look North programme broadcast a feature on the hall

September 2003

After a few false starts we started preparing the front garden for the Tudor knot based on the one the at The Tudor House Museum in Southampton. We wish to thank Dr Sylvia Lansberg, the designer, and the Cultural Services Department of the City Council for their consent for us to use the design.

The first task was to set out design on the lawn, which ended up covered in yellow and red spray paint in a passing likeness to Dr. Lansberg's design. Having established that our school days geometry was only a bit rusty the next task was to take up the lawn and do the design again for real. We expected this to be an tiring job in levelling the ground  because the south west corner is some 2 feet below the north west corner. 

This was not the only problem. We found bedrock 12 inches under the turf. Not only that, but a round opening 6 feet in diameter cut into the rock. We thought we had found a well, but after digging it out we found a rock bottom 3 feet down. Archaeologists didn't know what it is so we recorded it and started filling it in.

This incident delayed the preparation of the ground and we have delayed the initial plant order until the spring. It's just as well as the ground is dead and we need the  time for preparation.

November 2003

The ground preparation for the knot was disturbed yet again, this time due finding old pottery. It seems part of the ground was used as a tip during alteration work in the 19th C. We found pieces 17th C slipware from the Potovens area of Wrenthorpe, near Wakefield. Nearer home, we found 14th C pottery from the Upper Heaton kilns at Huddersfield.

John Hudson, the pottery expert from Mirfield has re-produced the Potovens ware and we hope to have copies on sale later this year.

December 2003

Somewhat to our surprise we found out the Hall is included in Simon Jenkins' new book "England's Thousand Best Houses", and rated with two stars.

A visitor asked if we had found the window hidden in the SW wall of the solar. Her memory was it was called a "telescope window" because it was wide on the inside and narrow on the outside. It does not show on the outside wall and may take a bit of finding. I have not heard the expression - can anyone provide information please?

February 2004

There is no let up to the delays in the work on the knot! We have found another large clay filled pit cut into the bedrock. It is bigger than the first and its purpose is just as obscure. However, some good news - we have started digging out some of the paths.

April 2004

The outline of the knot garden has started to take shape with the laying of some of the wooden borders for the beds. Even this was held up by archaeology as I found two more pits cut into the bedrock. As I am still digging out the second one I marked the position of them and moved on!

One clue of the purpose of the pits may have come to light. They are filled with clay and I found an adjoining field called Kilncroft on the 1634 estate plan. This may indicate the pits were used to settle clay.

We have received listed building consent for the demolition of the greenhouse and for the building of a new wall and gate for the rear entrance

July 2004

Barrel staves found under plaster some years ago in the kitchen chamber have been identified as beech and pine. The former, with antiquated numbers scratched onto them, may be medieval. One pine stave has a "broad arrow" mark, similar to those found on the Mary Rose  and may indicate Crown property.

Kitchen

The kitchen is now just about complete. The new stove was installed in mid-month.

Morning room

The horrible brick facade to the fireplace in the dining room has been taken off to reveal the lintel we knew about and to our surprise another one about a foot higher up. At some point the opening was made smaller, maybe to make it more efficient. We need to consider the implications before deciding on the replacement surround

Garden

The final levelling for the knot is taking place. Further pieces of pottery have come to light. We have now found five pits cut in the bedrock, all about 2' 6" deep and of varying circumferences. All were full of clay and few artefacts. The Inquisition report of 1584 makes reference to a field at Longley call "Kilnfold" and this may give a tenuous clue to the purpose of the pits.

Archaeological building survey

The long awaited survey report by the Yorkshire Vernacular Buildings Study Group is receiving final review

August 2004

At last, we have demolished the old greenhouse at the back of the house. It leaves a bit of a scar, but it means we can start planning the building of the new wall and the gateposts.

The heavy rain has delayed the knot garden again. If the weather improves there is still time for the first plants to go in in October.

October 2004

We managed to plant the cotton lavender and box in the knot before the weather turned again. The nursery had difficulty getting the winter savoury and wall germander and we shall have to plant these in late February or early March. It's not the best time for planting and we shall have to hope the conditions are favourable.

January 2005

The first meeting took place of the Friends of Longley Wood. This is a group dedicated to improving the appearance and access to this important woodland that stretches from half a mile from the centre of Huddersfield to the boundary of the old hall.

February 2005

We have found a suitable style for the new fireplace in the dining room. We have permission to base it on a fireplace in the tower at Sizergh Castle. The technical drawings are under way.

July 2005

John Wood (not related to our John Wood as far as I know) of structural engineers John Newton & Partners may have solved the mystery of the differing levels on the ground floor. He thinks the front doorway has been heightened by lowering the ground level both inside and outside the house. This left the front rooms about 9 inches lower the ones at the back. This work left the foundations exposed at the front, hence the rough stone work visible outside. Also, the work would have destroyed evidence of earlier gardens.

August 2005

The drawings of the proposed fireplace in the dining room went to Kirklees MC for approval. No response yet

September 

Most of the new wall at the rear of the house is complete and the new gates are in place. We have to agree the shape of the gatepost finials with the planners.

October 2005

At long last we have finished the second phase of window repair and replacement. John Dean of Castleford carried out the work and should start on the next phase in January.

January 2006

A further phase of the window refurbishment has taken place, and we hope all the work will be completed by the end of April.
We had a visit from a planning officer who gave us useful advice on work we should like to do to the rear hall and dining room. We are still waiting for approval of the design of the dining room fireplace, and the toppers and finials for the new wall and gateposts.

February 2006

The delivery of gravel this month brings the total used for the paths and courtyard to 100 tons in the past two years. Where has it all gone? And we have not started on the top covering yet!

Our explanation of delays in completing the knot garden has invariably been put down to the weather, and we fall back on it once again. Whilst we managed to put in some of the metal borders last year most remain weathering by the stables. A large part of the knot area has clay soil and we shall have to wait for it to get dryer before going much further. However, this will not stop us planting the outer beds and we shall place an order by the end of the month with the hope of completing the planting by the end of March.

May 2006

We visited three of the gardens designed by Dr Sylvia Landsberg. These were the medieval garden at Winchester Castle, Bayleaf at the Weald and Downland Museum near Goodwood, and the Tudor House Museum at Southampton. We have a particular interest in the latter as we have based our front garden on it.

June 2006

The long awaited fountain for the front garden arrived. The next job is to dig a sump for the water tank and get the pump and electrics sorted out. We have decided to put it near the front door, outside the dining room window. 

We are having difficulty in finding the remaining plants we want for the 16th garden. We have found the more common ones and will have to look for specialist nurseries.

July 2006

The fountain is installed and working. Digging the sump involved cutting through an foot and half of bedrock. We had to use shear legs to lift the bowl on to the pedestal. The water trickles over the rim and runs down the bowl and pedestal into the tank. We saw the feature at the Tatton Park Flower Show last year and thought it was appropriate for the period we wanted.

August 2006

We have found two nurseries that specialise in old varieties of plants -Green Garden Herbs at Carlton, near Selby, and Mires Beck Nursery at North Cave in the East Riding. We found plenty of the missing plants and spent many days working out the positions and planting them. But, the borders still look quite empty.

After some months wondering where we would find the heraldic beasts for to go in the front garden we met Norman Walsh. He has carved two beautiful figures of the supporters of the Tudor arms - a lion and a dragon. These have now been painted gold and red respectively and will appear on painted poles  in area of the knot garden.

Work has started on the triangular area of the garden behind the knot, and a great deal of levelling has taken place. If all goes well work should start on the dry stone retaining walls in the next couple of weeks.

January 2007

We hope the last big dirty job is underway. We have taken up the floors in the back and front halls and to our surprise found the modern concrete went to a depth of about a foot in parts. The task was not made easy by coming across wiring for redundant under-floor heating zig-zagging three or four inches deep. The dust is still settling four weeks after. The amount of effort we put into the work made us indifferent to the possibility of finding the cellar marked on the architect's plan of 1884, and we were delighted when we hit the bedrock and found no trace of it. 

By good fortune in the front hall we found the foot of the newel post going to the half landing was resting on bedrock and had rotted for about three inches below the floor level. This meant the stair case was in danger of shifting or collapsing. We have built a low pad to support the post and put a layer of DPC between this and the bottom of the post.

Taking up the floor in the rear hall allowed us to lay central heating pipes here and in the lavatory and for the first time this area is now warm. In the front hall we have taken out the horribly inefficient skirting radiators and fitted a plinth heater under the staircase; this allows us more space and greater warmth.

February 2007

The most significant change to the front and back halls come with the laying of flagstones, which should be finished by the end of the month. Taking up the green carpet made us realise how threadbare and inappropriate it was.

The quiet period allows us to do many jobs that we have put off from last year, spring cleaning and painting being the main ones. The coping stones and ball finials for the rear wall should arrive from the quarry in a few weeks, and the dry stone walling is finished for the moment in the front garden, and work has started on the retaining wall by the main parking area. The wet weather over the past two months has made the soil unmanageable, so we have done little work to finish the borders in the knot garden.   

April 2007

We stopped for lunch at The Bridge Inn at Ripponden and by chance saw an advert for Brian Brook, a stone mason specialising in fireplaces. His showroom was close by so we called in to see his work.

May 2007

After many years of waiting we now have a new fireplace in the dining room. Brian Brook used drawings based on a fireplace at Sizergh Castle.

June 2007

The coping stones for the rear wall arrived from the quarry and are now in place

July 2007

Heavy rain has battered the plants in the knot and even trimming has not improved their appearance.

The ball finials are now in place on the rear gate posts.

November 2007

The old house still has the capacity to produce surprises. Whilst removing wallpaper from the wall of the NE chamber we found a number of hollow areas in the plaster. We had thought this room was rebuilt in Victorian times and we were delighted to find lime hair plaster under a skim of later of work. As the hollow areas the plaster had deteriorated due to water problems many years ago, we chipped some of it away and found an oak window lintel made from what looked like part of a wall plate. Underneath we made out the stone infill that must have been made in the 19th C. Much of the old plaster is in poor condition and will have to come off the walls, but we'll keep as much as we can. Due to the expected mess further exploration will have to wait until the New Year.

January and February 2008

We keep saying "This will be the last dirty job". We hope the renovation work to the NE chamber is the last time we have to use the expression. The work proved more messy and more prolonged than we expected - one of the joys of living in an old house! A long term overflow in a valley gutter had rotted a couple of joists in the NE corner and these and part of the ceiling needed replacing. The dampness had weakened plaster on the walls in the corner and more needed replacing than we had thought. By pouring a slurry of lime plaster behind the damage material we were able to keep much of the old plaster in place.

Removing gloss paint from some areas proved to be another challenge and a cause of delay and frustration. We also had to tackle the awful black gunge that had been smeared on a pine beam and an ancient oak window lintel; the result is not brilliant, but at least we managed to reveal the grain of the wood. The old lintel we found in November had not suffered the same fate as it had been covered by plaster.

All that remains now is to paint the room. We found an attractive tint in lime wash on one of the walls and will try and replicate it.

March and April 2008

After finding the water damage in the NE chamber we had the roofs of the hall and stables examined. It was just as well, for much of the lead in the valley gutters at the hall needed replacing (according to the roofers lead had tripled in price in a year!) and we found a leak in the stable roof. All the work is finished.

We have had a major sorting out in the barn, into which we have stored all sorts of odd bits over the years. A great deal went into a large skip. Tucked away in the eaves of the hay loft we discovered a number of ancient oak floor boards, which we shall put to good use. Also pine floor boards, numerous pine joists and two "Road Closed" signs came to light from under the cobwebs and filth. We need to do a bit of re-wiring and will paint the downstairs walls and ceiling.

A perennial excuse for not tackling the garden is the state of the weather. We have made a few attempts to tidy it, but as we write snow is falling and we are destined to have another weekend indoors.

May 2008

Oh dear! One of the main drains from the house to the sewer became blocked and we had a few days of The Big Stink! It seemed the blockage had built up over a few weeks and eventually we decided to locate the smell. Clearing the drains was not too much of a problem, but we do caution anyone using a high pressure hose to take precautions to guard against the result of the back spray of the water!

June 2008

We had a lovely group of children from the Lowerhouses J & I school for a visit to the garden and a short talk on local history. We didn't plan an agenda, which was just as well for they set their own after the first few minutes of shyness had passed. The most important questions we were asked were:

    May we play with the gravel?
    Are you married or do you live together?
    How much did you pay for the house?

July 2008

After much consideration we bit the bullet and cleared out the ground floor of the barn. The staircase to the loft was positioned in the centre and we have removed this and installed a new one in an end bay. The extra space inspired us to carry on with the cleaning and during the month we cleared the cobwebs and remaining detritus and painted the walls and ceiling. Chairs and tables now provide a covered area for displays, refreshments and talks. 

August 2008

The new plaster in the back part of the former cross passage (the downstairs lavatory) is now drying  and the new boards on the ceiling have covered up the oak floor joists once again. Archaeologists believe this room contains timber dating to the late 14th C. We hope to have the room fettled and painted by the end of the month.

We always seem to moan about the weather delaying work on the Elizabethan garden. Well, it has happened again. The rain at the beginning of the month made a real mess of some plants in the knot so we shall be out snipping to try and re-establish some structure.

We had a visit from an assessor of the National Garden Scheme. We failed the test as the garden is still under development and is not mature enough. Unofficially we were advised to learn to love the garden as much as we do the house - that was good advice.

September 2008

We seem to have spent the month laying white gravel over the hardcore. The effort was worth it as it reflects light and made the paths more attractive.

The garden opens for Heritage Open Days and we always get one or two eccentric visitors - this year was no exception. The woman in question was a knowledgeable plant person and she added to our knowledge of the use of the plants; here are a few examples:
        She found an ointment made from the leaves of pot marigolds eased the soreness of her nipples whilst breast feeding~
        The "pint" in cuckoo pint (lords and ladies) comes from the Latin for penis
        She identified nipplewort from the shape of its flowers

The mother of a 10 year girl in the group must have wondered what she would set her eyes on next!

After clearing away tangled bushes of philadelphus, I planted a bank in the wood with wild heather.

November 2008

The two 18th C weavers' cottages at the end of the lane have changed hands and we hope the long needed restoration has started. We had thought of bidding for them, but the idea of starting a big new project put us off. The new owner employed a dry stone waller to rebuild the wall on the lane and he made an excellent job of the work. As a result we have now used him to build a 20 feet long wall in the wood as part of our plan to make it more accessible.

December 2008

Some years ago we visited a garden at the Dower House at Morville Hall, Bridgnorth, Shropshire. The garden was created by Dr Katherine Swift and earlier this year she published her book "The Morville Hours" in which she describes her experiences over the 15 years the task took. The book contains a great amount of other detail and comes with our recommendation as a good and interesting read.

The work on the new wall in the wood has finished. We hope to receive some inspiration that will guide us to the next phase. A number of oak saplings have appeared in the last few years and we have thought of removing the ageing sycamore trees in the next few years and allow the oak to grow with established beech trees.

Thinking back over the year we have not seen any blackcaps and goldfinches and few nuthatches. Greater spotted woodpeckers have appeared on the feeders a few times, but not as regularly as last year and even the ubiquitous blue and great tits and the robins seem reduced in numbers. The bobbing pied wagtails seemed to have a forsaken us, but a few greys arrived in early December to amuse us. We wonder whether the invasion of grey squirrels and magpies is the cause - we have not seen so many since we moved here 10 years ago.