I don't know about any of that, but what I do know is that often my own posts can be a source of gifts that keep on giving-- from my readers to me.
Back in July 2010, I wrote a follow-up post to a Wordless Wednesday photograph I'd taken in England. The photo was of a house that had enchanted me in a lovely village in Bedfordshire. Lo and behold, an owner of the house stumbled across that post and emailed to tell me some of its history. With the owner's permission, I'm sharing this history with all of you, along with my photographs. I hope you're going to find this additional information as fascinating as I did.
(Before we start, let me remind you that you can click on any photo in this post, and it will automatically open in a new window so you can see it in a larger size. All the following words are from the email I received from the owner.)
Amazing to think 135 has reached across the pond in such a way!
The house is indeed very old, it was around 100 or so years old when the Domesday Book was written and is mentioned within it. It is reportedly one of the oldest houses in the UK and certainly within Bedfordshire.
The front area by the wrought iron gate, built in brick, where you saw one of our cats, Blackberry (internet fame for one of the cats of the house-- as if there weren’t enough cats on the internet!) is now a kitchen but was originally the cattle shed and milking parlour; the original drain is still there behind the kitchen cabinets. It was originally timber framed but has been replaced as you mention with Riseley brick many years ago. The rather horrid metal-framed window within it is actually protected due to it being a rather early example of 20th century metal-framed windows, so it has never been changed although it’s out of keeping with the rest of the house. Amazing what you can and can’t do in the UK with properties due to planning laws-- even when replacing it with something entirely more suitable would obviously not be detrimental to the property.
It was also much longer and had a further extension towards the back until someone decided one day, long ago, to saw through the beams and demolish the back of it.
The large window was installed when the property was owned by locally famous artist Stanley Orchard, an oil painter who lived at the property for many years. It was installed to allow him greater light to paint. Originally this would have been the large side doors to the barn and so whilst not in keeping with the look and feel of the barn it has its history and so has remained. Also it’s the only real way of getting sufficient light into the place as it is, as you say, quite dark even with electric lighting.
The thatch of the cottage looks rather more bowed than it is by the nature by the large clump of thatch at the end of the barn furthest from the road which is a technique within traditional thatching called a Cock, because it sits proudly at the end of the thatch. The Cock is a way of telling when the top layer of the thatch needs replacing. When thatching a house only the top layer is replaced unless you need to totally re-thatch and so this is the traditional way of indicating when it is time to do so as thatched roofs are a constantly evolving or devolving material which is weathered and often stolen by birds for nests. It is also in thatching folklore the origin of the phrase ‘Cock up’ to describe the condition of the roof. If the Cock is not up, the roof will likely leak and potentially fall in on itself, leading to a larger cock up!
In the 1990’s, we sought and gained planning permission for a more in-keeping extension, but due again to those planning laws, they said we could only have a newer version of the same flat roofed extension.
After some back and forth with the planning department, it was finally decided we could build in traditional materials with the caveat that the entire wooden structure was supported by steel beams-- as according to the building regulations at the time wooden-framed houses were not strong enough to last a sufficient amount of time to be considered safe long term. A laughable notion when you consider the main house is entire wooden, has no foundations, is built directly on to the ground, and how long it’s been there.
Therefore, we had to do a lot of cosmetic work to make this construction look in keeping with the rest of the house: covering the steel beams in wooden cladding, etc. to make it look-- as it does today-- part of the original. Quite a lot of time was spent sourcing and finding appropriate materials to ensure it looks as though it is part of the entire house and has always been there.
The stained glass window is something which commemorates our time in the house and has items which are specific to our family. Along with the extension, it adds our own bit of history to the property.
The orange colour is in fact pink! Traditionally, like houses today, houses of this type were rendered. The render was a mixture of lime wash and clays which when placed on to the walls creates a breathable skin to the building. Over time this oxidises and becomes orange.
As much as this house speaks to me, I don't think I could live in it comfortably. One of the things the owner mentioned in the email was the fact that, if you're over five feet five inches tall, you're going to be forced to do a lot of stooping because the ceilings are rather low. Since I'm five feet ten, I think I'd be in a constant state of concussion!
I am so very thrilled to be able to learn more about this marvelous property. It just goes to show that magic can happen when that "publish" button is clicked!