March 13th, 2006


An Ancient Break

An Ancient Break.

I've been away for the weekend, staying in the Ancient House , Clare, Suffolk. This is a Landmark Trust property. The part I was in was probably built in the 15th Century, so it certainly qualifies as an Old House, if not technically Ancient! It's one of the most photographed houses in Suffolk, since it has some wonderful examples of the local craft of 'pargeting'. This is a technique of plaster decoration on the exterior of buildings. The local house building materials in this area were oak (for the timber frames) and clay. Since clay can't be allowed to get wet, it was covered with plaster as a protection against the elements, then people started making patterns in the plaster. Most decorations consist of geometric patterns, which are usually placed in borders within the timber frames, but the richer houseowners had more elaborate designs. Inside the house, in the main parlour, is a fine wood ceiling with subtle leaf patterns at the end of the beams. It was elegant enough that I lay on the floor to try and get a picture, so I hope that comes out. There's a large open fireplace in there as well, so the evening's entertainment consists of feeding logs into the freestanding grate - especially since the temperature kept dropping below zero. In the bathroom and bedroom the original shutter runs remained, so they've made new shutters which slide to and fro, instead of curtains. They work quite well to keep the light out and the heat in, so now I'm wondering if there's anywhere I could fit them in my house.
But the highlight of the building are the slopes in the floors of the bedroom and bathroom. As I mentioned, it's an old house and the timbers have warped and settled over the years which leaves one side of the room about a foot higher than the other side! This is particularly noticeable in the bathroom where you find yourself picking up speed as you head across the floor towards the toilet. In fact I was inspired to poetry (or, more accurately, to parody):

Stride no more, ladies, stride no more
(Men, do your best endeavour.)
One foot on high, and one on low,
The floor is constant never.
Then curse not so, and do not mope,
But be you blithe and bonny,
Slaloming down the bathroom slope
With a hey nonny nonny!

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