Archive | February 2018

Tudor House, Margate, UK

Tucked onto a quiet way called King Street in the seaside town of Margate in Kent is a neat house built around 1525 and maintained as a museum.  The Tudor House has withstood all the centuries of storms, modernization and even a close strike during the second World War when the place next door was destroyed by a bomb.  It is one of the oldest mostly complete buildings on the Isle of Thanet.

The close-set timber frame construction is typical for the late 15th to early 16th century.  The timbers are likely oak. There is evidence the building underwent some changes early on when the ground floor in the front was extended to be more in line with the first floor above.  In Tudor design the first floor usually overhangs the ground floor by several feet.

The house was subdivided into three units and covered with plaster and lathe in the 1770s.  In the 1930s it was scheduled to be demolished to make way for new housing.  Some of the locals realized the old place had historical significance and informed the authorities.  An inspector of ancient buildings soon comprehended the significance of the house and it was spared.  Throughout the 1950s the Tudor house was carefully restored.

The original timbers of the frame and the stones of the foundation are visible in their weathered condition.  Over the years, the house leaned a bit toward the front and one side.  It also settled a little when the bomb hit beside it.  Luckily, the building did not sustain any major damage from the strike.  Metal strapping and bars have been discreetly applied for support and the structure is stable.

The layout consists of a long, narrow entryway leading on the right to the main hall with a large fireplace (beside which my mum is having a break,) and on the left a servants’ area.

The main hall has a ceiling about eight feet high while the domestics’ space (pictured below) has a clearance of barely five and one-half feet. The doorway that the photo was taken through is just over four feet high, rather claustrophobic for most modern humans.

In its time, this house would have been a splendid manor, the home of local gentry.  The two chimneys, second floor and glazed windows were at the cutting edge of residential architectural technology.  The beautiful leaded windows, some with colored glass inserts, are original.  Much of the old wood paneling, some carved, also remains.Beyond the main hall is the parlor where the family would gather around another great fireplace.  The floor is all flagstone and a large set of windows opens onto the front garden and street.  The ceiling has ornate plaster decoration.

A narrow circular stair leads to the next floor.  Here the family would have slept, dressed, had sitting space and stored their clothes and other belongings.  The toilets would have been outside, of course, except for chamber pots.  The chimney and additional fireplaces provide heat upstairs.

The second story is floored with massive boards at least 18″ wide.  There are three large rooms and several closet-like spaces upstairs.  The ceilings are high, soaring to twelve feet or more.

The last room upstairs holds a collection of period costume.  The mannequin beside the doorway is about 5 ft tall.  Several lovingly reproduced ladies gowns are displayed along with hats, bags and undergarments.

The cellars are reached through a trap door.  These were used for cool storage of food and drink.  A small brew house associated with the main building stands in the back garden.  The brew made for home use was probably kept in barrels in the cellar.

The grounds include a Tudor knot garden, although it is unknown what the original gardens featured.  The north side of the house was built with wings that are completely gone.  When it was constructed, the home was situated on the banks of a brook that ran into the harbor.  No evidence of the waterway remains.

The Tudor House had some close calls over its life and is lucky to still be here today.  It provides an invaluable example of ancient construction and an enjoyable place to visit.

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Visiting Birchington, Kent, UK

I’m in England, visiting my mum who lives in Birchington in Kent.  This part of the country is known as the Garden of England.  The grass is green and flowers are blooming here in February.  This area receives a minor dusting of snow on occasion, but the temperatures rarely dip below freezing.  My mum lives in a ground floor unit of the building above.Birchington is on the English Channel, near the mouth of the Thames.  It is not surprising to see gulls in abundance.  Except these gulls have names:  Molly and Golly.  They have nested on this roof for years, producing one or two babies each season.  My mum feeds them scraps and bits of cat food.  Every morning this is the view out the kitchen window.  Molly and Golly begging for breakfast.  If the food isn’t produced quickly enough, these pushy birds will fly down and tap on the cat flap in my mum’s door to get her attention.  I hope the birds don’t figure out how to use the flap, or they will be in the kitchen at feeding time.My mum’s housing development is an easy ten minute walk from the main street of Birchington, called Station Road (it leads to the railway station.)  Many of the buildings are quite old.  Here is found a nice range of shopping.  It’s good to see most of the shops occupied and busy.  Once there were five banks in town, but they have all closed.  There are five charity shops providing selections of donated items.  Once in a while I score a real find, some piece of English pottery, jewelry or flatware to fill any empty spots in my suitcases.This is The Square in Birchington.  The most notable features on The Square are the round-about, All Saints, the Norman church (originally built in the 12th century and restored over the years,) and the Powell Arms pub.  The pub has been there since at least the early 1800s, likely earlier, and was probably built on the site of an old hostelry.  It is named for the Powells, a wealthy family who lived on a nice estate called Quex, just outside the village.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birchington’s main street feels quaint and homey.  The old buildings, many friendly, locally-run small businesses and village atmosphere make browsing the shops an enjoyable pastime.

At the other end of the street from the Powell Arms is the Sea View, a pub, restaurant and inn built in 1865 and enlarged at the turn of the century.  Across the street is a small green where the crocuses are blooming.

One of my favorite spots in Birchington is the Smuggler’s Restaurant and pub on the Canterbury Road.  The building dates to the 1600s and has a snug and welcoming atmosphere and delicious roast of lamb.

When I visit the village to see my mum, it always seems like a little homecoming to step off the coach (also known as the National Express bus) on The Square in Birchington.

Dug Jars

These old Dundee marmalade pots were found in a trash pit on property in Wiscassett, Maine that was recently purchased by my brother.  This summer while he was excavating in preparation for erecting power poles he dug out these jars plus a couple dozen old Coca Cola bottles and some assorted other odds and ends.

My brother piled the finds in 5 gallon buckets and brought them to me.  They were all covered and filled with thick clay.  After a considerable amount of cleaning, and soaking in bleach, these pots look fairly presentable.  They have some staining from rust, a few small chips and a couple are crazed.  These and the rest of the goodies from the pit date to around 1949-1955.

For some reason, old pottery marmalade pots are sought after.  Perhaps people like them for decorating.  They measure about 4.25″ tall and would be useful to hold things like pens or coins.  These five recently sold at auction in my eBay shop for $70.  A pretty good return on a few hours of elbow grease.  Thanks brother for the generous gift!

I still have to clean the Coke bottles before they can be listed.  They are all from Maine or New England.  Those bottles are not likely to be as valuable as the marmalade pots, but they will sell well.  I also have listed some interesting old toiletry bottles and jars from the pit.  They were quite dirty.  Some still contained remnants of the original product including the hair pomade and hormonal cream.  The contents were black and sticky, a real joy to clean out.  These all are from the same era, the early 1950s.

The pieces are, clock-wise from the top left, a Lentheric aftershave or cologne bottle, a Tame by Toni creme hair rinse bottle, milk glass jar for Paglo Pompom hair pomade, with real lanolin (I’d love to smear that stuff in my hair!) and, Helena Rubenstein Estrogenic Hormone cream, purported to reduce wrinkles.  The Tame bottle says “the new invisible hair dressing that rinses on.”  Tame was a new product in 1953.

My brother also dug out some old locally bottled soda bottles that have already sold.  I have listed some household bottles for Clorox bleach, Vermont Maid syrup and perhaps an old Milk of Magnesia bottle that is dark blue glass, a couple old milk bottles from Maine and an amber bottle that once held Felton’s rum.  He also found the lid for a French pate pot and the enameled cast iron top for a Volcanic color Le Creuset roasting pan.  The roasting lid is too corroded to rescue, unfortunately.

Altogether, the trash pit was a good find with some well preserved treasures from mid-century America.  It is interesting to see what sorts of products a particular family in Wiscasset used during the early 1950s.  Perhaps not as exciting as excavating a medieval, Roman or pre-historic trash midden, but entertaining enough for me!