An Historic House

Roast Pork dinnerTess and cakesThis morning Jackie drove us to Emsworth to collect Becky, then on to Mat and Tess’s home in East Sussex, reversing the journey soon after sunset.

Tess produced her usual marvellous roast dinner. Today’s was succulent pork; with super-crisp crackling, roast potatoes, sweet potatoes and parsnips; and a flavoursome stir-fry melange of different cabbages and onions. Dessert was a selection of her delicious home-made cakes. Tess and I drank a sublime Malbec.

Matthew can be seen behind Tess in the photograph above. Also evident is his work on the kitchen, almost three hundred years after the original section of their home, one of Elm Cottages, was built.

Elm Cottages backs 1Elm Cottages backs 2

In the 1750s, from which the house dates, it was a two up/two down cottage with a brick built privy at the bottom of the garden. A chamber pot would no doubt have been provided for cold winter nights. As was not unusual in the eighteenth century, entrance to other back gardens and the terraced houses themselves was by means of a right of way though neighbouring plots, any fences having openings or unlocked gates for the convenience of others in the row. I believe the kitchens are all rear extensions. It is evident from the photographs that some current residents have dispensed altogether with boundary fences. This makes for a little community of unusual friendliness in our modern world.

The frontages of these houses are rather more aspirational than the humble origins of the backs. These were extended apparently as an enterprise of the subsequently disgraced Edwardian MP Horatio Bottomley, whose own house, ‘The Dicker’, now forms part of St Bede’s School, a little further along Coldharbour Road.

Elm Cottages c1910Becky and Tess outside Elm Cottages

The black and white image of the group on the street outside what were presumably their homes, dates from about 1910, soon after the building was completed. The outfits of the women can be compared with those of Tess and Becky who helped me reprise the photograph this afternoon. Apart from the bicycles leaning against the wall, those Edwardian means of transport and their drivers must have been a rare sight in the road at that time, whereas today’s row of parked vehicles is customary. There were no telephone wires, and no dropped kerbs, in 1910, and in 2015 horse dung would be unlikely to be found on Coldharbour Road.

Frith’s Postcards

Granite setsIt is quite a pleasant stage we have reached in the garden project. We are able to tackle tasks in tandem, rather than each being occupied at different ones. Thus, we did some planting together, notably the agapanthuses purchased a day or two ago. This involved digging through what felt like ironstone, moving other plants to make room for it, and transporting better soil from elsewhere.

Path round fir treeSimilarly, to enable me to border the shady path with granite sets, a couple of clumps of trespassing geraniums were dug out and offered alternative accommodation. The sets were required because the line of edge tiles petered out near the decking. There is no one material used throughout the garden, so it is quite fun to make a patchwork quilt with what is available.

Stones in pathWe fine-tuned the end of the head gardener’s path as it winds around the fir tree, and, bit by bit, as the day progressed set the slabs firmly in their bed of stony soil. There then ensued a search around the garden for stones with which to fill the fissures that create the curves winding through the inchoate shrubbery. It must be sod’s law that when you are digging a bed you find loads of them, but when you want some they are hard to come by.

When we moved in here we found on the orange-painted home-made mantelpiece, a welcoming note and a tiny framed black and white photograph. The image measures 11 x 7.5 centimetres. It is picture of our house as it was, we estimate, in the 1960s. Then it was the village shop. One set of chimneys has since been removed, and we have a garage extension. A bay at the front has replaced the shop front. Old Post House from the rearThe current view from the rear displays, centrally, our kitchen extension with its skylight. To the left of this was originally a pitched roof. To the right of the modern picture can be seen the more recent roof over our master suite.

We were intrigued to learn what were the signs standing at the front and the legend on the side of the house, but these were indiscernible to the naked eye, and a magnifying glass didn’t help. I removed the picture from its frame, and discovered it was a Frith’s postcard.Old Post House c1960Old Post House c1960 - Version 2 I then enlarged the image and was able to read:Downton Stores

Notices in the forecourt announced that the shop was open, and sold Players cigarettes and Lyons cakes. The Players Please board was on display in London’s Lime Street in August 1963. The story of the tobacco company was told on November 27th 2013.

Francis Frith was a pioneering mid-to-late-Victorian photographer who founded the postcard company in the 1850s. There is now a massive archive which is a fascinating collection of UK views. Although Frith died in 1898, his company lived on, with the occasional hiatus. The archives were bought from Rothman’s by John Buck in 1977, and continue to function as the Francis Frith Collection.

Interestingly, Frith’s places us in Lymington Road. Local maps, for example the one outside New Milton railway station, vary as to whether we are in Christchurch Road or Lymington Road. The modern Post Office gives our address as Christchurch Road. Where one merges into the other remains a mystery.

This evening we dined on a refreshing salad based on pork pie and pastrami. I drank half a glass of Cotes du Rhone Villages 2012 and Jackie had a few sips of her Hoegaarden. We then drove down to the beach and bagged a few stones to supplement those in the path completed today.