Saturday, September 5, 2009

Tudor Tales

The weather turned quickly this week. Not that we had a summer of any description, bar those two weeks at the end of June, but today it was nippy and the sky promised Big Doom. See?

Except it did not rain. It stayed cold all day and what better way to fight the cold then to tour an ancient Tudor home that hasn't been heated for centuries? Yes, today I finally visited Little Moreton Hall, a Tudor hall that had been on my list of to-go places for a very long time. As the path curves and the hall comes into view, it looks wonky and more than a little unsafe. I thought it was all down to an optical illusion but, no, it ain't no illusion my friends, the hall really isn't level and the National Trust has spent many millions of pounds in its upkeep and restoration and to ensure that we can continue to walk around it without it caving in and taking us with it.

As I stepped into the courtyard I felt like I had entered a movie set. The enclosed space, beautiful bay windows and fetchy black-and-white walls are so picture-perfect that they could be used in a period movie without a touch-up to speak of. The hall was built at the beginning of the sixteenth century but it didn't immediately look as it does today, for extensions and a viewing gallery were added over the years. The latter was built in a precarious way, to the point whereby major restoration work was undertaken at various times to ensure that it wouldn't slide off the top of the building and onto the entrance below, nor crash through onto the forecourt.

I took a guided tour and listened to plentiful horrid tales of poor hygiene and of servants sleeping on hay infested with moths, fleas and all other disgusting little crawling things. In some respects, the Morton family didn't fare much better, for their clothes too were infested with insects and were kept in the garderobes (read: their toilets) because the smell of ammonia (read: wee) acted as a deterrent.

Now do you see why I am adamant that those people who speak of the 'gentle pace of life of yesteryear' haven't got a clue? When I visited Dunham Massey early this week, I read that gardeners would be up at the crack of dawn, come rain or shine, regardless of the season, in order to pick vegetables and fruit, start preparing them for the family and even selling them at the local market. I know that it is très chic to speak of the past as a better, gentle time but, really, only those who haven't got a clue about it can say its pace was 'gentle'. Go to Little Morton Hall and take a look at their 'toilets': you will not wonder why their life expectancy was so short but why they had a life expectancy at all.

Still, it is a magical, charming place with an Alice in Wonderland vibe. Do not miss the upstairs fireplace that looks set into the wall sideways. It is in fact straight, it's just the rest of the room that isn't. Ab fab I say!

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