We visited the Weald And Downland Museum for Dad’s birthday. It’s a collection of old houses from all periods of history, furnished exactly as they would have been all those years ago. Here’s what I observed and learned whilst wandering around my favourite house.
I put my hand into the little worn groove on the wooden rail that ran along the landing-place. It felt smooth and cold. I glanced at the little sign by my side. “Pendean Farmhouse” I read ” Built in 1609, this is seventeenth century yeoman’s house, originally located in West Sussex. He would have lived here, in the countryside, on his little piece of land, with his family.” I wondered at all the other people who’ve put their hand on this spot and helped make this groove over four or five hundred years.
I let my imagination run wild for a moment and, upon closing my eyes, I heard the laughs and squeals of children playing and a woman’s voice calling them for dinner. They rushed past me, the boys in wide straw hats and neckties, the girls in long, plain, pleated gowns and little white sun bonnets. Their cheeks were flushed with healthy country air.
I followed them down the steep wooden stairs and into a small dimly lit room. A fire crackled in the hearth. This was largest room, and probably referred to as the ‘Hall’.
The children’s Father came in promptly. He was dressed simply yet smartly in a felt hat, buckled shoes, ruffs and cuffs, breeches and a doublet. He sat down at a low table and his wife hurried to serve him a vegetable stew with hunks of bread.
The children ate hungrily and soon left the table to go back upstairs. They went into one of the two bedrooms. The beds were just wooden frames with handmade woollen blankets draped over. There were but two beds and I counted eight children, not including the baby who the eldest girl carried in her arms. That must mean at least three in each bed.
I left the kids playing with wooden spinning tops and snuck into their parents room. The bed was larger and there was a little bed sticking out from underneath it. I looked more closely and saw that it was on wheels. I pulled and it rolled out.
I looked around the room a little more and discovered a large spinning wheel sitting in one corner. I also saw two big baskets full of coarsely combed wool. A sort of tool for doing this lay on the side. It was a small wooden board with lots and lots of nails sticking up. I guessed that you pull the wool through it.
I went down again and found the Mother baking bread. She lifted her uncooked loaves onto a peel, which is a sort of paddle, and put it into the oven. The oven was a traditional one with a fire underneath and a clay dome over the top.
I watched until the first loaf came out, piping hot and golden brown. I licked my lips and went off to explore the next room.
The dairy was tiny and very cold. Cheese, wrapped in paper, was stacked on shelves and a girl stood over one of the many butter churns. She pulled and plunged the plunger and I heard the milk sloshing around.
Time to move on. I walked to the end of the dairy where there was a kitchen. Dried herbs and onions hung from the ceiling and a great cooking pot sat on the fire, the remains of the stew bubbling and boiling away. I breathed in the scents of all thses wonderful things.
I let myself out the back door and blinked the bright sunshine. It was so dark in there! I laughed to myself. I then turned around and waved back at the farmhouse, although I knew no one would be there to see.