Monday, September 26, 2016

The 1620s House

I'm returning to mid August this year and the last of the buildings I promised to write about in my post of 2nd September. I think I've taken you here before on one or two occasions but I thought I would write another post as one of our favourite places Donington le Heath Manor House has undergone refurbishment and many changes and has re-branded itself as The 1620s House and Garden.

Built as early as 1290 it is one of the oldest houses in Leicestershire and has a long history as a family home.  It is now cared for by Leicestershire County Council.

From the 15th Century onwards it was owned by the Digby family and they were the family that started the modernisation of the house around 1618 which turned the building into the structure we see today.

The first thing I noticed as we arrived was that there is now a reception kiosk near the gate of the car park and what was originally the reception area and shop has been turned back into the scullery.  This is where food coming into the house would have been cleaned and prepared ready for the kitchen.

Food would have been cooked on the open fire in the kitchen, on the spit and in the little ovens you can see in the wall behind the fire.  The fire would be constantly lit and this would have been the warmest room of the house.  Both family and servants would have taken meals in here on a daily basis unless there were visitors or guests who would be fed and entertained in the upper chamber.

Above one of the windows in the kitchen.  I loved all the natural flower displays in replica salt glaze ware jugs.

Across the well yard and up the stairs are the bedrooms and upper chamber.  The room above is a re-creation of Mr Digby's study, this room was also secretly used as a place of worship as the Digbys were still of the Catholic faith at a time when it was dangerous to be so.

The bed above is in the corridor bedroom.  This meant that the servants, family members and guests could pass through at any time so there was a lack of privacy here unless the bed hangings were drawn.  The appearance of the bed was another change I noted as the last time I saw it it had, as far as I remember, darker and plainer hangings.  The legend around this bed which is known as 'King Dick's Bed' is that it came originally from The Blue Boar Inn in Leicester and was supposedly the bed Richard III slept in before he left the city to fight at the Battle of Bosworth.  It seems though that most of the bed dates from the late 17th century.  The hangings are newly made.

A new wall has been built between the lobby and the Great Chamber as I seem to remember that this was one long room the last time we visited.  There would have been access by stairs from the garden up to the lobby and the great chamber which would have been used by the family for games and pastimes, dancing and entertaining.  
It was also used by the ladies of the house for spinning and sewing. You can see a spinning wheel at the end of the room top left in the photo.

 Out in the gardens and through the rose garden is a working plant garden

A formal herb garden

and a dye plant bed.  Above you can see flax growing.  The plant stem was used to make linen and the seed to make linseed oil which was used to treat diseases of the lungs.
You can see the door up in the wall of the house which would have had a staircase leading up to the lobby and Great Chamber.

Above a  view of the rear of the house.  To the right is the ornamental maze and vegetable garden.

Some of the modern replicas of  objects dotted about the house that you can touch and look at more closely.

Above a few more views around the house.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Five on Friday

Friday has come round again so quickly and it doesn't seem five minutes since I was writing and publishing last week's Five on Friday but here we are again and it is time to join with Amy at Love Made My Home for this week's Five.

Let's go on a nature trail!  Whilst seeking out signs of Autumn on a recent walk we found some other interesting things too.

 1.  Seeds - Sycamore Keys or 'helicopters' as we used to call them as children.  Soon they will be spinning down to earth to spread their seeds far and wide.

 2.  Berries - berries on a Rowan tree which had fallen and lost its leaves,  the berries were hanging from the branch like decorations.

Elderberries - such a gorgeous colour.

Blackberries - we seem to have missed the blackberry season this year.

 3.  Spores - At the back of the leaves on the Heart's Tongue Fern

Whilst peering under the leaves we spotted this little creature.  We think it is the caterpillar of the Pale Tussock Moth but if anyone can identify it any further then please leave a comment.   If it is the caterpillar of the Pale Tussock Moth it does like to pupate near the ground and when found in the hop fields in Kent it is known as a 'hop dog'.

4.  Nuts - Beech nuts opening up on the branches of a beech tree

where we also spotted a striped snail quite high up in the tree.

 5.  Fungi - above Turkey Tail

Above Puff Ball and below Boletus

Click on the link below to find others who are joining in this week

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Flower Wednesday

I haven't joined in with Riitta's Flower Wednesday for a while but today I walked through the lovely Cosmos flowers just before the Lakeside Walk at Trentham Gardens and couldn't resist taking photos to share with you.   They have been looking stunning for a few weeks now.

 Click on the link below to find others who are joining in with today's Flower Wednesday.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Five on Friday

We've had a week of very warm weather and also a huge storm on Monday which cleared the air but flooded the garden again for a short while.  Yesterday morning was like a misty autumn morning with spiders' webs everywhere and  we couldn't see more than halfway down the street but in the afternoon the sun shone and it felt like high summer again.  Washing was drying outside and we ate out in the garden in the early evening watching the butterflies on the Sedum flowers.

For Five on Friday here are five things that have made me smile this week

 1.  Butterflies in the Garden - we saw hardly any during the summer but they are visiting the garden now, four Small Whites, two Commas, a Tortoiseshell and a Two Red Admirals  were spotted in one afternoon.

 2. Ripening tomatoes - the last fruits have been taken off the plants and have been placed in various places to ripen.  In the kitchen window sill, in the fruit bowl where a ripe banana will help them along and in the greenhouse where they aren't ripening as well as those indoors.  

3.  Baby and sleepy monkeys - we hadn't been back to the Monkey Forest at Trentham for a few years so decided to go in and have a look.  There were lots of little ones playing as the monkeys relaxed in the warm sunshine.

4.  The maiden flight of Terry the Pterosaur - the kite was a birthday present for Paul in June but this was the first chance we'd  had of trying to fly it.  It took some time to get the kite airborne as the wind was skittish and blustering from different directions but it finally rose into the air and I managed to get a few photos.
5.  A lovely walk at Ilam - through the village and along by the River Manifold, followed by the obligatory scone at the National Trust cafe.

Joining in with Amy at Love Made my Home for this weeks Five on Friday.  Click on the button below to find other bloggers who are joining in this week.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Red Brick Castle

I mentioned Kirby Muxloe to someone the other day and he said 'Oh, yes, the red brick castle'.  I always used to think of Tattershall Castle in Lincolnshire with those words but Kirby Muxloe is most definitely a red brick castle too.

I had visited the castle many years ago in the 1980s and remembered it being surrounded by water but had forgotten it was built of brick and also that it was never completed as a building.

You can walk around the outside of the castle first taking in its structure and on the day we visited there were some lovely reflections in the water of the moat.

Above you can see the remains of the west tower and the gatehouse.  It was intended for a tower to be built in each corner of the construction, with domestic buildings in the centre of the outer walls which is where the old manor house used to stand.

The owner William, Lord Hastings (1430 -1483) began to rebuild a new and sumptuous residence on the site of the old manor house around 1480.  He was in favour and had power and influence at the court of  King Edward IV but his luck changed and he was executed in June 1483 by the new king Richard III.   In July of that year Richard III  issued a special grant to Hastings's widow Katherine and restored the family to its inheritance.  Katherine did continue for about a year with the building project but it gradually came to a close.  Had the building been completed Kirby Muxloe would have been one of the most advanced and fashionable fortified manor houses of its day.

The gatehouse is accessed by the bridge over the moat, it is modern but constructed in the style of the old one.

The entrance to the gatehouse is impressive, only the ground floor remains although you can access the next floor up it is open to the elements (see the photos below) but you can cross above the ceiling from one side to the other via spiral staircases.

One of the guard rooms in the base of the gatehouse, the other is used as the reception and shop by the custodians English Heritage.

You can see the door to one of the staircases on the left of the gatehouse. We went up via the stairs on the right and came down those on the left.

The ceiling of one of the spiral staircases,  I love the swirling brick patterns.

The remains of the room which would have been above the entrance to the gatehouse

  and across the two guard rooms below.
Back down the stairs on the opposite side.

There were lovely views across the centre of the castle area towards the moat and to the countryside beyond.  You can see the stone foundations of the earlier manor house in the grass below.

Looking upwards in the west tower

Nature was taking over.

 The opening hours for Kirby Muxloe are weekends only from May to September so it is very hard to catch it open we were lucky to be close by en route to Stoneywell (see my post of 8th September) so spent a pleasant hour here wandering around.

More information - here