Posts Tagged ‘fire’

Erdigg House (Part 2)

It’s time for my regular guest blogger, Rambler5319, to take over so sit back and enjoy.

 

This is the second part of our visit to Erdigg House which I began last week (23.10.13).

The original owner Joshua Edisbury had the place built in the 1680s. However it seems, even in his rather exalted position of High Sherriff of the county of Denbighshire, that he overreached himself eventually going bankrupt. Interesting connection here is that Elihu Yale (founder of Yale University) was a neighbour of Edisbury; and it was Yale who called in the mortgages that caused Edisbury to go bankrupt. Nice neighbour? In 1718 the house was bought by John Mellor (Master of the Chancery) who extended it and after he died his nephew Simon Yorke inherited it (1733) after which it remained in the Yorke family until 1973 when the NT took it over.

We finished off with stuff about the lengths these big houses had to go to in filtering their water to make it safe to drink. Also how we take it for granted that if we turn our taps on we can immediately fill a glass and just drink it.

We pick things up this week with a couple of notices which remind us that though this house was very grand, situated in its massive 2,000-acre estate and far from any neighbours, danger still lurked.

Look at this & the crime outlined:

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Yes that’s right, at the end of Aug 1824 someone broke into the garden on a Saturday night or early on a Sunday morning at Erdigg House: (old spelling Erthig). The thief (or thieves) stole some fruit. Now remember this was food for the house; gardeners were employed to tend, cultivate & harvest the fruit often grown in glasshouses. One in particular, for grapevines, was off limits for all but a special few in case the grapes were taken. The notice is dated 31 Aug 1824 which was a Tuesday so he’d had the printing done pretty quick and got them put up around the area. The reward is Ten Guineas. (A guinea is £1.05p so total value then £10.50p: just over £750 in today’s money.) He was definitely keen to catch the robbers.

Next up is this one:

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It says that: “Persons have of late made a practice of passing and re-passing before the front of Erthig House after dark and at all hours of the night without having any business at the house etc…..”

The servants have been ordered to detain whoever they find trespassing on the property so that they can be prosecuted. It is dated 1826 just a few years after the previous notice. Clearly the house seems to have been a target. However you would have thought that whoever was doing the “passing & repassing” might have just had a recce then left and not keep coming back; and especially not get seen. Perhaps they were just trying to intimidate the owner.

Can you guess what this is?

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No? How about if I tell you it’s called a Witch Dust Extractor are you any the wiser?

We came into one of the rooms and there it was just on the floor. Basically you attach the flexible tube to the machine, add a suitable nozzle for whatever you are cleaning and then you stand on the pedals pushing down alternately with your left foot & right foot. Simple eh? Well except it means you need at least two people to do the work. The instruction sheet tells you how to hook it up, get the right nozzle, suck up the dust and when full empty it. Underneath is a section called “NOTE”. I think it’s worth checking this out so have a read of how the manufacturers tried to allay Edwardians’ fears concerning this new technology:

“Do not be dismayed if after a little pedalling you feel tired – everyone experiences that at first. The fact is you are employing a new set of muscles but after a little perseverance they get so accustomed to it that lengthy spells will cause no inconvenient fatigue. In the meantime it affords ease if two persons engage in the work and change places as often as tired.

The moment the machine becomes less easy to operate it is a sign the bag material is clogged. The spare bag should then be used and the other one washed and kept ready.

Neither should you be dismayed if at FIRST you find it takes a considerable time to get a room cleaned but remember that when accumulated dust is once removed a speedy application of the Dust Extractor is sufficient to keep it clean.

It is not suggested that this machine be used DAILY – probably WEEKLY is sufficient……”

It cost 6 guineas (£6.30p) – £564 in today’s money.

So there you have it – not only can you hoover your carpets, curtains or whatever but your partner/colleague can also keep fit! We’ve got wind up radios, wind up torches, so why not a sort of wind up vacuum? Why ever did these things go out of business?? (I must get hold of James Dyson – I’m sure he’ll be able to invent a modern version.) What a great machine. And don’t forget once you’ve persevered there is “no inconvenient fatigue”. Yeah, right!

Now I wonder if you’ve ever thought about all those step/running machines you use in the gym. I’ll bet they’re connected to something – maybe not a vacuum but what if they’re connected to a generator so as you exercise you’re generating electricity for the gym. Now there’s a thought!

Fire was an ever-present hazard in days gone by because of the amount of wood in the buildings and the number of open fires. I was intrigued to see coloured glass bottles hanging up around the house and in the kitchen area in particular. These dark blue glass containers were called Harden Star Grenades.

Here are some in the hall area

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Here’s the notice & instructions on how to use them:

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The idea was that where a fire had started you threw the bottle (container) at the base of the fire and the contents vapourised starving the fire of the oxygen it needed to burn. Many were filled with carbon tetrachloride as it vapourises straight away. However we now know even just inhaling it can have seriously damaging effects on the liver, kidneys & brain. And wait for this – some folks today actually collect these things! Note at the bottom the address, in italics, of the manufacturers – they’re in Peckham. Those of you in the UK will know Del Boy & Rodney lived in Peckham. The whole “Grenade” idea has a feel that a Victorian version of them must have been behind something like this.

If you have just 1 minute watch this vid which shows you what they look like close up:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwPsHq1SSA0

We went into the servants’ hall; there was a long 4-plank refectory table with swords mounted up on the ceiling. Apparently the Yorke family raised a troop of Denbighshire Militia and the swords are from them. If you imagine them as a clock face, look at the 5 o’clock position just up and slightly left from the axe on the right hand side underneath. Can you see there is an empty space – no sword?

Here’s a clearer pic on Flickr

http://www.flickr.com/photos/spectrefloat/6305628345/

Here’s one of those boards with loads of bells on for the servants to know which room they required to go to.

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And a dining table set a meal. Note the two high columns at the far end.

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This metal bowl is dated – you should be able to see 1663. Wow, 350 years old!

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This next item is a kind of early record player.

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The discs have a series of raised dots and little troughs spaced out so that when the arm travels over them it produces notes that will make a tune. You can probably see the one on the machine is something by Mozart; the one on the table is The Fairy Wedding Waltz by J.W. Turner (not the painter – he was J.M.W. Turner).

If, like me, you don’t know that one have a listen/watch here. Maybe open a new window and let it play while you read.

http://gaslanternrecords.com/our-music

and then click on no.6 for a brief sample of the music. The last few bars of the clip remind me slightly of part of Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz (famously used in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey). Both were creations of the 1860s but Fairy Wedding came first in 1863 followed by Blue Danube in 1867.

There was some sheet music rolled up and put in the trumpet’s horn in this carrying case.

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Can you see the title of the music composed by Fred W. Leigh. No comment! I wonder if you knew that Fred Leigh also wrote that famous cockney tune: Don’t Dilly Dally (My Old Man Said Follow The Van…).

Have a watch of this one and tell me you’re not singing along by the end of it. Go on I dare you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfW3TxQhy20

I’ll have to finish there otherwise it’ll just go on for too long. Maybe there’ll be a part three if you’re not fed up with Erdigg House. It’s a great place – there was just so much to see and we didn’t get to explore everywhere as there just wasn’t time.  

To the flyer dropper…

Dear Mr. Flyer Dropper,

There is something very serious I must discuss with you. I keep meaning to open the door as soon as I hear a flyer being pushed through and talk to you properly about it. But I’m usually too comfy on the sofa. And a little bit too lazy. I shall say it here, therefore, because I do not have to move from the sofa.

Mr. Flyer Dropper, are you stupid? Is that what this is about? You genuinely have no comprehension of what you are doing? You are stupid, in the academic sense of the word? You drop flyers because it is the only thing you can be trusted to do without breaking it?

For if you are not stupid, maybe you are one of those extremely clever people who has no connection to real life? A savant, perhaps? For a savant cannot be expected to take notice of such trivial matters.

Or maybe you don’t care? Maybe you don’t care because you are dropping flyers for a living and this is not what you intended for your life and so, as a fist-shake to the world, you do your job half-heartedly, to show everyone that you are too good for it.

Well, it doesn’t tell me that. You want to know what it tells me? It tells me that if you can’t carry out the most basic of tasks – dropping a flyer through a letterbox – you probably won’t go far in life. And you’re pissing me right off while you’re at it.

Why, Mr. Flyer Dropper? Why do you do this?
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I mean, it’s more out than in. I’m surprised it didn’t fall back out of it’s own accord.

Let’s get a close up.
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Ridiculous!

And from the front.
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Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Now, I don’t expect you to know anything about my house but I shall just tell you anyway, as an FYI for next time.

My house is little and old. It is beautiful and compact and I love it very much. Due to its oldness, it doesn’t have any central heating. It also has huge single-glazed sash windows. And no carpets downstairs, just floorboards. And the only heat source in the house is a gas fire in the front room. This means that when the weather is cold, my little house is freezing.

Cold drafts blow up from in between the floorboards and the outside toilet is abandoned for the winter, in favour of the slightly less cold upstairs toilet. Any trip away from the front room fire and into the frozen wilderness beyond is made with great haste.

Therefore, Mr. Flyer Dropper, when you decide, every single day, to pop by my front door, push the corner of some silly leaflet about a pizza delivery place near by (what an insult to my kitchen, pizza delivery?!) which then wedges the letterbox open, you have allowed a significant cold breeze to enter my little already-cold home. I have felt this letterbox breeze as far down the hallway as the kitchen.

Yes, young man, I kid you not. You have made my house that little bit colder. It’s already very bloody cold! You don’t need to make it colder.

What is wrong with you? Just push the bloody leaflet all the way through the door! It’s not that much effort. You’re already standing at the door and have opened the letterbox, just keep pushing that leaflet, goddamnyou! Don’t be so stupid.

Yours faithfully,
Grumpy Laura

P.S. I’m actually ok with the cold. As mentioned before, I was built like an eskimo, but it’s the principle of the thing, ok?!

Cool facts about Ham House

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People who have dined there include the likes of Charles II and Oliver Cromwell.

There was once a brewery on site as beer was drunk instead of water, because the water was so dirty.

The still house was once really active in making medicines and using herbs and flowers grown in the gardens.

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Anna Karenina and Never Let Me Go were both filmed there.

The table in the kitchen was built in situ, 403 years ago using wood from an elm tree on the estate. It has been in use that entire time and the drawers still slide perfectly and table top is still workable as a proper worksurface. In fact, that’s where I work when I go there.

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The raised wooden section you can see underneath the table was put in so that the young page boys or scullery maids, who’s job it was to stay in the kitchen all night and keep the fire alive, had somewhere to sleep that was off the flagstone floor so a bit warmer. They would take it in turns to stoke the fire or have a little sleep.

It was still inhabited by the family of Dysart up until 1948 when the National Trust took over. At this time, they also still had servants.

They drank more champagne than wine in Ham House in 1660. There are still copies of inventories and orders that were made which show that they ordered about two thirds the amount of wine as they did champagne. Was champagne cheaper in those days?

Washing wasn’t a regular activity in those days. That’s why the bathroom that the Duchess of Lauderdale had put in in the late 1660s was such a revelation. In fact, it was the first bathroom in the country! Once a month she would go and sit on a stool in a tub and have water poured over her.

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Then she lay on a bed nearby and had perfumes (vinegars infused with herbs, eg rosemary) applied to her skin. She would wrap a blanket around her and wait for an hour for the perfume to soak in. Then another quick rinse and all done!

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They have a teapot that is three hundred and fifty years old.

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There are a whole series of hidden corridors and passageways that were used by the servants to get around without getting in anyone’s way. I use some of these passages to get about the house when doing my volunteering.

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(Can you see the hidden doorway, to the left of the chair?)

I’m going on a tour of the house and gardens next Thursday so will report back with more cool facts then.

In honour of Downstairs Duvet

O, Downstairs Duvet, you warm up my life,
As the winter approaches, you save me from strife.

I sit on the sofa, clutching my book,
But even my eyes are frozen, so I can hardly look.

My little old house has no central heating,
I turn on the fire but the joy is so fleeting.

Shivering, shuddering, a thought strikes my mind,
A duvet for downstairs, that would be so fine!

And now I am no longer sad as I read,
I think about what a nice life I do lead.

A book in one hand and a cup of tea too,
O Downstairs Duvet, I love you.

You cover me, cuddle me, keep me from cold,
I’d ask you to marry me, if I were bold.

And now when I hear the rain falling down,
I grab Downstairs Duvet and wrap it around.

And so I look forward to the cold winter evenings,
When Downstairs Duvet will make an appearance.

O Downstairs Duvet, you light up my life,
As the winter approaches, you save me from strife.