Thursday, 3 July 2014

Rudyard Kipling's Beautiful House Batemans

It is sometimes easy, living in England, to take old houses for granted. Most towns and villages have homes that date from the 15th Century or before, and you can easily walk past them and not notice because they are ubiquitous. I grew up in a farm that was around two hundred years old, and then more up in a thatched cottage that was over five hundred. These places are not museums; they are lived in every-day homes and so they don't always get the notice and admiration they deserve.

The presence of ancient buildings, lived in and used today pretty much as the were when they were first built (with the addition of plumbing and electrics and the odd structural addition), allows you to reach back into history quite easily- the alchemy of these old houses makes the past feel like a place that's no more than a stones throw away.

That is what M and I have been doing this week. 

Like my occasional urges to be near the sea, periodically I feel the need to immerse myself in history and the best way to do this outside of the landscape is to visit these old guardians of the past.

I grew up in Sussex and left it when I was nineteen; I still miss the rolling hills and wide open views and tile-clad villages that sum up the county, so on Monday we got in the car and drove for a couple of hours to go to Batemans, Rudyard Kipling's house in Burwash, East Sussex, which is only a few miles from the farm where I grew up.

Kipling's name conjures up all sorts of magic for me: he penned many of my favourite tales, now made all the more special to me because I have shared many of them with L (who still occasionally listens to Rikki Tikki Tarvi, the story of a mongoose who kills the cobras Nag and Nagaina when they threaten the little boy Teddy). 

Batemans was the Kiplings' home from 1902 to 1936, when Kipling died. After her death in 1939, his wife left the house and 330 acres to the National Trust as a memorial. Batemans was built in 1634, probably by a Wealden Ironmaster, and the date is inscribed over the door. It is a simple, non-fussy, elegant old place that doesn't feel like it's changed all that much in four hundred years.

 

It was from Batemans that Kipling's son John (then aged 18), left to fight in the First World War. He never came back. He was only able to go because Kipling pulled some strings- John's eyesight was so poor that he would not have been able to fight otherwise. Kipling spent years trying to find out what had happened to him and the lack of a body fuelled his belief that his son was still alive, despite contemporary accounts from people who had seen him badly injured by a shell. It wasn't until 1992 that his remains were located, although there is some controversy as to whether the body buried in his grave really is John Kipling. Kipling's poem 'If' was written as advice to John in 1909. You can read it HERE.

John Kipling
The Kipling family had more than their share of tragedies - of the three children he and his wife had, only one, Elsie, survived; her sister Josephine died in 1899 at the age of six of pneumonia.

Kipling doubtless found solace in his writing, and his study at Batemans is meant to be as he left it, right down to the glasses on the desk. It is a lovely room with a warm light energy that belies the frustrations inherent in writing.


Apparently, he couldn't get on with the typewriter which 'went wrong' whenever he tried to use it!


There are various artefacts from The Jungle Book and The Just So Stories kept in the house. This necklace was made by Kipling and features in How The Alphabet Was Made....

 
And the freezes all around one room are details from his works and were made by his father. I loved this one in particular. It is of Mowgli from The Jungle Book....


There are some lovely stories that go with various items in the house. This painting of the Madonna (below) was given to the Kiplings but Rudyard loathed it and thought it very ugly, so it was put up in the dining room behind his chair so he didn't have to look at it. It was pretty vile....


In the same room are these wall coverings which are leather painted with a frieze design of birds and flora....


Kipling's gramophone still works- we listened to it. It is very loud as there is no volume control, but brilliantly clear....

The guest bedroom contains a four-poster with these beautiful hangings surrounding it. The bird is a close-up of the detail at the foot of the bed....


There is also a working flour mill on the estate. The miller was incredibly knowledgeable and gave us the low-down on the restoration of the mill and its history, as well as the problems with operating it today (mainly due to water volume). It sits in a wildflower meadow which was fairly buzzing with bees and flutters, and the mill pond is above it. Maintaining the literary theme, etched into the glass windows of the mill is this poem about bread making...


Kipling's Rolls Royce is also on display in the old stables. M reliably informs me that the red RRs indicate that both Rolls and Royce (Charles and Henry- the former was a car salesman, the latter an engineer) were alive when this car was produced. After their deaths the symbol became black. A Rather Nice Touch that I knew nothing about...


The gardens at Batemans are beautiful, simple and peaceful, and the tea rooms are lovely too- you can sit in the walled garden and eat a ploughmans in the shade enjoying the flowers. Afterwards you can take a stroll past the ponds and out across the wildflower meadow over the stream to walk off the calories....


It's well worth popping down if you have the time- a haven in a busy world.

Hope you're all well?

Apologies if I am remiss about reading and commenting on your blogs this week- we've been out every day visiting lots of beautiful places, about which I will be posting in due course. Today I came within a hair's breadth of bumping into TV Boyfriend Number One (Damien Lewis in case you have forgotten) who is about to start filming Wolf Hall at one of the manor houses we went to see....

Normal service will be resumed next week....

CT :-)

18 comments:

  1. So pleased you haven't had time to blog, if you know what I mean! Beautiful house and lovely to see some quite ordinary furniture there rather than rarefied antiques everywhere. Hope the weather has been as lovely there as it is here. It's stiflingly hot and sunny despite the weather man saying the south west is shrouded in cloud. Look out of the window please. xx

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    1. It felt like a normal, family and much-loved home, which was lovely to visit. Gorgeous weather all week- so lucky. I sometimes think the weather forecasters forget to check outside their windows before going public with their predictions!
      ps- I think I have finally got the right selection of poppy pics for you so will whizz them over in the next few days. Ma is also keen to get Dylan and Dougal done too so will also be emailing you xx

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  2. Hello there! I was thinking about you earlier today wondering what you were up to, and then here you are, having been out and about visiting. Batemans looks lovely, the gardens especially. Glad that you enjoyed it. IF is my favourite poem, and I sometimes quote lines to myself! Now I have to ask, just how close did you actually get to TVBF #1 then!!!!! Hope that you are having a great week, look forward to moth service again next week! xx

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    1. If is a wonderful poem, I love it too. Having a fantastic week thanks, been out and about seeing lots of lovely places in perfect weather. TVBF was filming today at one of the houses we visited yesterday- so only just missed him :-) Next time.... xx

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  3. Such a lovely review of Batemens. I live a really short distance from it. I visit often and always enjoy it.

    Jean x

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    1. Thanks, Jean. You must be quite close to the village I grew up in- Mayfield? It was lovely to be back xx

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  4. Dose look a nice place to visit, have lots of fun.
    We have the matter of a small bike race going on in Yorkshire this weekend.! Can't wate it's going to be a lot of fun.
    Amanda xx

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    1. Ah, yes of course! M is a keen cyclist so doubtless we will have the race on here too :-) Bet it's getting busy up with you. Enjoy xx

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  5. Such a lovely house & an interesting place to visit. You have described it all so well. Hope you have been having a fab week visiting places, its nice to take some time to visit places.

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    1. Thanks Joanne, it is a beautiful, timeless place and well worth a visit if you're ever down that neck of the woods. We've been thoroughly spoilt this week seeing lots of lovely houses and gardens in pretty perfect weather (and lots of pub lunches too!). A real tonic xx

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  6. Hi CT Well this is a fantastic place you have visit. Wonderful photographs and information. I love the bird on the hanging in the bedroom. Very beautiful. I suppose you are moth trapping a lot. I love that you were able to hear the Kipling gramophone. Looks in great condition. Have a great weekend.

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    1. Hi Margaret :-) Batemans is a lovely house and the setting is stunning. I've not moth trapped this week as we are technically on holiday but will be back to it next week- coming up for peak moth time now :-) Hope all's well with you? CT xx

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  7. What a great house. I didn't know that about Rolls Royce either.

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    1. It's a fantastic place, tucked away at the bottom of a lane miles from anywhere. The Roller is well preserved too- Kipling's pride and joy, apparently.

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  8. Batemans is not far from us in Hastings.... it is indeed a lovely old house, and very interesting to visit.

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    1. I'm so glad you left a comment Stephanie- I've been trying to leave a comment on your blog but it will only let me do so through google + which I don't use. I didn't want you to think I wasn't reading and enjoying, which I am, hugely. You have a very entertaining style of writing. I'll persist with trying to leave you a comment, but if it doesn't work at least you know I am checking in with you :-)

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  9. Lovely post CT and what a really beautiful house. Its so interesting to read about it all - my son and daughter loved the Kipling tales too. I didn't know that about Rolls Royce's either!

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    1. It is well worth a trip if you're ever down that way. Quite timeless and has such a lovely feel to it. Enough Kipling info to be interesting without overloading the brain too :-)

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x