Ightham Mote (pronouced itum- M and I spent most of the week betting 5p on who had the correct pronunciation, only to learn when we got home that neither of us had) is a place I have long wanted to visit, so it was top of our list during our stay in Kent last week.
The boys grumbled when we gave them the Happy News, but as that's normal language for teenagers we ignored them and went anyway. The grumbles were stoppered for a while by ice cream and then everyone was happy :-)
Ightham has an interesting, chequered and multi-layered history. Building work began in 1330, and it is a hotch-potch house with tudor bits and medieval bits all squashed together to create the romantic manor house that is today seated sedately inside its moat. There are fish in the moat, and we said if we lived there we'd have been jumping in every morning out of an upstairs window for a swim.
The house was left to the National Trust in 1985, and in 1988 they embarked on a fifteen year ten-million-pound restoration project, which involved the removal, examination and restoration of pretty much every brick, stone and beam. It looked good as new when we visited.
In its time the house has been owned by Medieval knights, courtiers to Henry VIII and high society Victorians. It has a handful for Ghost Stories, the most significant relates to a persistent chill in one of the bedrooms. During the 1870s, the owners grew tired of the chill in the Tower Bedroom and paid a builder to find the source of the cold. He took down a wall and discovered the skeleton of a woman seated on a chair behind it. She was said to be Dame Dorothy Selby, the woman who warned her cousin not to go to Parliament on 5th November 1605 because she'd learnt of the Gunpowder Plot. The letter was intercepted and the plotters caught, and Dorothy was said to have been buried alive behind the wall at Ightham by the plotters friends.
HOWEVER, that story is generally held to be nonsense as the date of her death is given in records as March 1641. Instead, the woman is more likely to be a servant of Sir Thomas Browne who owned Ightham in 1555. He is said to have murdered one of his servants and hidden her body inside the walls of the house. An alternative version of this is that Sir Tom's priest was having an affair with her and after he committed suicide Sir Tom bricked up the girl. Nasty either way.
The local Bishop performed an exorcism to attempt to convey rest on the poor woman, whoever she was, but apparently the cold in that room remains to this day....
There are a few other unpleasant aspects of Ightham. The crypt is below the water level of the moat so prisoners kept there would be disposed of by opening a sluice gate. A trapdoor was added during the Wars of the Roses in the floor of a tower room and suspicious visitors were dropped into a dark hole and left there to starve. The room above the main gate is said to be haunted by the ghost of one of them. I suppose any house of this age is bound to attract these kinds of gruesome tales. There was no sign of any of that when we visited, just a beautiful and fascinating house that is well worth a look if you ever find yourself in that neck of the woods....
|That's quite some front entrance way, don't you think?|
|Hotch-Potch of building styles and ages|
|You know I am a little obsessed with doorways. There will be more....|
|Ultra Smart Dog Kennel. What would Teddy and Pops make of this??|
|Loved this wallpaper with the bird hunting the butterfly. No idea how old it is.|
|This is the Oubliette|
Rye is a small town on the coast with a big history. It has witnessed first-hand some dramatic changes to the coastline. Once it was Rye Next The Sea, and now it is Rye Some Small Distance Away From The Sea.
Perched at the head of an embayment in medieval times, it was almost entirely surrounded by the sea and as such was an important member of the Cinque Ports Confederation (a twelfth century series of coastal ports in Kent and Sussex formed for military and trade purposes). Its roots are Saxon and it is described as one of the best preserved medieval towns in England.
Violent storms in the 13th century (particularly in 1250 and 1287) cut the town off from the sea, destroyed Old Winchelsea down the coast (from which M's ancestors hail) and changed the course of the River Rother which used to flow to the East of Rye. The sea and river combined in about 1375 to destroy the eastern part of the town. Two years later Rye was sacked and burnt by the French.
By the 1730s, Rye was at the centre of a huge smuggling operation headed by the notorious and violent Hawkhurst Gang who frequented the Mermaid Tavern on Mermaid Street (which I failed to check out before we visited and therefore have no photos of :-(. It's a cobbled street so will be worth a re-visit). They were eventually rounded up and bumped off in various unpleasant ways, which probably failed to match the inventiveness with which they dispatched their enemies, including some customs men.
We climbed the tower of the Norman St Marys at the top of town which gives you some fantastic views across the town (provided you are skinny enough to squeeze through the tiny passage that gets you to the roof top, including passing the bells which still work...)
|Very narrow passageway leading to the bell tower|
|Above the bells|
|View from the top of St Marys looking out to Ypres Tower and across the marshes. All the green area would have been under water in the medieval era with ships docking right next to the town and unloading their goods.|
|Old houses and old cobbled streets next to St Mary's Church|
|Another Old Door ;-)|
|Tudor house next to the church|
|And some more....|
|Ypres Tower, built in 1249 to defend the town from attack by the French. It's part of Rye Castle.|
I'm going to try and rattle through the holiday posts because I want to get back to recording more natural history stuff, so will get on and get them finished in the next couple of days.
Have a lovely evening all,