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2012 in review – thanks for your support. Keep following for a great 2013!

January 22, 2013

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The volunteers ready for action!

November 13, 2012

The volunteers ready for action!

The Hall was one of the last rooms we did – you can see it is a work in progress…

Putting the house to bed

November 13, 2012

On Thursday 8 November the house was brimming with volunteers eager to get stuck in to the big clean up after we’d closed the door for the last time in 2012. Whilst our visitors are very clean and careful not to walk in mud from the garden we are always amazed at how dusty the house has got, even when we’ve been dusting it every week!

The cleaning process is a simple one at Paycocke’s – start from the top and work down….

The volunteer cleaning team arrived brandishing feather dusters and extra bed sheets to cover furniture to keep the dust off over the winter. Ros and Judith gave us all a briefing on how to safely move items of furniture and other valuable objects minimising the risk of damage. We then split up into teams to ‘close down’ the rooms.

During the clean and clear up we came across one or two items which may need attention and will be looked at by our conservator over the winter. We suffer from the same problems other old houses do – wood worm and damp. To combat the first we regularly check items of furniture, treating them with constrain and to deal with the latter we leave radiators on a frost setting in rooms which are known to have the odd problem or two.

It’s always a sad time at the end of the season when the last visitor has gone home and the house interiors are under dust sheets. Almost as if the house were having a long winters nap…

It’s a small world!

October 12, 2012

Many people have been bitten by the bug of researching their family tree. Often, visitors are in the area tracking down a long lost relative or trying to find the place where Aunt Flo grew up. Recently, one of our volunteers had a very unusual surprise…

Pat was in the Garden room and happened to hear two visitors talking about a relative living in Coggeshall. The name rang a bell so she went over to see if she could help. It not only turned out that Pat knew the person they were looking for but it turned out she was related to the visitors!

We’re still trying to track down more information about the Pudney family who were living at Paycocke’s at the turn of the last century. If a Pudney features in your family tree and lived in the area please get in touch with us.

A while ago we went to see if we could find any photos of the Holst family during their stay at Paycocke’s held in the Essex Record Office. Local, regional and national archives are a great place to visit if you’re researching your family tree. We came across a number of black and white photographs around the time of the Buxton restoration work which can now be seen on our website www.nationaltrust.org.uk/paycockes/history by kind permission of the Essex Record Office.

A waft of lavender on the breeze…

September 20, 2012

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Paycocke’s annual lavender harvest signals the coming of Autumn. The garden has been looking its best this summer after the hard work of our volunteer gardener Graham and his team.

During the roof project the old lavender plants were removed and the beds were covered in scaffolding. Once the scaffolding was dismantled the volunteer gardening team set about planting the fresh young plants grown-on specially for us by a Norfolk nursery and paid for by legacy money. Our visitors always comment on the lavender and once its cut the house is filled with a glorious aroma. When you visit you’ll see the bunches of lavender drying in the Garden room and under the writing shelter ready to top up the lavender bowls around the house. The only challenge is to hold some back and not sell all of it as we’ve had many visitors asking to buy a bunch to take home as a memento!

In the past the lavender beds would have been for more than just smell and colour in the garden. You would have probably seen bed sheets and clothing draped over the lavender bushes drying in the sun. The bees are busily collecting the remaining nectar which will produce a wonderful honey. Let’s hope Grange Barn’s bees pay us a visit!

Big Dig unearths exciting discoveries – A whole lot of fun was had!

August 30, 2012

Paycocke’s garden during the big dig showing the location of test pits.

The big dig was a huge success. We had a record breaker 600 visitors across the weekend coming to watch and/or join in.

Unfortunately we did not find a medieval chapel and archaeologists have since become dubious about its inclusion within the Paycocke’s site.

Nevertheless we found an enormous amount of pottery, ceramics, glass and bone in the test pits we dug. This was to be expected as we know the site has been occupied for at least 500 years and if the house is anything to go by, land use has continually changed throughout this time.

In the former lavender bed we found cobbled stones which we expect are the remains of a yard surface.

The long, narrow trench would have been located within the old brewery buildings which stood on the site in the 19th century. We expected to find a floor but didn’t. Archaeologist and dig leader, David Andrews, believes this was probably taken away when the buildings were demolished. We did find a lot of brick used to construct the brewery buildings which are identical to those used in the paving under the writing shelter. It seems the Buxton’s were keen to re-cycle where they could! To the left of this trench, we have a ridge in the lawn. David wonders if this drop in level could be evidence for a brewery cellar once used for storage however we would need to dig deeper to test this theory.

The oldest finds were discovered in the right end of this long trench. We found fragments of pottery older than the existing house, perhaps as old as the 13th century in date. These will be sent off to a finds specialist to investigate further.

Our star find has to be the led seal. Discovered by a local metal detectorist who made a surprise appearance on Saturday, this small object would have been put on a bale of cloth to identify the maker. However at the present moment, before cleaning, there is no makers mark distinguishable.

There is still a lot of work to be done as volunteers clean the finds and bag them up before they are sent to specialists for further analysis. David Andrews’s report detailing his findings will be available in the upcoming months. The trenches will be covered with a sheet of plastic before soil is placed on top of them in the hopes that one day archaeologists will return and did a little deeper to finish off what they started…

We would like to thank everyone involved in this project – the hard work definitely paid off!

See more pictures on Flickr (link on right-hand side of this page).

Big Dig – this bank holiday weekend, 11-5 at Paycocke’s

August 24, 2012

Just a reminder that our big dig is starting tomorrow at 11.

Running till 5pm Monday come along to watch archaeologists hard at work and be the first to see what they uncover. If you fancy yourself as a bit of an Indiana Jones, you can even get involved in helping.

The trench has been plotted and de-turfed and the marquee is already up. It is set to be an exciting weekend, make sure you don’t miss out on all the fun!

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