Sustained for the morning with a delicious breakfast in Richard and Belinda’s sun filled garden room we head out for a day’s exploration of haunts where Drabble ancestors lived.
Richard and Belinda navigate the spider web of English roads with the magical ease of a sorcerer (well, OK..maybe a little GPS) to bring us to St. Giles church where a number of the Drabble family are buried. Subsequent to ripping away persistent ivy and scraping moss and lichens away from selected head stones we manage to assemble a catalogue of significant information about previous generations.
Once again I am made aware of my hopeless sense of history as I am told there has been a church on this site since the middle of the 12th century. An exploration of the interior of the church reveals exquisite carvings, stained glass windows and well kept wooden doors with a delicious mix of beautifully crafted wood and iron.
As we prepare to leave the area I notice something else that has been going on since the middle ages, admittedly not with these exact individuals.
The view over the valley as we leave the church suggests we are certainly not in Saskatchewan.
Our next stop is Haddon Hall, an ancient Manor House.
I’ll let the experts describe it:
Haddon Hall is probably the finest example of a fortified medieval manor house in existence. Present-day Haddon Hall dates from the 12th Century to the early 17th Century, whereupon it lay dormant for over two hundred years from 1700 until the 1920s, when the 9th Duke and Duchess of Rutland restored the house and gardens, and once again made it habitable.
We enter the attached restaurant through a marvelously textured wooden door.
Lunch is a sumptuous affair with delicious local food and beer.
We luck out by tagging along with a wedding party that has hired a guide to bring Haddon Hall to life with stories across the ages. She is an excellent guide and helps us to understand the meaning of the incredible artifacts around us, including a marble carving of a young boy who died in the 1800’s, fading frescoes and finely detailed carvings telling the story of Christ.
Stories of the kitchen bring a dark, cold barren room to life with tales of men wearing only a leather apron, to deal with the stiflingly hot environment, cooking up a sumptuous feast for the Lord of the Manor. The kitchen area is filled with dreadful smoke infused air from roaring fires for boiling pigs feet for gelatin and stew for the workers. Another larger fire is used for roasting venison, pheasant, duck and other game. Animal fat candles supply limited light and the smell of burning protein, all adding to the life limiting working conditions of the 70 some servants working for the Manor.
Wooden doors, a huge tree stump used as a cutting board, a desk made of oak so weathered it appears to be falling apart, and a long Elm plank used as a table top all hold great intrigue to me as I imagine making these without the use of modern tools.
Our guide (well..actually not OUR guide) related stories of the people using dogs to act as extra warmth to help counteract the frigid living conditions present in a stone walled house. Kind of like a living ‘hot water bottle’. An interesting feature of the table top was that it was not fastened down in order to allow the servants to flip it over after a meal and allow the ever present dogs to clean off the bottom of the table and ready it for flipping over for the next meal. Imagine the wonderful immune system stimulation experienced by people of that era.
The surrounding grounds of the Manor are equally spectacular and provide a calming beauty to the imagined bustle of the activities inside the house.
Our next adventure involves mining Richard’s memory and investigative work to find an area where the Drabble family of the past owned and worked in a quarry and mill area of Matlock. To our delight and amazement we find an abandoned building with proof that the Drabbles had been here before.
Our final find of the day is the house that Sarah Winfield lived in for a time after her husband died.
Now, listen up or you will get as confused as I am about these relationships. Sarah Winfield was the great grandmother of Richard, Cathy, John and Peter on the Drabble side of the family. In a few days we will be heading to Bude in the Cornwall area to explore the family history of Cathy, John and Peter’s grandmother, Mimi who’s life was the stimulus for this whole trip.