This is a place I've been meaning to show you for a long time, especially those of you who love the vernacular architecture of the old houses and cottages of England, as well as those who like to see hand-crafted building and woodwork.
This all began back in September 2015 when I attended the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust's day out at the Museum Of East Anglian Life at Stowmarket. The singing and playing take place in various old buildings which have been brought to the site and one of the first musicians I heard was Matt Quinn in a building known as Edgar's Farmhouse. I found out what I could and then returned to take more photos some months later.
It was immediately obvious that this was an unusual building. Inside it was just one large barn-like space, it had an earth floor and it no windows at all. At the end of the music session I searched out an information board which told me that the house dated from the fourteenth century and was built in the nearby village of Coombs for the Adgors, John and his wife Ascelina (now there's a name that should be revived). The family had survived the Black Death, which had swept through the county in the 1340s, and thrived and prospered farming the surrounding fields.
Over the years the Adgors became the Edgars - spelling always being rather fluid in those times - and succeeding generations adapted the original building to suit the needs of the day. We should not be surprised by this, after all we change our homes today to incorporate new fads and technologies, be it double glazing or open-plan living spaces, though the farmers of that time were happy to introduce windows of any kind and went from open-plan to separate rooms. By the twentieth century it looked like the photo, above right. Not only had it had an extra wing added but it had also been converted to have upstairs rooms. The house also had the additional refinement of chimney-stacks.
Not that Mr and Mrs Adgor shivered through the fourteenth century winters without any form of heating. They had a fire alright, they merely hadn't invented the chimney just yet. So the fire was lit in the middle of the room and the smoke rose into the high roof space, finding its way out by any opening it could. Goodness knows there were plenty of holes through which it might escape - just look at the photos! And while you're looking you'll see, in the above photo especially, that many of the original beams are still in place and retain their smoke-blackened appearance to this day.
But what gets the experts excited is the method of construction. Without getting technical it's a stage in the development of such buildings which is seen in few other places and, as you can see, it's a rather more complex and advanced structure than might have been supposed. This was known about, or at least suspected, from examination of the adapted two-storey house back in 1958. But when the farm was about to be demolished to make way for new housing in 1970 it gave an opportunity to take the building apart, piece-by-piece, examine it, and then re-erect it on its present site in the museum. What we see today is the experts' best guess at how it was first constructed.
As Matt Quinn sang the old songs about sailors, farm-workers and highwaymen I couldn't help but wonder if any of these songs had been heard here in the distant past. Did old John and Ascelina once raise their voices and rattle the smoky beams above their heads with rustic harmony?