Rot and royalty
photos: Rosemary Brown
The May meeting for Stanhoe and Barwick WI was very special as it was a Coronation Month Meeting. It started with “Three Cheers for The King”; this was followed by the planned monthly talk; and as a finale a Coronation Tea, with sweet and savoury food made by members, was served. Some members dressed for the occasion in tiaras, and one brought her Coronation Gnome as decoration.
Our speaker was Anne Guymer, a volunteer at Oxborough Hall, who kept us fascinated by the tale of “Endurance” or as she called it ”Medieval Rafters, Rats, and Treasure”, a renovation building project stared in 2016, and finished in 2022 at a cost of £6,000,000.
Problems first began to emerge when a dormer window fell into the courtyard one evening, and investigations showed that the rest of the dormer windows, the gatehouse, and all 27 chimneys were in a similar state, with rot having set into the woodwork everywhere.
36 miles of scaffolding was erected, even in the moat where it was stabilised with sandbags. And a plastic cover was put on the roof where almost 18,000 tiles needed replacing.
Whilst the work was in progress many treasures were discovered including pieces of fabric from clothing, a fragment of blue and gold illuminated lettering dating from 1400, many fragments of wallpaper, and the Keynes Psalmes, a prayer book from 1569. Even the Bats were moved out from one area to aid the work and discoveries. There are still many treasures waiting to be revealed from a stash of many black bin bags!
We finished with a whistle stop tour of the Bedingfield family line, before hearing of Lady Sybil and some relatives who rescued Oxbofough from demolition in the early 1950’s by collecting a sum of £5,000 to purchase the property. And in 1952 she gave it to the National Trust for safekeeping.
Since the renovations Oxborough has become one of the top 28 “TreasureHouses” owned by the National Trust.
It was a fascinating talk, and a follow up visit is positively recommended.
After that,our very relaxed members were invited to help themselves to goodies from a selection of savoury dishes, followed by a selection of sweet dishes, accompanied by a fruit punch, and cups of tea served by our committee in our best antique WI china which is only used on special occasions.