Monthly Archives: February 2014

The library floor is revealed!

Today was the day that the horrible old carpet came up in the library, and we all got our first proper look at what lies beneath it, and the results are quite exciting:

The oak parquet of the library floor

The oak parquet of the library floor

The parquet is oak, but from some bits that have come loose around the edge of the room we can tell that it is quite a thin veneer, rather than proper parquet blocks. Some parts of it will need a bit of restoration, but on the whole it is in pretty good condition. All the polish has gone though, apart from a thin line down the middle of the room. It seems to have been leeched up by the carpet, as the line that is still polished is where there was a gap in the underlay between two sections of carpet.

The line down the middle is where there was a join in the carpet

The line down the middle is where there was a join in the carpet

Still, Mark and Ted have done some research and we are going to bring out the shine with some wax polish. First though, it needs a good clean.

Damian helped to clean the floor

Damian helped to clean the floor

Scrubbers!

Scrubbers!

All the boys working hard to bring up the shine

All the boys working hard to bring up the shine

I’m so pleased with how it is all coming together. The wood of the floor goes so beautifully with the blue and white on the walls and ceiling.

Apart from polishing the floor, the main job left is to paint some blue into the panels of the shutters. Then we are going to look at replacing the 1980s radiators with some reconditioned cast iron ones. Nearly there!

 

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Fully booked in the holiday flats for the first time

Our third holiday flat has only been ready for guests for a week and a half, and it has been full for all of that time. We haven’t even had a chance to take any photos of it yet to advertise it online! Today all three holiday flats are occupied, so we are officially fully booked! And bookings for this year are looking good too. We were lucky enough to be found on holidaylettings.co.uk by a group of builders a few weeks ago, who come from Preston, and were working on building the steel frame for a new Audi showroom in Tunbridge Wells (not an Aldi supermarket, as we originally thought, much to our disappointment!). They have stayed in the Nursery for 5 weeks, going home at weekends. They are now in the Dairy (the new holiday flat), and have kindly spread the word to other builders on the same site, who took up residency in the Nursery today. These guys are cladding the steel frame, and they come from Burton. They may be staying with us during the week for some time to come. It is really nice to be able to provide a home away from home for these guys, who have really appreciated our accommodation. We also have a couple who are in the midst of moving house staying in Courtyard Cottage, our one-bedroom flat, at the moment.

Since our first furnished holiday flat became available in the middle of last year, we have provided accommodation to a much more diverse range of people than just holiday-makers. As well as builders and those moving house we have had people building a house, a couple visiting their family over Christmas, people convalescing after an operation, and many holiday-makers too. I’ve really enjoyed meeting all these people, and it’s very rewarding be able to provide accommodation for which there is clearly a big demand. It’s also great to see Court Lodge being appreciated and enjoyed by such a large number of people.

Living and dining room in The Nursery

Living and dining room in The Nursery

View from one of the bedrooms in The Nursery

View from one of the bedrooms in The Nursery

Getting there in the library

The painting is nearly all done in the library. You can get a real sense of how it is going to look now. I just love the blue that we chose, and how it looks against the white plasterwork.

The library is almost completely done in the lovely Oval Room Blue

The library is almost completely done in the lovely Oval Room Blue

I love the way the colour has transformed how the marble fireplace looks. The next exciting step will be revealing the oak parquet floor underneath the horrible old green carpet that we have all put up with for too long. You can get an idea of how it will look from these photos, but you still need to use your imagination.

Can you get a sense of how the floor will look against the blue of the walls?

Can you get a sense of how the floor will look against the blue of the walls?

The oak parquet floor under the carpet that will soon be revealed

The oak parquet floor under the carpet that will soon be revealed

We have a month left until our first booking, and I think we’ll easily make our target.

The renovation of the library continues

We spent yesterday working on our third holiday flat which, although not quite ready, already has occupants in it! They arrived yesterday evening, so we had most of the day to finish putting up some ladderax shelves, moving furniture in, and unpacking all the things we’d ordered for it. It’s in pretty good shape, but not ready for photos yet as we still need to buy some big items of furniture, which we’ll get after the present occupants leave. I’ll post photos in the next couple of weeks. We are calling this one The Dairy because… well, you can guess.

Today Mark was back on the case redecorating the library. He had already undercoated the ceiling, so today he put the top coat on – Farrow and Ball’s Strong White. It’s a fabulous colour, a really chalky white, so very in keeping with the Georgian era we are trying to hark back to. And it lifts the library, and makes it feel so much lighter and brighter.

The library ceiling in Strong White

The library ceiling in Strong White

Once the ceiling was done Mark got straight on to starting the colour on the walls. We’ve chosen another Farrow and Ball colour here: Oval Room Blue. Contrasting with the white of the plaster work, it looks almost like a deep wedgewood blue, and it will also go wonderfully well with the old gold leaf on the picture frames, once we put the portraits back up. It is so exciting to finally be getting rid of the late 1970s avocado green! Once the painting is done we will be taking up the nasty green fitted carpet to reveal the oak parquet flooring underneath. Can’t wait!

The library walls in Oval Room Blue

The library walls in Oval Room Blue

While this exciting restoration work was going on, Ian had a dirtier job to contend with. One of our cottages had blocked drains, so we had to call out an emergency drain expert to unblock them. Not a pleasant experience, but expertly handled by Ian!

We also had a productive day in the office with Katie. We are moving firmly and surely towards both the biomass boiler and becoming a fully functioning wedding venue. The goal is in sight, and it is becoming much clearer how we are to get there.

The Heroes of Court Lodge Estate!

Most days working at Court Lodge are varied and interesting, but every so often things go a little crazy and nothing would surprise me. Today was one of those days. It started off with an immersion heater failing in one of the flats (a surprisingly common occurrence, I might add), so our poor resident had to start the day with a cold shower. We called a plumber, but he couldn’t come out until tomorrow, so we called Christian Hawkins, our electrician, as immersions are a joint plumber/electrician job. Christian came out straight away and fixed the immersion (hooray!), but as he and his assistant were leaving they noticed a leak in the ceiling of the entrance hall. After further investigation it turned out to be a washing machine that had been badly installed in another of the flats, and had been leaking for about 6 weeks. Christian came to the rescue and fixed it for us. What a hero!

As well as urgent and unexpected repairs, lots of other exciting jobs were underway today. Mark Truman, our fantastic general builder/decorator/handyman, has been here this week, and is working on the redecoration of the library. He has been cleaning the ornate plaster cornicing with sugar soap and a toothbrush (I kid you not!), which as you can imagine is a pretty laborious and soul-destroying job. But Mark is a trooper, and takes real pride and pleasure in bringing our forlorn old Country House back to glory. When the library is finished it is going to be stunning. But he reckons he’s got another couple of days worth of cleaning plasterwork with a toothbrush still to go. Another hero!

Mark Truman cleaning the cornicing with his trusty toothbrush

Mark Truman cleaning the cornicing with his trusty toothbrush

You can see here the difference that it makes

You can see here the difference that it makes

Katie is another fairly recent addition to our team, who is doing absolutely sterling work in helping us make Court Lodge a viable business. She has been helping us with important financial decisions, like which biomass boiler supplier to go with, and how to fund it, and how to progress towards being a fully functioning wedding venue. She has helped us choose and hire architects, surveyors, structural engineers, and planning consultants, and her job is varied too, as she also works on finding us a supplier of temporary toilets so we have enough to apply for our license to hold weddings! She has really helped move us along, and Ian and I both feel we are going to reach our goals much more quickly thanks to Katie. Another hero!

Ted, one of our volunteers, and a resident of one of the flats at Court Lodge, has been hard at work today with the chainsaw that Ian bought the other day. Ian still needs to go on a course to get chainsaw qualified before he can wield one, so Ted very kindly offered to start cutting up all the trees and branches that came down in the Christmas Eve storm. It’s a huge job, and there will be lots of tidying up for us to do this weekend, but we will have a big bonfire! Thanks Ted, you are another of our heroes!

And another thing that happened today was that we were visited by Jayne, a representative from Visit England, to give us a star-rating for Courtyard Cottage, our one-bedroom holiday let. We were very proud to be given a 3-star rating, but Jayne told us that we were a high 3-star! We even got 4 stars for cleanliness (and that was down to me, so I’m pretty pleased with myself!)

We have also recently taken our first booking for the hire of the library, to Angela Mason, who will be holding a ‘Touched with Sound’ workshop at the end of March. That gives us a clear deadline for Mark and his toothbrush!

Life at Court Lodge is certainly never dull!

Siegfried Sassoon, the Morlands, and Court Lodge

Last time I wrote about my family’s connection with Jane Austen and her family. But there are also connections between the Morlands and the celebrated World War I poet Siegfried Sassoon. Before the war Sassoon lived in Matfield, about 4 miles from Lamberhurst. He was born into a wealthy family in 1886, and he lived the pastoral life of a young squire: fox hunting, playing cricket, golfing and writing romantic verses.

His war poetry was bleak and unforgiving. Being an innocent, his reaction to the realities of war, both through his poetry and on the battlefield, was all the more bitter and violent. Many critics have put the horror and brutality of war that comes across so vehemently in his poetry, down to the contrast between his idyllic pastoral life in Kent and the sheer bloody awfulness of war. As it is the 100th anniversary of World War I, I thought I would delve a little further into this connection with Court Lodge and the Morland family.

As well as his war poetry, Sassoon is well known for his memoirs; a trilogy collectively known as The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston. In these books he gave a thinly fictionalised account of his wartime experiences, contrasting them with his nostalgic memories of country life before the war, and recounting the growth of his pacifist feelings.

The first book in this trilogy is Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, which depicts Sassoon’s childhood and early adulthood spent in the Kent countryside. He was well acquainted with Lamberhurst, which he calls ‘Amblehurst’, and also with the Morland family, whom he refers to as the ‘Maundle’ family. He talks of playing golf on Squire Maundle’s private nine-hole golf course, which goes down to the River ‘Neaze’ (River Teise). The private nine-hole golf course is still owned by the Morland family, and now forms part of Lamberhurst Golf Course. Here is a quote from Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man:

“What are you going to do today George?” asks Aunt Evelyn, as she gets up from the breakfast table to go down to the kitchen to interview the cook.

“Oh, I shall probably bike over to Amblehurst after lunch for a round of golf.” I reply.

Over at Amblehurst, about four miles away, there is a hazardless nine-hole course round Squire Maundle’s sheep-nibbled park. The park faces south-west, sloping to a friendly little river – the Neaze – which… divides the counties of Kent and Sussex. On the other side of the river is the village. Squire Maundle’s clanging stable clock shares with the belfry of the village school the privilege of indicating the Amblehurst hours. My progress up and down the park from one undersized green to another is accompanied by the temperate clamour of sheep-bells (and in springtime by the loud litanies of baa-ing lambs and anxious ewes). The windows of Squire Maundle’s eighteenth-century mansion overlook my zig-zag saunterings with the air of a county family dowager who has not yet made up her mind to leave cards on those new people at the Priory. As a rule I have the links to myself, but once in a while “young” Squire Maundle (so-called because his eighty-seven-year-old father is still above ground) appears on the skyline in his deer-stalker hat, with a surly black retriever at his heels and we play an amicable round.

Siegfried Sassoon, Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man (Faber and Faber, 1928) pp. 84-85.

“Old Squire Maundle” refers to William Courtenay Morland (WCM), my great great grandfather. Early on in the book Sassoon talks about attending a child’s party with his Aunt Evelyn. He writes “And old Squire Maundle, nodding and smiling by the door, as he watched his little granddaughter twirling round and round with a yellow ribbon in her hair.” (p. 41) The little granddaughter would have been my great aunty Vi, whom I remember as a very old lady when I was a little girl. She used to tell her children and grandchildren that she remembered opening the door to Siegfried Sassoon when she was a little girl and saying to him “Who are you?!”

In the quote above Sassoon mentions “young” Squire Maundle appearing in his deerstalker hat with his surly black retriever at his heels. “Young” Squire Maundle is to WCM’s eldest son, Charles William Morland. Thanks to Siegfried Sassoon, and allowing for some poetic license, we have a literary portrait of him. He gives us the following description of Charles:

Without wishing to ridicule him, for he was always kind and courteous, I may say that both his features and his tone of voice have something in common with the sheep who lift their mild munching faces to regard him while he plays an approach shot in his cautious, angular ,and automatic style. He is one of those shrewdly timorous men who are usually made a butt of by their more confident associates. Falstaff would have borrowed fifty pounds off him, though he has the reputation of being close with his money. His vocabulary is as limited as his habit of mind, and he speaks with an old-fashioned word-clipping conciseness. His lips are pursed up as if in a perpetual whistle. The links – on which he knows every tussock and ant-hill intimately – are always “in awful good condition”; and “That’s a hot’un!” he exclaims when I make a long drive, or “That’s for Sussex!” (a reference to the remote possibility that my ball may have gone over the river). But the best instance I can give of his characteristic mode of expressing himself is one which occurred when I once questioned him about a group of little grey stones among the laurel bushes outside his stable-yard. After whistling to his retriever he replied “House-dogs bury in the shrubbery; shooting-dogs bury in the park”…

Siegfried Sassoon, Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man (Faber and Faber, 1928) p. 85

So the little pile of stones in the laurel bushes would have been the grave of a house dog, buried in the shrubbery. There is still a laurel bush next to the Coach House, which is where the horses were stabled, and which was converted into a house in the 1980s. It’s where my family and I are now living. And as a child I remember exploring in the rhododendron shrubberies, and coming across small rectangular arrangements of stones, which the gardener told me were the graves of former pets.

Research into our family history rarely gives us an insight into the mannerisms and characteristics of our ancestors, so I feel immensely fortunate to have these literary references to my great great grandfather and his family. My research is beginning to  build up a picture of these people through their diaries, and other historical documents, which recount their activities, decisions and actions. But the literary portraits given by Siegfried Sassoon help to complete that picture with the sort of detail that would be otherwise unavailable.

 

Charles William Morland, or "Young Squire Maundle"

Charles William Morland, or “Young Squire Maundle”, with his surly black retriever at his heels

Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Sassoon

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William Courtenay Morland, or "Old Squire Maundle"

William Courtenay Morland, or “Old Squire Maundle”