Saturday, 1 August 2020

A Notable Medieval Manor



























Great Chalfield Manor was built in 1465, and described by Pevsner, the architectural historian, as "one of the most perfect examples of a late medieval English manor house".
The tiny parish church of All Saints sits within the manor's grounds. It was built during the same period as the manor to replace a much older one.

The dark coloured stone over the entrance is called a dripstone. They were designed to throw off rainwater to prevent it running down the stone tracery or glass below. This architectural feature has been in use for hundreds of years, particularly in this area. The stone house we live in has carved dripstones above our windows.
There are two oriel windows to the front of the house, the other which is more complex can be seen on the first photo. Medieval oriel windows are most commonly found projecting from an upper floor.
A medieval lancet window, named from its resemblance to a lance - there is no need for a dripstone here as the window is inset within the stonework.
The rooftop at Great Chalfield is covered in all manner of stone figures -  soldiers, griffons, monkeys, and several grotesque gargoyle water spouts.







The garden is laid out in an early 20th century Arts and Crafts style, and as it was a hot day, we were very grateful to be able to pop into several of these yew tree houses seeking shade.
This photo is for my blog friend Gina and she will understand why. It shows the yellow flowered Verbascum thapsus - great mullein weed, which English gardeners tend to keep should it arrive in our gardens. It is a wonderful plant for attracting several bees, particularly solitary bees, and the wool-carder bees who use the hairs from the leaves and stems to line their nests. It is a caterpillar food plant and with its nectar/pollen rich flowers it is loved by many insects.

One of the joys of Great Chalfield is the fact that it retains its medieval moat. Moats were built as a security device against thieves and unwanted intruders. The moats were stocked with fish and wildfowl which then served the house with fresh food throughout the year. The water was also a useful resource in case of fire. 

Have you noticed the dripstones above all of the windows and the doorway?





'Summer Reflections on the Moat' 
It may look abstract but it is real!

49 comments:

  1. Hello Rosemary, Great Chalfield Manor is so perfectly maintained--is it currently a museum or a residence? In Ohio mullein is a very common plant, found in virtually every field during summer, and easily spotted with its tall stalks. In addition to attracting wildlife, I believe it has medicinal uses.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - under normal circumstances you can visit the interior of the house, but yes, a large part of it is lived in by the descendants of the family who bought the property in 1878. In 1943 they gave the property and grounds to the National Trust, but personally they still maintain and manage the house.
      Yes, I understand that one of the uses for mullein is tea, and that it is used in various medicines. Apparently it is also used in homeopathic medicine.

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  2. Great job, Rosemary. Exactly the combination of excellent photographs and informed narrative we have come to expect from you. I think that the British tourist authorities should be putting you on their payroll!

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  3. What a magnificent place. I love learning about the function of architectural details like dripstones. Also about the prized great mullien weed. Which for some odd reason found it's home in the middle of a sidewalk.

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    1. It appears that great mullein generally seems to choose a crack in which to flourish.

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  4. Lovely. Behind the drip stone in the arch you can see another architectural feature called a relieving arch. Right up until quite recently it was believed that another arch built over windows and doors would take the pressure off lintols, but they don't. They actually increase the load on the lintol by their own weight.

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    1. It is fortunate then, that so many have survived.

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  5. Beautiful! And now I know all about dripstones!

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    1. You never know you might need this information one day for a cross word puzzle or a quiz!

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  6. What a wonderful tour of a great manor home and gardens! Thanks so much for explaining so much. I greatly enjoyed it!

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    1. Thank you, I am delighted that you enjoyed it.

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  7. Dearest Rosemary,
    Great Chalfield Manor is a well preserved, incredible example of clever architecture in late medieval times. Those drip stones are very special!
    The gardens of course are a dream and so is the still existing moat.
    That too served many purposes.
    Thanks for sharing this through excellent photography.
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. Dear Mariette - thank you very much for your very kind comment. I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing his historic manor house with its glorious garden and rather special moat. We really enjoyed ourselves wandering around it.

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  8. Dear Rosemary,
    Here I thought that a noxious weed had invaded my walkway. I have two small plants coming along. Strange that they have not found another home, but always between cracks of stone.
    Learned so much again, especially the clever use of drip stones. The stones used to build the Manor House must have been indigenous to the area. I can't even imagine how many were needed. And I wonder what was used to hold them together?

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    1. Dear Gina mullein does appear to enjoy growing in places which other plants tend to avoid. Fortunately they don't arrive in large numbers else they could be a pest, but one or two look quite stately and serve the wildlife well.
      We have no problem building stone houses in this area, the ground is full of oolithic limestone. It is very rare to see anything other than a stone house here. The mortar used to bind the stones together in the medieval period was made from crushed limestone.
      It is very similar to the stone used in Italy and parts of France.

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    2. Thank you Rosemary. Such interesting information.

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  9. What wonderful photos! They lifted my spirit.

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    1. I am so pleased, that is a great comment - thank you.

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  10. Apart from this very interesting post I just learned something that puzzled me for a lifetime, my grandparents lived I quite a large house which had similarities to the one above though less stately - it was called Oriel House and I couldn't fathom why -Oriel Windows - thank you so much!!!!

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    1. I am really pleased that you have the answer to your lifetimes puzzle. The same applies to Oriel College, Oxford. If you look at an image of the quadrangle buildings, one side of the quadrangle has a very fine oriel window.

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    2. never knew about that either - thanks!

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  11. The manor and gardens are beautiful and a lovely place to spend some time. Your post taught me all about dripstones, and I will be keeping my eye out for them on photos and hopefully, in person, once we can travel again. I find stone buildings so full of charm and character. There are few of them in our area as most are built of wood.

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    1. Let's hope you do see dripstones when you begin your travelling again - here's to our future journeys.

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  12. Replies
    1. It was a lovely place to escape from the cares of the world for a few hours.

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  13. Wonderful photos, Rosemary. I enjoyed seeing the lovely blue sky as much as the buildings and gardens. A grey, wet day here but then it is mid winter, a good day to stay by the fire.

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    1. Fortunately we have enjoyed some lovely summer days - winter seems like a lifetime away, but I know that it is coming. Hopefully plenty more sunshine before it does.

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  14. Yes saw the drip stone, and interesting.
    The building look strong and solid and I often wonder when they were built did the builders and the owner ever think their homes would last so long!
    The grounds are looking nice, do like the ponds.

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    1. The oldest building in this country is a Neolithic farmstead on the island of Orkney in Scotland - it is 5700 years old.

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  15. These are very, very beautiful photos, Rosemary - and so typical English! (My heart yearns..) I did not know about the dripstones - interesting protection. And the flowerbeds: I start to rhapsodize...

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    1. It's a lovely property Britta seen on a beautiful day.

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  16. Such a well preserved elegant structure..and your photography is amazing as usual Rosemary.

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    1. It is in remarkable condition especially considering its age.

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  17. This is such a lovely property and the garden is gorgeous! I Love the "yew house" and wish I had one. Thank you for sharing your architectural knowledge.... I did not know about drip stones, but it makes perfect sense. Late Medieval buildings are not something we have over here. I wish I could see the inside as well. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. I wonder how many properties being built today will still be around in 600 years time? In normal times it is possible to go inside but currently that is not available.

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  18. What a gorgeous house and garden! I have not heard the term 'drip stone', but now I will know when I see them. The architecture of the manor is very appealing and it sits in a wonderful garden. The yew tree house is so cute, and a welcome relief from the heat. I think we could do with those in Australia! Our weeds have never been known to do anything useful: we will speak to them about this, and the Great Mullein weed, which is pretty too. Lovely post Rosemary.

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    1. Thank you Patricia - it is surprising just how many people have been taken by the 'dripstones', but you never know the information might come in useful one day when doing a quiz or crossword puzzle!!!

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  19. Oh so lovely! What a house and what a garden! Just love it...
    Love from Titti

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  20. Dear Rosemary - What a charming manor house and gardens! I love all the things you showed us. Yes, I noticed drip-stones above the windows and doorways. They look ingenious working both aesthetic and practical and give nice accent to the building. The deep blue of the reflected sky is enchanting. I’m always fascinated by the reflections on water, the real fluid art. One thing I think of negative about moat in general is that it can be a breeding site for mosquitoes when water is still. I'm not sure how it is in Britain but in my country so where it's highly muggy in summer. Take care, and enjoy your summer.

    Yoko

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    1. Dear Yoko - fortunately mosquitoes are not a big issue here - and in fact I have never been bitten by one here.

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  21. This is all so stunning - the buildings, the gardens and hedges, the moat and ponds.
    I know how Gina especially is loving it! I wish you could see her exquisite home - it is the most beautiful residence I've ever visited.
    The 'manor house' which may go up next to us soon will never be built to last like this beautiful place, that's a certainty!

    Mary x

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