Sunday, 26 February 2012

Treasure in the Attic

With the conservation work at Ashdown moving into it's spring phase it was time for a group of us to meet up with the National Trust's regional archaeologist Gary to have a look at the finds from the work in the roof. Disappointingly for those of us who were not-so-secretly hoping to find some Charles II gold half-guineas or a pearl necklace belonging to Elizabeth of Bohemia, there was nothing quite so exciting. In fact the process was rather like sorting through a collection of filthy hoover bags on a windy day. Here John models the latest in all-weather archaeological finds sorting gear!

So the finds were not dramatic but they were instructive in terms of the building of the house. There were plenty of bits of 17th century lath and plaster wall with some splendid examples of 17th century handmade nails. There were some beautiful roof tiles with the original wooden pegs in them and one small piece of glass from the original cupola.

The guys from the current renovation project came over for a look and were particularly impressed by the broken tea cup left by workmen in the 1920s. There were newspapers and cigarette packets from the 1980s including a packet of Embassy slim panatellas. A lot of smoking seemed to have been going on near the 17th century wooden roof beams! There was also a rook's nest, a dead rat and a dead bat. Treasure indeed.

The most mysterious find was a series of little handwritten labels with words such as "curialis" and "resttecouche" on them. Also the name Maisey. Any help with the interpretation of these would be most welcome.

Elsewhere the work is providing a fascinating insight into the original structure and build of the house. Evidence has been found of the dormer windows that feature in the Kyp engraving of Ashdown from the early 18th century. The cupola has revealed secrets of it's original design, with moulded timbers and sixteen panels, some of glass others trompe oeil. Much more on these discoveries on the blog later. And here is a picture of our favourite find so far: Details of the 1927 Derby chalked onto a roof beam, maintaining the Ashdown tradition of a keen interest in racing.