Saturday, 19 November 2011

The Village, Part Two

Rose Cottage, pre-renovations
The land for the village was former farmland that had laid fallow for many generations. We were informed when we signed the deeds that the ruins of the old house remained but I was unable to see them from the site of the mill.
I didn't give it much thought to be perfectly honest, since I assumed it was just rubble. During this time Margaret was with child and having suffering from serious health problems related to her condition. I was worried to say the least, and so after inspecting the building work one day, I decide to take a walk before I headed back to Milton. Walking has always been something that helps me handle whatever pressures I am facing and I had been walking for perhaps ten minutes when I topped a small rise and saw that the most wonderful ruin stood before me. Whoever had lived here before had not only been farmers, clearly they must have been landowners to have built such a lovely home.
With my interest piqued I made my way down to the house and began to explore. The roof was long since gone as was much of the timber but the walls were almost completely in tact and it was easy to see the home that this had once been, despite it's current dilapidated state.
I began to picture Margaret and I in a house like this and I knew exactly how much she would love this place.

I had to leave though; I had a mill to run and a sick wife to care for but on the way home, my mind kept drifting back to the house. Back in Milton I had far too much on my mind to consider the ruin any further but after our daughter was born, my mind drifted back to the fireplaces I had seen there and the beautiful stone work. I imagined Bessy playing in the cleaned up garden, Margaret and I watching her from the rear parlour window.
So finally I approached Mr Anderson again and asked him to look at the ruin and see if it could be restored. The news was good; while it would need a new roof, new wood work and timber, the basic structure was sound and could be made good for a quite reasonable sum. I didn't want to syphon funds off from the village project but since I no longer had to pay rent on the Marlborough Mill (Mr Bell had left it to Margaret in his will) I had amassed a tidy sum in my own bank account over the past two years, which would cover the renovations.
Rear view of Rose Cottage, post renovation. The stable block (with the lower roof) is visible to the left of the main house
All that remained was to show the house to Margaret and get her approval, although I was sure that she would agree with me. She loved it also and I have never seen her so happy as she was that day.
Above the door we found an old wooden sign declaring it to be Rose Cottage. Although it no longer looked like a cottage, it was far too grand for that, some parts of the house seemed older than others so it seemed as though the house had been improved upon and made larger over the years. I do not know if the old owners kept the name of Rose Cottage or if the sign was simply never removed from the original structure but either way, it would now be Rose Cottage again, home of the Thornton family
Mr Anderson had already begun making preparations to restore the property and it was finished just before the first phase of housing. By this stage the workers were walking from Milton to the mill every morning and Margaret didn't want to move into the house before their housing was also ready, so we used those weeks to decorate the rooms.
Mother took control of the public rooms, such as the front parlour and dining room, as well as the servants rooms, while Margaret took care of the family rooms, the rear sitting room, the study cum library, our bedroom and the nursery.
The master bedroom, our fireplace is to the right, outside of the frame
Margaret's dressing room
Though I love my mother dearly and understand exactly why the public rooms had to be so grand and austere, I much preferred Margaret's more comfortable and less showy rooms. I think if she's being honest, Mother does too.
We moved in as soon as the workers houses were finished but with it's history and weather-beaten look, Rose Cottage already felt like a home long before we moved a stick of furniture in.
Dining room
We had already hired a gardener who was living above the stables, and he had worked hard to tame the wilderness that was a large walled garden at the rear. Somehow he succeeded without making it look too barren. Once he had cleared the wilderness in the back of the house he did the same at the front and dug a circular gravel driveway, which leads back to the main gate and branched off in front of the house, leading around to the stable block  (the slightly smaller building you can see in the photograph, to the left of the main house).
Living in Milton we had not needed horses since we could walk everywhere or hire a cab, out here though, we knew that we would need out own transportation. We kept four horses in total, a pony for the gig (which could hold two people) and was used by Margaret or Mother, two horses to pull our carriage (which could hold six passengers, two drivers and luggage if necessary) and a large shire horse, who actually pulled the mill's cart, although he was stabled overnight at the house with the others horses.
Below are a few more photographs of our home.
Formal front Parlour or drawing room. The portrait above the fireplace is of my father.
The library or study
The back parlour or sitting room decorated up for Christmas
We have made many wonderful memories in this house and I sincerely hope that you will share them with us by purchasing a copy of Northern Light.

John Thornton
Next: Building a community
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[The ruin pictured on this post is Nymans House and the renovated house is Up Cerne Manor House]

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