Saturday, 1 August 2015

The Old Farm House 24

I have many pictures of our old farm house, but now we have left for a more modest house in the village not a hundred yards/paces/metres west of the farm, the old house is undergoing a major refurbishment.

Everything growing close to the walls has been cleared away and scaffolding has been erected all round it, the only exception is an old pear tree growing on a westerly facing wall reputedly being upwardly a hundred and  fifty years old. The last refurbishment was when we moved in some thirty three years ago, on that occasion it had twelve extra windows put in, one notably was positioned to one side of the old pear tree so as not to disturb its  location having been pinned and trained up that wall for generations.
Another modernisation to bring it up to date back then was the electricity, it only had one yes one, two pin socket on the beam  in the sitting room, and that ran the old radio and latterly a black and white TV, they had to be unplugged for an electric iron to be used, there was also a few light bulbs about the house almost one to a room. Over forty new three pin sockets were wired in all round the house to a new fuse board and a modern fuse trip installed, two way switches on the stairs and lights along the landing and over the main outside doors.
The plumbing was noticeable by it absence, It had a rayburn in the kitchen with a cylinder to heat water and a hot water pipe down to the kitchen to a plywood base sink and drainer, this was listing badly as the ply wood was slowly rotting from under it  with, or so it seemed the waste drain pipe through the wall and the cold feed pipe into the house being the only things holding it steady.

There was an old cast iron bath in the back toilet, this had no taps and no plumbing other than a drain plug down to the farm drains, and in the wash room next to it was a big old cast iron 'Copper' ('Copper', a round U shaped cast iron boiler with a round wooden lid on top holding about twenty five gallons, and no it was not made of copper, but that is what it was called)   with a coal fire under it to heat the water for  doing the weekly wash and for heating the bath water. The water had to be ladled out of the copper to the bath and the appropriate amount of cold water from the well pumped for cooling.
 Also in that back wash room was the original well for the house and farm, and I was told by the previous tenants, that it would run dry in summer, so another well was dug in the 1940's  just outside only a few yards from the old one, this when I opened it up in 1983 (and opened again a few days ago July 2015) is thirty foot deep and had plenty of water. When mains water came into the village in the 1950's all wells were condemned and never used again, this one is still clean and useable now, even after all those years.
As with most old houses, the nails holding the laths under the tiles on the roof are very rusty and obviously very close to slipping, if that happens it then forces an emergency big roof job, so the roof has been totally stripped off, the tiles now built up in huge piles on the scaffolding that now envelope the old house.  The old lath and plaster ceilings up stairs have been fetched down and any remaining walls with the horse hair plaster cleaned back to the bare bricks.
The jackdaws have abandoned the chimneys which now stick up in the air like long fingers badly in need of pointing and re-topping. Some of the main roof beams have been taken down to reveal that they are good straight fir trees with the bark still on them after some 250 years holding the roof up.

Its hard to imagine that a family of twenty one children were born and reared there in the late 1800's only one of which went on to live there and rear five children of his own. The youngest of this five children went on to farm Yews Farm up until he retired in 1983 . All of this family of five spent their whole life at Yews Farm and in the old farm house, and none of them every got married, three spinsters and two bachelors. Heating back then was the coal fires, three of the bedrooms had a fire place, and water heated in the copper that I mentioned above. Latterly a rayburn was fitted and a hot water cylinder and one hot water  tap fitted over a flimsy plywood sink unit in the back kitchen, and a bath tub plumbed in up stairs.  When we moved in in 1984 the old heavy cast iron bath (which sat in the downstairs bathroom next to the copper) was taken up the a new bathroom and plumbed in for the first time in its life, it took four of use to move it, such was its weight.
Eighteen radiators were fitted and plumbed in and a boiler installed across the yard to run on logs and straw. After a month of hot radiators we found that the main stair case became loose from its wall fixings due to the timber drying out for the first time in many years, and walls that needed plastering were plastered and we painted and decorated the house from top to bottom.
I must say that it was only partially heated in the first winter, as the radiators were installed in three circuits, only the downstairs circuit was done in time for winter. It was then that we had frost on the inside some of the bedroom windows when it was particularly cold for about a week,

It will be very good to see the old farm house get its new roof, doors and windows in time for the winter of 2015, a  refurbishment that will last another fifty years or more.

The best way to realize the pleasure of feeling rich is to live in a smaller house that your means would entitle you to have
Edward Clarke


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