Many of you will know that I live on the margin of Highclere Park, within which is situated Highclere Castle. The castle has appeared in many films & TV programmes in the past ('Eyes Wide Shut'...'Jeeves & Wooster') - but at the moment it will be known to anyone who has been/is watching 'Downton Abbey' - as it is the main filming location for this entertaining series.
Autumn Cottage was, up until the 1960's, one of the cottages belonging to the Highclere Estate, with the inhabitants either working at, or being otherwise associated with 'The Castle' - and nowhere is this more visible than amongst the artefacts that I have dug up in, or found on the surface of the garden over the last 25 years. All the little bits of pottery and china, glass and metal give a far more evocative account of those who have lived here than mere words are able to do.
In picture 1 you will see pieces of humble pottery for day-to-day use, such as would be expected in cottages of this stature and age...but if you look in image 2, you will see also a fine array of china which is much more 'posh' - fragments of Chelsea tea-bowls, oriental decorated wares, much ornamented blue and white ware, mixed in with items of more lowly origin. This tells a story, to me, of people in service 'up at the Castle' who may have been given the odd chipped cup or plate, in preference to it being thrown on the rubbish dump when there was still 'a bit of use' left in it. (How I'd love to find that Castle rubbish dump and dig my way through it - I am sure there must be at least one there somewhere!). Can you imagine a maid or farm worker coming home with a pretty plate or cup, admiring it, getting pleasure from it, putting it on the dresser to enjoy it? I can imagine just such a thing - why, I continue a similar tradition every time I come back from the Antiques Arcade!
When doing some restoration work in my hall a few years ago, I found fragments of rather beautiful wallpaper, hand blocked with a fleur-de-lys pattern - yet another discard, I suspect, from the Big House. Recycling has been alive and well in Highclere for a couple of centuries at least...and I have boxes and boxes of artefacts to prove it!
Take a browse through these bits and pieces and see how many different items you can spot - imagine how they were used and by whom, 'Upstairs'? or 'Downstairs'? and if you are wondering about some of them, please leave a comment to ask...If I know more, I'll share it with you.