We are currently working on transcribing account books associated with the building of a stately home in the 17th century. This amazing resource gives week by week expenditure, detailing everything that was needed, including labour, for the building of a new country residence for one of the nobility.
As I sit here transcribing once again I find myself transported back in time, I am given a window into the past through which I happily gaze. I see before me the labourers digging, and digging, and digging. A vast amount of soil was dug up and moved to make way for the foundations, and to landscape the gardens. I have visited several stately houses but never before have I given any thought to the people who actually laboured in their construction. I now find myself thinking how welcome the regular income must have been to those engaged in the building and gardening work. Week after week the same men, and a few women, were engaged to prepare the ground, transport everything from here to there, plant and weed.
The owner of this house bought a huge number of plants. His orchard was filled with crab apple, apple, plum and cherry trees. I can only imagine what an amazing spectacle that must have been in the spring, when they were all laden with blossom. His gardens were full of damask roses and briar roses, surely the scent must have been heady in the summer’s warmth. He established a well stocked kitchen garden and filled his grounds with vast numbers of oak trees, ash and beech, buying acorns by the bushel.
When I next go visiting one of these mansions I shall look with fresh eyes at the building and the grounds, and think back to the men and women who created these glorious dwellings.