Thursday, 13 August 2015


There was a bit of a hoo-hah happening in the field.
This was the view from Nilly Towers when I looked out today.
A Level results? Yay!!!

Sunday, 26 July 2015


Well, not quite.
This aristocratic profile belongs to Sir James Graham of Norton Conyers House, a slightly crumbling manor house with medieval origins, near Ripon in North Yorkshire and a possible inspiration for Thornfield Hall in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre.
Still striding, not tottering, Mr N and his sister approach the house for an "At Home" with Lord and Lady Graham.

The house had been due to re-open to visitors this year after a long battle with deathwatch beetle. There was also excitement over the discovery of a secret staircase to an attic room, further evidence of the Jane Eyre link and an added attraction for visitors.

Charlotte Bronte described Thornfield Hall, Mr Rochester's house, as,
"three storeys high, of proportions not vast, though considerable, a gentleman's house, not a nobleman's seat." Not unlike the house we were visiting.
She was told the story of the Norton Conyers' "madwoman" who had been kept locked in an attic 60 years earlier, a tale also well-known to Sir James who grew up in the house. While it was thought that this story might have been the inspiration for Rochester's tragic wife Bertha, Charlotte's Thornfield had a secret staircase to Bertha's prison while none was known to exist at Norton Conyers until... 2004 restoration work led to the lifting of floorboards in the attic and the discovery of dusty stairs down from the attic to a hidden doorway on the first floor landing. This entrance had been concealed in Victorian panelling which was installed between the years 1862 to 1882 when the house, along with the knowledge of the existence of the staircase, was lost to the Graham family through debt.

The house has medieval origins, C16 extensions, Dutch gables, C17 and C18 alterations and, possibly, Viking foundations - altogether a quaint hotch-potch.
In a room full to bursting with antiques we met the charming incumbents, Sir James and Lady Halina Graham, who introduced us to their history and their home. Sadly, the discovery of another deathwatch beetle infestation means that the house cannot open as often this year as had been planned, but please do watch this space.
We were then let loose in the house and photography was allowed!
"That is very similar to ours, dear."
This room has Chinese silk on its walls.
We wondered if Charlotte had ever sat at this desk?
The Connoisseur.
Interesting family objects.
An antique mahogany plate bucket - very useful.
Georgian wallpaper uncovered.
My favourite painting was of Sir Richard Graham, 1st Baronet, 1636 - 1711, as a small boy wearing a dress. The letter below was written to his father when he was 7, in 1643. I was surprised to find he had written to "Dear Daddy"! 

The house was full of beautiful, traditional flower arrangements, all very Constance Spry. The flowers were freshly gathered from Norton Conyers' pretty walled gardens. It is free to wander or to purchase plants on several days each week.

Tea in the orangerie.
Norton Conyers seemed to me to be a house full of warmth, affection and romance, albeit with a few crumbling corners, flaking surfaces and fading gloss - like the rest of us. 
I dreamed that night of Mr Rochester and Jane Eyre.
"Come to me - come to me entirely now", said he; and added in his deepest tone, speaking in my ear as his cheek was laid on mine, "Make my happiness - I will make yours."
From Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.




Saturday, 18 July 2015


My dear Daughter-in-law texted me one evening last week.
"Ha ha!", I replied, " We do know how to have a nice time, don't we?"
We were sitting in our Holiday Inn Extra bedroom, just off the Norwich Ring Road, next door to Asda and with a view of the decaying roof of the local ice rink, through a window that could not be opened...
...watching a TV that chopped people's heads in half...
...after dining nearby.
We were in Norfolk on business, visiting the Norfolk Showground Antiques Fair and, of course, Daughter-in-law knew we would be having a nice time, in our own sweet way.
Our first stop down the A1 had been Burghley House where we received a much kinder reception than former staff.
And, hooray, photography was allowed so...
..we joined the other worshippers of beautiful things.
Then onwards and Eastwards to the village of Castle Acre, with its ruined Priory
and the eponymous Norman Castle.
 The Parish Church of St James the Great
We enjoyed exploring the 15th century church with its rare painted pulpit.

A skull peeps out from the upper floor of the sacristy, once used as a charnel house.
Next day we got down to the serious stuff
Hev yew got antiques, boy?

Cow to Customer? Farmyard flavours, perhaps. Muck 'n' Mint?
We stayed just two nights, finding plenty of new stock at the antiques fair - and we also found time to have a very nice time, Norfolk-style... Oxburgh Hall.

And, best of all, up on the North Norfolk coast
at Blakeney.
I was pleased with my close-up of wood pigeons until Mr N spotted avocets

and egrets!


Light fades over the salt marshes and our fun is over - until next time.