Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Townend, Troutbeck, England

Townend is a country home nestled in the hills surrounding the Lake District in England. First built in 1626 by the Browne family, it has been restored by the National Trust as a period farmhouse.


The small garden

The massive barn

The tour of the house shows a bit of the quirky history and characters in the Browne family. The first room we entered was the kitchen with a massive fireplace. The fireplace also had a small compartment above, not quite visible unless you are close to the fire. The guide said that guests would often warm themselves by the fire and take a peek up above. That's where meats were dried and smoked. Visitors could tell how well things were going for the family by the number of ham hocks and sides of beef hanging around.

Massive iron fireplace

Some samples in the smoker

The kitchen also features some bespoke cabinets. Lots of different pieces of furniture were put together to make storage and work surfaces.

Dresser + clock + desk = a comfortable kitchen

Some kitchen items

A narrow bedroom next to the kitchen was probably the cook's quarters.

Narrow bedroom

The upstairs bedrooms have much more character, being the family sleeping area. Another piece of adapted furniture is a dresser put on its side to serve as a small closet.

Bedroom with a typical dress

Atypical dresser

The bedroom also has an old-style bath tub. The guide told us that the tub was filled with hot water from the kitchen on Saturday. The master of the house (the eldest Mr. Browne in residence) would bathe first. He, being a farmer, was naturally pretty grubby. Once he was done, they would skim the layer of dirt and grease floating on top and then other family members would take their baths in order, with additional skimming inbetween bathers. Once the youngest one was done, they would throw out the bath water. By that time the water was very murky indeed and they would often remind themselves not to throw out the baby with the bathwater!

Bathtub and fireplace

Back downstairs, we went into the living room, which is decorated with various hunting implements on the walls.

Rifle and collars for prisoners

Also on the wall was an unusual item that the guide asked us to guess. We were stumped.

What's this thing?

Someone finally guessed right--it's an old bassoon. The bassoonist would bring it with them to church on Sundays and play along with everyone else from the village who had a portable instrument and some talent.

The large dining table was used by the family and the farm hands for meals. Farming is hard work so everyone got a good meal in the middle of the day.

Table for lots of people!

Just off the dining room is the library. The family had amassed a large collection of books, about 1500. They range from "penny dreadfuls" to reference books. Judging from the books, they were well used by the family and other locals. 45 of the books are unique, i.e. no other copy survives, so the collection is quite valuable.

Library, which was off-limits when we visited

George Browne lived in the house during the Victorian era. By his time, the farm was generating enough wealth that he could retire at the age of 40! He spent his free time carving wood, which can be seen throughout the house. He even carved a chair for his wife!

Grandfather clock case carved by George Browne

Detail (click to enlarge)

A chair for his wife (the date of 1702 is in fact bogus! He lived in the late 1800s)

Detail (click to enlarge)


Another quirk attributed to the family is the staircase. People going up to the bedroom floor can see that the stairs go up another flight. The only thing is there are no rooms at the top. The stairs are just for show, as if they had a whole other floor!

Tricksy stairs!

The home is fun to visit though when we went, visitors could only get inside on tours led by staff. The day we were there, a tour started at 11 and another at noon. So be sure to check before you go!

Gorgeous countryside visible from the home

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