Pyracantha, Reading Room, Long Houses and Bastles

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Or all the things you didn’t need to know
about some old villages
and
Pyracantha planting

I’ve been working on the Pyracantha and finished it off with a couple of layers of gloss varnish.  Whenever I think of this plant I think prickles and I think glossy leaves, hence the varnish, but it’s mainly been added to help hold the leaves and berries together in the hope that they’ll stay put on the wires.

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Stepping back a bit

Plantings

I can see a small Pyracantha from our kitchen window.  Technically the plant is not ours, though I did plant it.  It’s actually in someone else’s garden.

That may need explaining, I suppose, so get comfy, this may take a little time and a diversion into ancient and more recent history.

We bought our home in 1980; it’s a longhouse of which we have about half. (Here are a couple of links to: Dartmoor , Scottish Borders variations and historical reconstruction of a medieval one.  Actually, some of our ground floor rooms have part flat ceiling and part coombing, having had loft space added at some time.

Older houses around here, sometimes built on the pattern of old longhouses and sometimes were bastles.  In the bastle, you’d have your animals down below on the ground floor and you and family would live above, accessible by ladder which could be pulled up, or by external stone steps which could be defended, thereby gaining some security for when the next raiding party came through and also lots of hot air (unspecified here) from the cattle and horses below.

In the longhouse, one end would be for human occupation and the other for animals.  Ours has thick walls, varying from two to three-foot, of random rubble walling.

We bought into the animal end and found plenty of evidence for that when renovating.  The whole building had been human habitation for a couple of centuries.  We found a George II penny in the dwarf wall of one of the rooms (I can’t just find it at the moment as it’s in a ‘safe place’, along with the early twentieth century silver threepenny bit) and there is at least one late George IV/William IV extension (1820 – 1837) built on at right-angles.

We needed to knock back quite a bit of plaster, either due to age (animal hair and dung can only last so long) or because some of the whinstone tends to sweat under the plasterwork and it needed sealing off.  In one such area, when we got back to the stonework, we came across a whole little story in itself.  Some large animal had obviously be tethered in place for quite some time with its back against the wall and had permanently stained the stonework and infill with its deposits.  We also found that the majority of our end of the house still has earth floors under the floorboards with here and there bits of grain and straw.  Some of our rooms still have flooring suspended over earth.

What’s all this to do with Pyracantha?

I am coming to that.

Many villages around here are, or were, built as housing for animals and workers on a particular farm.  Roll forward a number of centuries and along comes the nineteenth and the ‘powers that be’ felt that the workers might benefit from improving literature and religious tracts, always assuming some basic schooling had already been provided, or that someone would read items aloud.  A building or room space (Reading Room) was given over to storing books and other useful items, and also may have been allowed to be used for small meetings etc.

Late Victorian side issue here
example of actual historical infill

When renovating a cupboard in one of the bedrooms, I found that the cupboard door frame (added in Victorian times) had had its regular oblong shape packed against the incredibly irregular random rubble walling with sheets of old newspapers.

In the advice to the workers there’s mention of Albany, Harrisonburg and Washington, and yet, and yet — I found it in my bedroom chimney breast cupboard on the English side of the Scottish Borders.   Multi-national infill.

Back to the Self Help of Samuel Smiles and others

Our local Reading Room is right next door to us.  Or used to be.  No, it hasn’t moved but it has been repurposed.

Sometime in the early twentieth century, when general schooling had increased and the need for improving literature was perhaps less, this building was granted in some form or other to the village as a meeting place.  A full size slate bed snooker table was added for the men in the area.  As the table would take up a large part of the space, a small flat roofed extension was added and the table could be slid into this embrasure on really smart brass rails – a real delight to behold.

Move forward to the end of the 20th century

Pyracantha time

The snooker/billiards club would meet once a week in the autumn, winter period and park up next door and, when caught short and in need of relief, the odd gent might trot out and decide that our dividing wall might just prove a good place to ‘stand’ as it were.  Yes, I am mean, I know, but you can see why I might plant it just there, can’t you?

Coming up-to-date and much, much more recently, the village was sold, or at least those buildings that hadn’t already been disposed of, and the Reading Room became a lovely home – with a ready-planted Pyracantha.

In late breaking news

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Porch and a Pyracantha getting everywhere

 

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Leaf sticking

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Work in progress

Pyracantha as distraction from hinges

Plant kit from The Miniature Garden

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Should have left some more of the stem empty perhaps

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Darken further some of the berries which shouldn’t still be on at the same time as the other flowers in the garden

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and must bend it more making it bulk out from the wall in places. More berries to come?

The plan is that, with the plant bent round towards the kitchen at the side of the house, it will add interest and contrast when the house is viewed from the front.  And as it’s a Pyracantha it might give any would-be night-time burglar a bit of a prickly surprise.

Have a good weekend one and all – I’ll spend some of mine sticking leaves and berries …

Can’t find them

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While still waiting for the new greenery/brown-ary to dry out, I reckoned it would be a great time to do the odd jobs, such as adding a small triangular porch covering to the side door and perhaps building some of the long wall up the side path.

These items I’ve had ready and waiting since the front wall was built and they were housed in a very logical and obvious place, awaiting their turn.

I repeat – can’t find them.

In the place where the tray of wall pillars and porch should be (that is along with these other ones) there is nothing.

Move on

Not to worry, I’ve started making the side porch again and, once that’s built and in place it’s bound to bring out the runaway items.  I’m more concerned about the missing brick pillars for the wall.  They were made to exactly the same dimensions as the front wall ones and took forever to dry out.  Here’s hoping.

Any sudden appearances?

No – nothing, so I’ve taken to thinking about the missing next door house as this, after all, is supposed to be a semi-detached.

Next door

This is the 1950s and I’m going to imagine that next door was damaged during the war.  I remember many sites that were sitting derelict throughout my childhood and, in London, as late as 1970, so this can be one of them.  I would like some indication of the missing house, rather than a tidied up site, despite the year supposedly being 1959 which would have given plenty of time for it to be cleaned up in a residential area – indulge me 😉

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Just happened to have a spare bay window that I could hack about and have inserted it in what will be jagged brickwork, I think. There will be a little bit of floor behind it as well as in front but mostly the party wall will show the other remains of what was; bits of wallpaper, chimney breast, fireplace, plasterwork … perhaps the odd toy

 

 

 

Hurrah – hinged!

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Don’t lean on it and don’t try swinging off it, but otherwise it may possibly stay in place for at least a little time, as long as the weather doesn’t get too damp 🙂

First the decorations for the two rooms

The missing walls – trying to match them in

Side issue

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While everything sat about drying I cut up an old green pan scrub, painted a piece in shades of brown/fawn and added it to the side entrance of the house as it needed a door mat

Hinge time

Theory was great but practice proved otherwise.  Sorting out what needed shaving, what needed padding took quite a bit of patience.  After consultation with one who knows and with one of us holding some of the house steady, we worked out what I needed to do.

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This included slipping back a piece of wood behind the lower hinge and then faking it in to the brickwork.. I really enjoyed trying to disguise it – sad is it not?

And away we go

From inside

I always enjoy ‘climbing into’ the rooms – very useful but it can be depressing when you see what you’ve missed.

The toilet roll is hanging handily by the loo while downstairs the oven gloves are ready for use when cooking.

Next

Am still not comfy with the look of hinges and am going to play with a bit of visual distraction by way of plant life I think.

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At first I fancied an ivy. Something relaxed that could make its way around the corner and a little way down the side path walling. Couldn’t find quite what I had in mind but really took to the leafage in this kit.

Pyracantha (at least around here) are not best known for being bendy though they can be free-flowing however, the leaf colour and shape would be just the ticket.  I think we may have to pretend that it’s not really a Pyracantha and I’ll leave off those berries, or if I get overtaken by the idea of orange (and other shades) we’re going to have to imagine that this is an amazingly well pruned and trained Pyracantha 😉

Being greedy for greenery at this end of the path as well as hoping for some distraction from the hinges, I bought two kits of the plant.

Still waiting on paint drying but back when decisions have been made.