The past has been catching up with us these last few weeks or at least catching up with Brook Farm. We've often said one day we'll get round to finding out about the history of the place, but it looks like if we just sit still the story will unfold before us.
It started with the children of some previous owners contacting us for a trip down memory lane. They were thrilled it's now a Bed & Breakfast and were able to come and stay in their old bedrooms. Their parents had retired here in the 70s and they had spent many a weekend and holiday at Brook Farm lending a hand with planting trees and DIY repairs to the house.
There's a long tradition of making do and mending here - the evidence is everywhere. Strange random bits of wood or iron pushed in to support a window or a door; no door, window or fireplace the same in the whole house. It's lovely to think of previous occupants doing exactly what we do - wait for a salvage bargain, some reclaimed bits and pieces or even a freebie from a friend.
Then I had a booking from a lady who was born here in 1933. She's coming all the way from Australia to see her old home! (OK she might be doing other stuff too.) She remembers it as a mixed farm and says she used to help with the potato harvest and the milking. She recalls her mother spent hours in the dairy making butter. The dairy is our utility room and the coldest room in the house - not somewhere you'd want to spend hours even now.
And then last week I was contacted by a family detective looking at who lived here in 1891, but the name she gave didn't ring a bell so I fished out a letter from a lovely gentleman from the local historical society, in which he tells me an entirely different family lived here then. So a bit of a puzzle to work out there, possibly something to do with the fact that it may originally have been three farmworkers cottages, not just the one house.
According to the history society in the 1891 census James Lowe (38) and his wife Harriet (35) lived here with their children Tom (6) and Harriet (2). They had a farm servant Joseph Green (18) and a domestic servant Susan Acton (16). Servants at Brook Farm! If only!
Then again, would I swap my central heating, running hot water and roaring woodburning stoves for some servants? It would make my life a lot easier but I do like my house to be a nice cosy place to stay and guests always love the woodburners. Besides doing all the work myself is a good way of keeping fit and warm! Speaking of which... time I was off.