Where once were dragons

When you spend a lot of money renovating your home, I think it’s a good idea to look after your servants. It might annoy you having to pay for bathing facilities for them, but you should weigh up whether the smell from them not bathing is worse than the expense. It can also only be a good thing if you supply them with a toilet.

Margaret Fife and her husband, Colonel Ronald D’Arcy Fife were renovating the house. Margaret had inherited the house when her uncle died.

Ron was a bit of a career soldier. He’d served in India and Afghanistan where he was wounded, Burma and in the Boer War. During the Great War, he was in France with the Yorkshire Regiment where, in 1917, he was wounded and invalided out of the army.

I found a wonderful story about the Colonel. It was during the bitterly cold winter of 1916-17. Apparently a General said that Fife’s men were miserable and morale had to be improved. Fife contemplated employing a ‘buffoon’ to cheer up the troops whenever the General was approaching.

The reason I’m writing about the Fifes is because today, we visited the house that Margaret and Ronald renovated: Nunnington Hall.

And they weren’t the first ones to ‘improve’ the hall. While a building has been on the site since 1249, the current structure started off as a Tudor hall built by Catherine Parr’s (Henry’s 6th missus) brother William. Then, over the next few hundred years, various people added and subtracted bits and pieces, putting their own stamp on it.

Names such as Dr Robert Huicke (QEI’s GP), Sir Thomas Norcliffe, Ranald Graham and the Rutsen family, still wander the various rooms and halls of the house. A lot of them dropped stuff between the floorboards. Mirinda reckons it was like a modern day back of the sofa situation. Many objects have been found down there, including playing cards, coins, suits of armour, etc.

There have been so many chops and changes that it’s difficult to make any cohesive plan of the development of the place from then to now. One person’s guess seems to be as good as anyone else’s. For instance, in the opinion of the National Trust guide in the Oak Hall, this room (see below) was once the open section between two wings of the house. She pointed out the remaining marks of a window in the walls of the beautiful oak staircase as clear evidence.

The higgledy-piggledy nature of the various changes to the building make for a wonderful visit. There’s a delightful meandering nature to the hall, which I thoroughly enjoyed. As opposed to the tea room hassle we were subjected to.

I understand helping minority groups like those with disabilities, enjoy and access things. It’s only fair, after all. I don’t begrudge anyone a cup of tea. I do, however, get a bit annoyed when the National Trust prioritises someone’s eating preferences over mine. It’s a bit much when a vegan gets anything he wants, but I don’t. How does that work?

So, we had an extended wait in the side garden at Nunnington Hall while a vegan was pandered to. Maybe it was an initiative to make us feel like the peasants we undoubtedly are. I guess Margaret Fife would have also denied us a loo.

Still, we eventually managed to get an all natural scone with actual butter and a coffee (though Mirinda didn’t get any cream and I had to have semi-skim milk) and a delightful sit by the river Rye.

Possibly Mirinda’s favourite part of the house was at the top. The Carlisle Collection has a room all of its own.

Lots of lovely little rooms, furnished with lots of lovely little bits of furniture, musical instruments, nursery animals, tools, a forge; there’s all sorts. They are exquisite.

Following our wander round the house, we went back to the garden by the river for a cup of tea and a chat with a very friendly sheep dog (which Mirinda swears was part greyhound) and some rather noisy peacocks. We then completed our Nunnington visit with a wander around the grounds.

All round, Nunnington Hall made for a lovely visit today (ignoring the vegans).

The only other thing we did was stop off at the little 13th century church of St James and All Saints for a look around.

I’ve seen double dedication churches before but what I find odd about this one is that James would, presumably, be included in the All Saints group (if not, why not?) so he gets a double dose of dedication. Does that make it more about him than the other saints?

Anyway, name aside, it’s a lovely little church which was actually open.

Most notable inside was the monument to Sir Walter de Teyes, Lord of the manors of Nunnington and Stonegrave from 1295 until his death in 1325. He is depicted reclined with one leg over the other. This usually indicates that he went on crusade. There is no record of Sir Wally, ever going on any crusade. The last official crusade to the Holy Land was in 1291, so he certainly didn’t die on one.

Or perhaps, as local legend has it, the monument was of Peter Loschy, a man who slew a dragon in nearby Loschy Wood. I guess that could have been a crusade. Of sorts. You can read the story of the dragon slayer here. It seems a lot more exciting than a possible trip to the Middle East to defend one invisible friend against another.

Having spent a goodly few hours in the tiny village of Nunnington, we then drove back to our accommodation for a bit of a rest before heading out, down the road, for our second meal at the King’s Arms.

Once more, the food was excellent (though the fact that the guy behind the bar had taken to wearing a mask tonight was a bit off-putting), the beer perfect and the pub itself, a delight.

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