By Libby Salmon, aged 10 years old
Last weekend we decided to take some friends to visit Kentwell Hall in Suffolk.
At the gates I could already smell the musty tang of wood smoke. The next thing we noticed was the noise: animals and music and people talking. The colourful players were the source of most of the noise. They are a bit like buskers today, a group of musicians who play, dance, sing and perform tricks to entertain people and hopefully make some money. As we went nearer they were pulling people in to dance, then we got persuaded to re-enact Sir Eglemont’s victory over a dragon. My brother was chosen to be the head of the dragon with the rest of us lined up behind him. Another child played Sir Eglemont. My brother had an impressive red mask put on him, however his roar was too quiet so a player helped and we all laughed.
After we had finished with Sir Eglemont and the Dragon, we moved on to the silk and braid women, where they showed us some silk worms in their cocoons. It was really interesting. Their job at the manor is to supply people with colourful ribbons and braids, which we saw them making.
We thought it would be good to go into the house before it got too busy so we went to the kitchen. Busy cooks were cooking tasty dishes for the gentlefolk to eat at dinner however they still made time to show us what they were doing. The potboy had to work energetically near the fire and the smells wafting over to us from the pots he was tending were delicious. The next room was cooler and we were pleased to see that the potboy had a nice surprise coming to him: a present for his birthday of a marzipan frog. This was the subtleties kitchen, where they make amazingly beautiful things out of “marchpane” and sugar paste. I would have liked to have stayed there all day, having fun helping with making and eating!
Down the corridor was the steward’s room, where the pages rest between tasks. There was a chess set and lots of tapestries however nobody was there (we found the pages soon after that in the great hall, laying the table). In the next room there were lots of people including a herald who spent a long time making daddy a coat of arms. In fact it gave us enough time to walk through the great hall, through the parlour and up the stairs to see some amazing guest bedrooms and bathrooms. In one of the bedrooms there was a clever picture which was actually three pictures in one frame: from the door you saw three monkeys, straight on it was a woman and from inside the room it was a ship. Looking closely we saw that it was on slats, with pictures on either side and behind.
Since my dad was still busy chatting to the herald, we played in the maze. Finally he was with us and we went round the back of the house to the moat house, where we found the dairy. A lady was making cheese, with big cloths separating curds from whey. The room was cool, with a drain leading out to the moat, and so quiet we could hear the faint sound of whey dripping into a bowl.
Next door, the bake house was the opposite – warm from the heat of the fires in the ovens and full of people talking while they waited for the bread to cook. The smell was appetising and made my stomach rumble as we went through to the next room, which is normally the busiest room in the moat house, as it’s where they brew the beer, however was empty that day. My dad pointed out the ‘garderobe’, or Tudor toilet, which was a plank with holes leading straight to the moat. I’m glad we have flushing toilets and sewers today!
There’s so much more I could tell you about – the stillroom, needlewomen, sottlers cooking dinner for workers, alchemists with their gunpowder, basket makers in the woods, archers at the butts, the forge, the foundry, the chandlers and the potters, woolworkers, dyers and woodmen… We had a fantastic day!
What has been your favorite day out?