I thought it was about time I wrote a post which had some words in it. More than a few, that is. To be honest, I haven’t had much that I’ve wanted to say about life here of late, so pictures have had to do. I love taking pictures and posting them and as I head into my fifth year at Spring Cottage, my experiences here are perhaps becoming a bit too repetitive to be of much interest – even to me. Perhaps writing about Owen, who came to service the boiler today and told me that the full 1,200-litre tank of oil might be about to start leaking, is not that much fun. But if I write about it here, then I might remember that I have to call him when it is next nearly empty so that he can fix the valve. See what I mean? I’m yawning already.
So, anyway, here’s a post about something I actually did. I’ve been driving past a sign for the Bakelite Museum in Williton for ages, meaning to stop and go in, but have never turned off the road to do so. But today I did more than nip into the Spar to buy some food.
The museum is actually in a place rather charmingly called Orchard, just outside Williton. It’s a little hamlet with a little group of cottages nestling around a small, plain church by the side of a stream. Across the fields and up a slight hill the stream runs past an old 15th century mill, which has housed the Bakelite Museum for the last forty years or so, since it ended its milling life.
The building itself is interesting if you want to see inside a traditional water-driven mill. It still has its Victorian milling machinery in place and you can almost imagine the grain, or whatever – apparently they even ground alabaster there – being ground deafeningly in its confined space.
But back to the bakelite. The name of the museum is actually a bit of a misnomer, because what obviously started off as an interest in early plastics has clearly branched out into the collection of all things household up to, more or less, the middle of the last century.
There was my parents’ cooker, which we got in the sixties when someone my mother worked for was upgrading to a newer model. Ours finally bit the dust in 1992. There was the first Hoover that I can remember having a go with as a child, a heavy old shiny metal model even then, and plonking great irons without a hint of a spray mechanism that I used until I left home in the 1980s (not those in the picture – those are really archaic). On and on it went: telephones, hair dryers, massage machines (what?) – such a trip down memory lane.
Someone obviously does a lot of dusting in there, although perhaps I just couldn’t see because the ground floor was rather dark. I couldn’t work out how the lights worked, so peered around mostly in the rather atmospheric half-dark. Upstairs it was brighter and I was tempted to go up to the third floor, which houses a rural life exhibition, but it was closed for fire safety reasons.
I peered up the ladder-like stairs anyway because it was such a lovely old building to find myself in. I’m not the litigious sort and can take responsibility for my own actions, thank you, Mr Health and Safety.
The owner had said he had to go out so I felt a bit in the way and didn’t stay long. He was clearly happy to leave me there, poking around on my own and just told me to close the door when I left, but on this lovely almost summer’s day (not) I got cold rather quickly, so went off for a snoop around the cottages and church.
No 2 Church Cottages (the one on the left) is to let, if anyone fancies it. According to Quantock Online, the buildings originate in the 16th century and were used for the brewing of church ales. These were the times before sanitation when people drank ‘small’ or weak beer instead of fetid water that made them sick.
They’re the most ungentrified and cottagey cottages I’ve seen in a long time, probably because they are lived in by tenants rather than owner occupiers. Really rather lovely. The occupants’ efforts seem mostly to have been put into some very fine vegetable gardens that surround the cottages. There’s also a beautiful orchard in full bloom to the side of the church. Well, there’d have to be with a name like Orchard.
You’d have to carry all your belongings along a little track when you moved in but it would be an extraordinary place to live. It sort of boggles my brain to think that this place has looked pretty much like this (barring television aerials and telephone lines) for the last four hundred years.
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