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China Girl blog 9th March 2017

The charm of medieval houses lies not in its intrinsic beauty alone, it is a link with our ancestors.  The magic of Cothay lies not only in its great age, but also in the timeless atmosphere which surrounds i

Dearest, when giving a house tour often starts the tour with some lines from Mary Webb’s ‘Precious Bane’ written in the 1920s.  It is evocative of all Mother feels about ancient Cothay. I quote:

‘To conjure, even for a moment, the wistfulness which is the past is like trying to gather in ones’ arms the hyacinthine colour of the distance. But if it is once achieved, what sweetness!  – like the gentle, fugitive fragrance of spring flowers, dried with bergamot and bay. How the tears will spring in the reading of some old parchment – ‘to my dear child, my tablets and my ring’ – or of yellow letters, with the love still fresh and fair in them though the ink is faded – ‘and so good night, my dearest heart, and God send you happy’.  That vivid present of theirs, how faint it grows.  The past is only the present become invisible and mute; and because it is invisible and mute, its memoried glances and its murmurs are infinitely precious. We are tomorrow’s past. Even now we slip away like those pictures painted on the moving dials of antique clocks – a ship, a cottage, sun and moon, a nosegay.  The dial turns, the ship rides up and sinks again, the yellow painted sun has set, and we that were the new things, gather magic as we go’

Margaret Wood uses these lines in her definitive introduction to the “English Medieval House”.  Mary Webb was a mystic and a poet, much loved with her books written a hundred years ago.

We who live at Cothay see about us each day the wonders of the past that live on in the old building. Mingling with the ghosts of long ago, their evanescent presence a reminder that we are merely the custodians of our heritage.