Monday, 12 August 2013

Inigo House

I went with the Historical Society on a visit to Inigo House in the High Street.  This was described by the architectural historian, Nikolaus Pevsner, as 'the finest house of H--------'.  It is an attractive Queen Anne house, made largely of brick, which was a demonstration of wealth, eschewing the local stone in favour of more expensive materials.  Our house and walls are, of course, made of this stone.  At the back is a typical Tudor Cotswold style building but the doorway is magnificent with fluted Corinthian pilasters (rather unlike our wood weevil ridden Doric columns), with stone coins and enriched cornice and parapet.  There is a Phoenix Fire Insurance medallion on the wall, dating from 1820.


And Then-ish: 8th September 1944
We began our tour by going up to the roof from where you get glorious views across the rooftops and chimney pots of the town.

To my mind, the house is a curious cross between our current and previous homes.  With the features of the latter, the beams, the panelling, but the Georgian proportions of the former.  However, Inigo House has been strangely frozen in time.  The current owners moved there to look after the lady's elderly parents.  Her father was a well renowned local doctor.  The parents wanted to die in their beds.  Which they did.  And the house seems to have remained unchanged ever since.  It has a wonderful faded, museum-like charm.

There is a rather eery playroom with ancient toys still in situ and the measurements of each child scratched onto the wall.  The dining room was used as the consulting room at one time and the shutters have smaller shutters within them.  Pulling them back reveals eye charts, which the doctor used to determine whether his patients needed spectacles or not.

The kitchen is extraordinarily small for a house of this size.  With three sinks in a row.  Odd.

At the back of the house is a museum of doctor's equipment, which really should be open to the public. The birthing kit looks like something from Guantanamo.  It all made me very glad to be alive now and not then.  Presuming that is, that all this kit is now defunct and superseded by something much more humane.

The garden at the back of the house once stretched the entire length to link the High Street with the other main road.  This has now been sold off, including the house where the doctor would take in and try to mend alcoholics.  Before you move to the new development, which is accessed from the other road and at the bottom of the Inigo garden is a barn.  It is strewn with more ephemera: sledges and oars, ladders and pots.

We sat in the garden in the sunshine, eating cake.  Only yards from the main road but it was all oddly peaceful, as if we had slipped back in time.

It was charming, in the sense of making you feel as if a spell had been cast over you, leading you to a different place and a different decade, almost a different world.

The current owners are resigned to the fact that their children will not want to take over the house.  It is sad to think that at some stage they will move on, the house that has been trapped in time will be sold for major refurbishment and modernisation, the piles of old leather cases, the metal train, the iron bedsteads and the Singer sewing machine will be cast aside, ending up in the junk shop by the river in L-------, their joint history forgotten and lost.

It's a sad thought.  If only the resources were available to preserve such places.  What a wonderful museum it would be.  A snapshot of a life in H------- in a bygone age.

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