Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Elizabethan House, Plymouth

Dating back to 1584, the Elizabethan House is situated in Plymouth, England.  Plymouth is on the coast of Devon, south west of Exeter and west-south-west of London.  The city is enclosed by the River Plym and the River Tamar.  The original harbour of Plymouth has the Barbican on its western and northern sides.  The Barbican, which is a fortified gate, was most likely named in honour of the gate that bid entry to Plymouth Castle. The medieval fortress guarded the Cattlewater, the stretch of water where the River Plym meets the waters of Plymouth Sound.  By the end of the sixteenth century the Plymouth Castle had fallen into disrepair and it was eventually demolished.

The area known as the Barbican in Plymouth was home to Plymouth's fish markets.  During medieval times Plymouth prospered, mostly due to the local fishermen, sea captains, merchants and privateers that used Plymouth as a home or base in their exploits.  Plymouth was the home port for many successful maritime traders.  These included Sir Francis Drake, who served as Mayor of Plymouth and famously finished his game of bowls on The Plymouth Hoe before defeating the incoming Spanish Armada.  Sir John Hawkins, who led England into the Atlantic Slave Trade, also operated from Plymouth Harbour.  Plymouth was becoming so prosperous that the then Mayor, John Sparke approved the development of a new street on the Barbican to help accommodate the growing population whose work and livelihood were based around the harbour.

Located  at 32 New Street, one of the houses built during that time was the Elizabethan House.  The original owner of the house is unknown but the first recorded resident was the borough Treasurer, Richard Brendan who lived in the property until 1631 when he sold it to a William Hele. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Elizabethan House had many different owners and occupants.  Most notable during this period of time was the London Company of Merchants, a company that were exploring and developing the fishing grounds of Newfoundland.

By the late ninteenth century New Street had become very overcrowded.  Slums and hovels replaced all the private owners and entrepreneurs.  by the 1850's up to 24 people were living in single dwellings and diseases such as smallpox, diphtheria and scarlet fever were rampant.

The planned demolition of the Elizabethan House in New Street was prevented and it opened as a museum in 1930.  Preserved as a Captains dwelling of the time, the Elizabethan House is decorated with several pieces of furniture from the seventeenth century.  The front parlor is adorned with oak furniture, some on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, including a table, chairs, a chest and side table.  Pieces from the museum's own collection include side tables, a writing desk and a bible box.  The original gardens were recreated with  plants such as lavender, sweet woodruff, and thyme, which were popular in the past to create beautiful and fragrant gardens.  Raised beds with seventeenth century fruits, herbs and vegetables also adorn the gardens.  The Elizabethan House is also decorated with an Inglenook fireplace, featuring pebble paving and a granite-edged hearth.  The museum also features original foods and wares in the kitchen area as well as lists of purchases recorded by a merchant of the time.

in recent years, Bristol based specialist architects, DHV,  have been given the task of readying the Elizabethan House to serve as an exhibition place and museum for Mayflower 400, a celebration of the sailing of the Mayflower to the colonies to be held in 2020.

Having such a long and interesting history, not to mention a plethora of owners and occupants, it is little wonder that there have been reports of paranormal phenomena in the Elizabethan House.  A cradle in the house is said to rock on its own, while some people have reported seeing a ghostly infant laying in the cradle.  Many passerby's have reported seeing the figure of a young girl looking out from one of the windows in the Elizabethan House, despite the house being empty at the time.

I love Plymouth and its is the sort of place that easily transports you back in time to when it was a busy port populated by all sorts of significant historical characters.

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