Coastal heave

Something of a relocation occurred. Did you hear the noise as my imagination was torn from its roots and whizzed several decades of miles to the coast, transporting all the town, Mrs Beauchamp’s splendid house, the folly house and her ‘parklands’, to join the Harbourside Cottage? Did you hear the squeaks as the Hittys relocated through the ether?

Hittys do also have an affinity with the sea, with the nautical adventures of Ancestress Hitty. The Wren Cottagers have their own boat, and are proficient at manoeuvring it, especially adventurous ‘G’.

The Hittys seem to gravitate around the three homes – Keiko is more or less a permanent fixture at Mrs B’s because of her Japanese elegance of manners and sensibilities. Grandma Mags has so far been sleeping in the box bed in the Cottage.

They are all off this weekend to the Atticus household, guests of the famous diarist Pliny Atticus, who is a cousin of Mrs B. They are thrilling to the thought of all sleeping in one enormous bed with linen sheets, proper blankets and an eiderdown. They will also be attending a theatre performance in the company of a striped pink and white cat, well known to British readers as Bagpuss.  He’s always on the look out for a good story to add to his great store of them, to contribute on a wet and windy night.




Grandma Mags and Tabitha return

Great rejoicings! Grandma Mags has returned from Minnesota along with Tabitha and her child. They took the boat from New York and arrived in Liverpool a few days ago, and after visiting Lillibet in London, made their way up to Wren Cottage by the mail coach, taking two days’ fast journey.

Grandma Mags had a difficult decision to make, for her sister Mrs Sag has been looking after a Dear Friend who really needs her help, and wanted to stay to help out. However the boat had been booked, and she felt she had been away too long now that the scatterings of her granddaughters were drawing to an end. Many of the girls went away with friends after the untimely death of their parents but had come together again. They did not realise that their source of income would collapse, and have been struggling these past few months to eke out a living doing various jobs.

The friendship with Mrs Beauchamp has been a great boon and help, but Grandma Mags felt her family needed their own Grandma to be with them. Tabitha has but recently come out of mourning for her sailor husband who was lost at sea in a terrible storm off the coast of Maine, and brings with her baby Johnny. Johnny never knew his father, for he was born posthumously. Tabitha looks a little serious, unsurprisingly. However, she was always very close with Gisella, and it is likely that it is with her that Gisella may find she can talk about her very unusual experiences recently.



Grandma Mags’s sister Mrs Sag (both formerly the Misses Cragg of York)

Mrs Sag close

Gisella Found

Gisella is found! She was found by Mrs Beauchamp’s cook, Edie, as she went out to collect some bread early in the morning. Gisella was sitting by the village pump, a little dazed and confused. Edie took her up to Mrs Beauchamp’s house and put her to bed, summonsed the Hittys, and gave her some of her own chicken broth.

She tells a strange tale, though .. Inasmuch as she has spoken, which has been very little thus far. Something about going under the arch in the village that divides the medieval spring from the stone troughs on the street for horses/cattle, and humans, and the village pump. Something about dreaming she had gone to another age for ten years, and yet .. She has only been gone that many weeks. She was wearing a long robe, smelling strongly of wood smoke.

We hope she will tell us more in time. For now she appears to need a very good rest.

And here is a picture of her after a night’s rest, and cheered with the gift of a beautiful frock all the way from Canada, exquisitely stitched by our Quimper friends!




Lucy and Gisella in the springtime.

Lucy got up very early to walk over the fields to the farm, for a pail of milk. She was a little surprised on her return not to see Gisella who has been rising as early as she would for school, even though the school is taking a break for the harvest. She knew that last evening Gisella had spent with Ettie at Mrs Beauchamp’s Tor House, but thought that from her bed in the attic, later, she heard her return. Ettie has been sleeping over at Tor House quite often in the past few weeks to keep Mrs B company.

Half an hour later the other girls came down in various states of dress to have the first cup of tea and a slice of bread and dripping from Mrs B. None of them had seen Gisella either during the night, or that morning.

Rosina ran up to Tor House to check that Gisella was with Ettie and Mrs B, but she had left at nine o’clock. She never arrived home. Worry and consternation provoke the girls to ask widely around the small town after their dear friend and adopted sister.

They checked in the doctor’s rooms to see whether Gisella had collapsed, but she was neither there nor at the Verity Hospital where she had so well been nursed to health some months ago. They are puzzled, anxious and worried about her, and are finding it hard to settle to the tasks of the day. Lucy has left for work in the bakery leaving Ettie with Hope and Lottiepeg whilst Rosina, Keiko and G search the town and country around, making inquiries after Gisella.



L to R, Lucy, Rosina, G, Ethel, Sophia and Sarah Hitty





Mrs Beauchamp invited the girls to stay with her, in the house of a friend of hers near Ambleside in the Lake District. They spent a couple of nights in the house, but then sailed out in a dinghy to an island and camped for a couple of nights there.

They had learned to sail when in Maine with Grandma Mags a couple of years ago, and love the feeling of the wind and sun, the calculations of when to trim the sail and when to let out more, when to go about and when to gybe.

Their camp was really no more than a glorified bivouac – the tents proved to be rather dodgy, made by Bodgit & Bluffem in Norfolk. One tent kept on collapsing, unfortunately it was the edifice which was sheltering three girls, but the weather was clement and warm, so there was no serious difficulty.

A camp fire was made and fish which they caught were grilled over the wood, along with many cups of tea.

What a wonderful break from hard work, and thinking about what to do to eke out a living. How they rejoice in the kind friendship of Mrs Beauchamp!


In recent weeks Mrs Beauchamp has been discussing accommodation with the girls.  She has a small house with six rooms within the park, and has suggested that some of the girls could take it for a very modest rent.  The family which  had previously occupied it were her cook and one gardener and lately left to go and help their own family who have been stricken with sickness.  Until the Hitty family find some remunerative work they will work on preparing the house, and help also up at Tor House.   Tor Cottage was built some hundred years ago as a Folly, and has a grand pillared frontage that belies the modest size of its interior.

G is a good cook, and will cook some meals for Mrs Beachamp.  Mrs Beauchamp insists on calling G by her full name Georgina Grace, although she has at least been persuaded to keep to the first name.  In private, the girls refer to Mrs B!

The house is only a five minute walk from Wren Cottage, so comings and goings will be easy.

It seems to be an ideal solution for the family.  Since the sad death of their parents they have spent long months and years apart, travelling with other relations and friends, and now they want to spend time with each other again, and hear all the experiences and stories of the recent past.  They also want to get to know each other again a little better, since they have developed different parts of their personalities and new skills with all the new experiences and travels.

To celebrate this decision and the return of Sophia, G made a wonderful supper for Mrs B and the girls.  Mrs B kindly obtained a gammon and a bottle of dry white wine.


G’s supper

Onion Soup

Boil eight or ten large Spanish onions, in milk and water, change it three times, when they are  quite soft, rub them through a hair sieve, cut an old cock in pieces, and boil it for gravy with one blade of mace, strain it, and pour it upon the pulp of the onions, boil it gently with the crumb of an old penny loaf, grated into half a pint of cream;  add Chyan pepper and salt to your taste: a few heads of asparagus or sieved spin age, both make it eat well and look very pretty: grate a crust of brown bread round the edge of the dish.

[Elizabeth Raffald]

Wine-roasted Gammon

Take off the sword, or what we call the skin, or rind, and lay it in lukewarm water for two or three hours; then lay it in a pan, pour upon it a quart of canary (the wine), and let it steep in it for ten or twelve hours.  When you have spitted it, put some sheets of  white paper over the fat side, pour the canary in which it was soaked in the  dripping pan, and baste it all the time it is roasting; when it is roasted enough pull off the paper, and dredge it well with crumbled bread and parsley shed fine;  make the fire brisk, and brown it well.  If you eat it hot, garnish it with raspings of bread: if cold, serve it on a clean napkin, and garnish it with parsley for a second course.

Handed with a ragoo of broad beans, and french beans.

[Hannah Glasse]

Apple Puffs (Codlins)

12oz – 1lb sharp apples.  Pare the fruit, and either stew them in a stone jar on a hot hearth, or bake them.   When cold, mix the pulp of the apple with sugar and lemon-peel shred fine, taking as little of the apple juice as you can.  Bake them in thin paste in a quick oven;  a quarter of an hour will do them if small.  Orange or quince marmalade, is a great  improvement.   Cinnamon pounded, or orange-flower water in change.


On Wednesday, G was down at the Staging post to collect Lillibet’s weekly letter from London.  Down from the stage coach stepped Sophia!  She had returned from France where she had been staying with a family for nearly a year.  She spent a week with Lillibet in London and bore her news in person.  Lillibet says she is doing well making fine clothes for fine ladies, and is content but misses her sisters and cousins very much.  She has been joined in her small room by another fine dressmaker, Louisa.  The menage is convivial and they share jobs and each others’ company.

What a joyful welcome Sophia received from all at Wren Cottage!  She had with her a trunk with some French clothes, a fichu for each sister, lace edged by herself, and dried food goods from Lillibet.  On her journey from the Pyrenees she had stopped in various towns, and the city of Paris, where she stayed with another relation and visited art galleries.  Oh, the paintings and sculptures she has seen!

On Thursday a letter came by the post, from Sarah who had arrived at Lillibet’s in London and would be coming to Wren Cottage in a few days.  She left Grandma Mags in America in good heart, but a little delayed there for some time to come.

This welcome news brought with it the difficult question of space in Wren Cottage.  The roof space has been opened up and can be reached with a ladder, and has been thoroughly cleaned and the walls limewashed, mattresses obtained from Mrs Beauchamp and bed coverings made by Rosina and G.    Even with a second sleeping room, it is crowded because the rooms are very small in the first place.  With nine inhabitants, a one up and one down plus attic is quite a squeeze, and Ettie needs the space to ply her sewing machine.