I bumped into one of our visitors in the garage, let’s call him Mike.
Mike was packing up after his visit and, while his head was deep in the boot of his car, he said in somewhat muffled tones: “You and Lynda must be very proud of what you’ve created at Downe.”
I did what an Englishman does when paid a compliment and changed the subject.
Visitors to the Cottages and to our home have often said similar things but Lynda and I really don’t have that feeling of pride that one might expect.
The reason is that we haven’t created Downe. We’re not sure we have really owned it as one does a normal house. We have merely taken care of it.
There have been buildings at Downe in various forms for centuries.
Downe House, our home, began as a thatched one room dwelling above an open stone barn over five hundred years ago. That first family lived, worked and died in their home above the cattle and sheep.
Since then generations have been born here, lived, worked, loved and died here.
Complete families have come and gone with as much impression upon Downe as a field of corn.
Lynda and I are a part of Downe’s history but no more than a small part that is already lost on the wild Atlantic wind.
I think of the farmer and his wife who built the “L” shaped barn, one of the five barns that we converted into cottages. It is a lovely building and either the farmer or his wife had a real sense of design and purpose when they decided that they needed to add more farm buildings in the decades after Waterloo.
We barely changed the front of the barn when we renovated Downe. We merely removed a later generation’s concrete add-on to reveal the original structure. Nearly all the openings with their brick surrounds are original. The stone walls are original. The slate roofs merely replaced what was their originally.
I think of that farmer and his wife and their sense of design. They built something of simple beauty that nearly two hundred years later people stand and admire.
Now they really do have a reason to be proud.