Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Red 'ouse

With the help of funding from a Creative New Zealand Arts Grant, I was able to travel to the UK from early April to the beginning of this month to research Mary Taylor. 

Mary Taylor was for about fifteen years a shopkeeper in Wellington in the 1840s and 50s, and much more, but she is best known as Charlotte Bronte's best friend. 

I had planned to travel to her ancestral home, Red House, in West Yorkshire.

 This is not Red House.
This is Oakwell Hall.

Kirklees Council chose to save Oakwell Hall instead of Red House.

Thank you for showing an interest in Red House. You may not be aware that at the last General Election the country chose to elect a government that made no secret of their commitment to austerity and their desire particularly to “shrink” local government. 

They have also shown and demonstrated their wish to move resources from authorities in the North of England and to protect authorities in the south. As a consequence we have seen a cut in government funding of £180m . This is at a time when demand for social care, that already makes up 60% of spending, is rising significantly.

Given the choice between protecting a child from abuse, supporting an aged person to stay at home, helping a person with disabilities to lead a normal life or subsidising visitors to a House once occupied by a significant historical figure, there was only one choice we could make.

We didn’t want to make the cuts. But we have no choice

David Sheard

Leader Kirklees Council

"Do you know anything about Oakwell Hall?"
"Isn't it the ancestral party pad of some privileged white men?"
Ha. ha ha h...
I asked, would have closed Red House if Mary Taylor had been a man? I imagined my words in a bubble, written in Comic sans.

 This is Red House.

In "1565 Henry Batt purchased the manors of Oakwell, Gomersal, Heckmondwike and Heaton. The Oakwell property was described as, 'Okewell Hall with the appurtances in Okewell, Gomersall, Birstall and Heckmondwike, now in the occupation of James Nettilton, Christopher Nettilton, Robert Popelay and William Taylor...'
     We cannot be certain that this William was one of the Red House Taylors, but the family tree does show a William Taylor of Gomersal who died in January 1588." (Ferrett, 1987)

Although, I was lucky enough to gain access to Red House, it was no longer running as a museum and had been stripped of its period furnishings and Taylor family art.

The Bronte Society now have the stained glass windows depicting Milton and Shakespeare. Red House is to be sold on the open market.

Barnsley poet Ian MacMillan once demonstrated that the difference between a Yorkshire accent and a Derbyshire one hinged upon the phrase "You can come in my house". Tykes say 'ouse whereas Derbyshire folk pronounce arse. It's a bit like difference between selling an 'istorical 'ouse to save an 'istorical arse.


Kass said...

Oh Rachel - some people really reside up their 'ouse, surrounded by their own undigested reason.

Lori said...

Those pictures are dreamy. I mean heavily dream-inducing. The light seems to have been perfect that day. You also look so good next to the Red House!
I was almost feeling in agreement with the author of that response letter, until you mentioned how they don't mind spending money for other non-child-poverty-related things. Ugh! The world—as stupid a place as always. You are memorializing Mary Taylor just in time!

Rachel Fenton said...

Wi' scant enough grey matter t' blow off their chimney pots, Kass; aye lass.

Rachel Fenton said...

I went a number of times to Red House, Lori: the first time it was a colourless, cold day, when hardly a bud had burst and the ground was shabby and sour, and I felt sloughened; I took the photos here on the last visit, when the sun had cajoled the perennials into bloom and pansies were already running riot in the yard. I'll do a big photo blog after I've completed the book, to show how I used some of my reference shots in the artwork. There are some beautiful shots I took at Mary's grave. I'm right glad I went.