Today we visited The Manor in Hemingford Grey, which was the home of Lucy Boston until her death at the age of 97 in 1990.
Who the heck is Lucy Boston, you may ask?!
Historians may know she owned the house they say is the oldest continually occupied home in the British Isles, built by Normans around 1130, and mostly unchanged in the last 900 years. Imagine – its walls heard people discussing the Magna Carta, the discovery of America, its seizure by King Henry VII for non-payment of a debt, and even heard the voice of Oliver Cromwell’s great-grandfather, who owned the house for a time.
Gardeners may know that she created a beautiful garden at the home she bought by accident, thinking it was another place she had previously seen, after her marriage dissolved in 1935. Topiaries lining the walkway were placed in honour of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953, and are shaped like crowns, royal orbs, and the dove of peace from the royal sceptre. The garden contains “over 200 old roses and a collection of irises containing many famous Dykes medal winners, most of them dating from the 1950s.” (Thank you, Wikipedia.)
Children may know her as the award-winning author of the “Green Knowe” series of children’s books, in which Lucy tells the stories of fictional children who may have lived at The Manor in years past. She called her stories and memoirs “love poems to the house.”
WWII RAF (Royal Air Force) veterans would have remembered her as the woman who invited them to relax at The Manor twice a week by listening to music played on her 1929 gramophone, made of papier mache, which still works, and which she played for us.
And Quilters (you knew this was coming, didn’t you?!) may know of the “Lucy Boston quilts” which have swept the internet in the last 5-6 years, especially the “Patchwork of the Crosses” (just google it! AMAZING!) which has spawned an entire quilting cult, with Lucy as its high priestess. She started making her quilts (and publishing her books), for which she is now most famous, only after the age of 60.
Her daughter-in-law Diana still lives there, and my friend Sarah arranged for us to take a tour of The Manor with her this morning. Until our visit together last year, Sarah had no idea that anyone outside her neighbourhood had ever heard of Lucy Boston, and I had no idea that Hemingford Grey was only about 3 miles away from her home!
Diana gave me permission to take photos, as she was “low on postcards,” except for the 20 original quilts made by Lucy. So I bought the book. Which may have been her intention all along, I suspect. She did sign the book to me!