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.

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View of the Manor from the towpath of the River Great Ouse.

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.

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Original 12th century house on the right; later additions (entry and kitchen) on the left.
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Towpath and the River Great Ouse just outside The Manor. Easily reached by water over the centuries.

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.)

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Daffodils and primula (?) on the grounds.
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View from the Manor of the walk, showing topiary yews.

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.”

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The first edition has woodcut prints by Lucy Boston’s son laboriously pasted into each copy. Not repeated for reprints!
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Lucy’s notebook with first draft.
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The children’s bedroom with rocking horse featuring genuine horse hair.
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This 2″ mouse of ebony brought comfort to a lonely boy in one of the Green Knowe books. He went to sleep with it in his hand, and awoke each morning with it under his pillow – and breadcrumbs next to it.
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The window must always be left open 1″ each night so the chaffinch can enter to sleep safely in its cage.

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.

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The very large 1929 gramophone of papier mache. No volume control; if it got too loud, you “put a sock in it.”
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The record library selection for entertainment of the RAF twice weekly during WWII
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View of the oldest (2nd story) reception room where guests have been entertained since the 12th century, from the children’s room above.

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.

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Dining room curtain, made of hexagon flowers, reportedly all of fabrics prior to 1830. It looks very fragile, almost transparent in some places.
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Cloth over a small table in the dining room. “Patchwork of the crosses” technique. I don’t know if this was made by Lucy Boston or not!
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Daffodils and window latch in entry hall.

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!

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*Happy sigh*
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