Sleep Tight

The entrance to Stang End looks like an entrance. Why wouldn’t it? It is where you come in and go into the other rooms. But in this moorland farmhouse, as I think I mentioned in my first post, no space is wasted. Every square inch needed to earn its keep. The entrance was no exception.

The entrance is the threshing floor. It is where the owners threshed the corn to get the grain. It is from there we get the term “crossing the threshold.” It is crossing the place where the threshing activity is held in order to then get to the rest of the house.

Today I learned another interesting term that derives from the Stang End farmhouse (and other buildings at the time). At one end of the house is the bedroom. Only its not called a bedroom back then. Its a parlour! So, rather than inviting people to come through to the parlour as a sitting area in the daytime its a bedroom. The whole family are sleeping in that one room together as well. Not much by way of privacy as you can imagine.

There’s another building further up into the museum. Its similar to Stang End being a farmhouse as well. That building is presented as it would be about about 150 years earlier than Stang End.

In that other building the owners are sleeping on the floor. The animals are inside the home. The fire is there in the middle of the floor. It is more or less one large room albeit with sections or areas within.

Stang End is the moorland farmhouse presented in 1704. There’s a chimney and a real fireplace now. The kitchen/dining room is a reasonable size. It is a separate room off the entrance, the threshing floor.

The parlour at Stang End has a bed. It has several beds. The main bed is a four poster with a sackcloth canopy over it. Ropes join the frame of the bed to support the bedclothes on top.

When the owners would sleep on the bed for a while, who knows how long it would take, the ropes would eventually slacken. As the ropes sagged the bed would become increasingly uncomfortable.

To restore comfort to the hard working owners, it was the custom to re-wind the ropes and make them taught again. This routine would bring the return of much needed comfort and hopefully a restful night’s sleep.

It is from this custom that we get the term “Good night. Sleep Tight.” In other words, sleep with your ropes tight under your bed.

I love telling visitors about these stories. And the visitors seem to enjoy hearing them. Sometimes being a volunteer can feel a bit like being a historical entertainer. Its great.

Interwoven Stories

Doing a bit of catching up already and its only been 3 weeks since starting as a volunteer. One of the great things about being a volunteer in a museum is the people you meet. We had visitors from Australia today. A wonderful couple moving on in age but still active enough in mind and body.

They’d come to see the area his dad had lived in before he set sail to settle in Australia. I showed them around and talked about the different things. Then we talked about the life of farming back then in 1704 and the farming community the visiting son knew in Australia.

Apparently, the dad packed up everything he had and got all his money together. Then he set off to find a new future in Australia. He never returned to England. He was too busy or too poor when he was young. He was trying to make it in a new country.

When he got older he didn’t have the need even if he had the money. He was an Australian now. No need to turn back.

Different for his son though. His son who had heard stories of the places back in the old country. His son who had only know Australia but who knew others in his family had journeyed from far away to get there.

So here was the son and his wife, both now ageing gracefully, both coming to see the area they had heard about while growing up. He was really interested to see and compare the area around the museum as the place his father left all those years ago. Here was the son returning on behalf of the father to know his father and himself better.

The son remarked on how hilly and green the area was around the museum. They’d seen Rosedale and now Hutton le Hole where the museum is located. He said how similar it was to the place his father had gone to in Australia.

The father had gone to Apollo Bay in Victoria. Apparently, a small town on the southern coast there. Apparently, also hilly and green round about. There he had arrived and built a life farming there.

It struck me how the father had seemed to look for a place similar enough to the area he left behind. If he couldn’t return then perhaps he could take his old home with him by choosing somewhere similar to carry on his trade.

Here was the son visiting his father’s past which was his past. All of this connecting in the museum and the Stang End moorland farmhouse. Maybe a museum can be a place to help people tell their stories and connect with other stories. I really enjoyed meeting them and they won’t be forgotten.

Crossing the Threshold of my Adopted Home

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This morning was the first time I was on my own in my adopted home of Stang End. Aside from needing to get to know as much as I could about the place, I wasn’t sure how to present myself with visitors.

It was a fine day. The sun was guarded by thin clouds but it was nice. It was certainly nice enough to be outside. With that in mind, I decided to read as much of the available bumph and then stand on the grass near the front door.

I thought doing so would be less scary for visitors. They would see someone was there and they could could say hello if they wanted to. I could also greet them anyway. Inside Stran End is quite dark with a series of rooms. If I was a visitor and encountered someone sat in one of them it might make me jump. I decided outside was best.

It was really nice. I met people from Leicester (yes, we did mention the rise and rise of that city with its football and King John the year before). I met people from Liverpool and from Wales. They were lovely folk too.

From further afield we had visitors from America and even from Hawaii! Fancy coming from half way around the world to be in front of this building together. It is one of the great things about being a volunteer. You get to meet people from every walk of life and from different countries and cultures.

I managed to read through the materials and pull a coherent story together. At the same time I was learning lots about the place and the way it was used. I was learning about the extent of the changes it had seen over 400 years and more.

It had gone from being a 1 room building half its current size to one substantially bigger with a number of rooms. It once had animals inside. It now presents an era in which its inhabitants were comparatively well off with animals outside in a strong outbuilding.

The thing which struck me the most was the entrance (pictured above). You would ordinarily see it as a straightforward hallway. It is a threshing floor! The owners would put corn on the floor and beat it with a flail. Doing this would give them the grain they needed.

More interestingly, it was this activity which gave rise to the phrase ‘crossing the threshold.’ It meant moving over the threshing floor.

I delighted in telling visitors this story. Everyone was really fascinated or entranced with the idea. You could feel we’d all learned something today. This was on the day when I had crossed the threshold of Stang End in my volunteer role for the first time.

Stang End: The Start of A Journey

Today I became a volunteer at Ryedale Folk Museum (subject to references). This blog is my attempt to learn and understand my role. I want it to be a place to share my journey as a new volunteer.

Where does the title Stang End come from? It is the name of the building I have adopted as a volunteer. The idea is a relatively new initiative in the museum for a way of deploying volunteers.

The idea is that volunteers might be supported and useful by having responsibility for a building. For the word responsibility you could swap it for opportunity or focus. Plus, the choice is down to the individual.

I chose Stang End because it has a garden and some outbuildings. It also has a wonderful interior. I’ll try and take a photograph of the interior if I can. I’ll post it on here later.

So, this blog will be about a developing understanding of what it means to be a volunteer in a museum. It will also be about Stang End itself. I will use it to build up and share my understanding of Stang End as a building, who lived there and how they lived there.

I want to say something about the museum and its location. Of course, I’m biased but very few would disagree its in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Its a wonderful North Yorkshire village and if ever there was a chocolate box village this is a candidate.

So, from my experience I can say there are all kinds of reasons to visit Ryedale Folk Museum. One is the museum. Another is the village including pubs & cafes nearby.Then there is the marvellous surrounding countryside. When you leave the museum drive to Rosedale Abbey and pass through the most glorious countryside. And finally, I hope you will come and see Stang End!