Stepping Back into the Past (1): English Farmhouse

The Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, Virginia, is a unique place to witness living history. It holds original buildings (or reconstructions) from those cultures from which the early Shenandoah Valley settlers came: English, Scots-Irish, German, Igbo (Nigerian), and Ganatastwi (Native American). Several American structures from different time periods are composites derived from the buildings found in the settlers’ home countries.

I’ll highlight the English Farm in this post, then hopefully get around to each of the other cultures in future posts. Because the Weekly WordPress Photo Theme is Orange, I have focused on those images that contain at least a speck of the orange color spectrum.

This English house from the 1600s originally came from the town of Hartlebury, located in Worcestershire, England. It was taken apart, shipped across the Atlantic and painstakingly rebuilt on Virginia soil. Here is the two-story structure built with large timbers and wattle and daub as wall fill-in. The pink-orange exterior of this building really draws your attention in the predominantly green landscape.

English Farmhouse

English Farmhouse

Some of the walls were in need of repair and showed the underlying orange daub, probably a mixture of soil and sand:

Inside I was greeted by this young woman in clothing typical of 1600s England (she may have been a servant). During another visit, I met this lady in a much more elegant outfit and a gentleman with a distinct preference for orange and black:

I’ll give a very brief historical overview to put this in context:

Virginia was England’s first North American colony, beginning with the founding of Jamestown in 1607. Close to 120,000 English migrants arrived here in the 1600s. Some colonists were granted land which they turned into tobacco plantations with the help (or should I say blood, sweat and tears) of white indentured servants and African slaves. Settlement slowly crept westward into the piedmont area of Virginia. By the mid-1700s, Anglo-Virginians crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains and began to settle in the Valley of Virginia, also known as the Shenandoah Valley.
By 1700, almost 250,000 people, most of whom were born in England or were of English descent, lived in the colonies.
The large majority of these English settlers were tenant farmers and farm laborers in England. About a quarter of the colony’s English people were members of the lesser gentry, merchants, yeomen, and professionals with university education.

The English farmhouse above would have been owned by a prosperous farmer, a yeoman.

A yeoman’s house included furnishings and implements that displayed the wealth of the family: pewter and silver items, tables, chairs and cupboards. Here is the living room with a long table to seat a large family. The large chair at the far end of the table (with blue pillow), an elaborately carved armchair, would have been the man of the house’s throne. The wife and children sat on simple benches or stools. The table at the moment was used for carding wool (cleaning the raw wool with the combs to get it ready for spinning).

The bedroom also displayed the relative wealth of the yeoman family. The bedstead contained mattresses and feather pillows and was framed by expensive woolen bed curtains and valences.

The children’s beds were much simpler:

Children's trundle bed and chest

Children’s trundle bed and chest

The most important room of the house was, of course, the kitchen where most of the household activities took place – cooking, cheese and butter making, baking. The water needed during the course of the day was lined up in wooden containers under the window. Any given day, you might have found a thick stew, meat pies, roasted, fried, or grilled chicken, beef or lamb dishes here for dinner. The housewife oversaw the kitchen activities along with vegetable and medicinal herb production in the nearby kitchen garden.

About Beauty Along the Road

A blog about discovering beauty in all its ordinary and extraordinary manifestations.
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29 Responses to Stepping Back into the Past (1): English Farmhouse

  1. I love your pictures and the history of this place, and it’s especially fitting for the orange challenge. It’s fun to visit these cultural heritage places to be reminded of our ancestors and how our country was formed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Cathy. I am really drawn to this Frontier Culture Museum. If you haven’t seen it, I’d highly recommend a visit. It is fascinating and I love talking with the people who work there, in period costume and performing the traditional tasks (think scything the grass instead of a lawnmower or bushhog, washing dishes outside and letting them dry on a little bench, cooking over an open fire in the fireplace). When you get back, let’s have a museum date!


  2. Tina Schell says:

    How lucky there was so very much orange there! Perfect subject for the challenge.


  3. cindy knoke says:

    such gorgeous color!


  4. dogear6 says:

    Thanks for the tour! My husband and I love touring places like this (Old World Wisconsin, Living HIstory Farms in DesMoines) so it’s great fun to see what’s out by you.



  5. I really enjoyed your tour of the house – so interesting. The colour of the exterior is surreal!


  6. seeker says:

    Wouldn’t it be cheaper to built a new house rather than moving it? Mind you this is a heritage place and interesting history with so many shades of orange especially the living room. If the orange walls can talk especially the kitchen, there is so much stories here. Much enjoyable read/


    • These museum people are committed….in some areas of the house you could see how each part was numbered, so they could put it back together.
      Yes, if the walls could talk, I’m sure we’d be entertained and amazed…..


      • It would be almost impossible to rebuild an old house like this. The huge beams alone would cost a fortune (they are really hard to come by these days because we have very few large, old growth trees left). And the energy of a structure that’s 500 years old cannot compare to anything built recently now matter how “antiqued” they are trying to make it look. Here’s to the real thing πŸ™‚


  7. Tish Farrell says:

    Thank you for this fascinating insight, Annette. It feels strange to see such an English farmhouse in Virginia, but what a colour the plaster work is. We always think of our houses of this era as ‘black and white’ – a hangover from Victoria times I think. But perhaps our villages were much brighter places in the past. Much like our church interiors before the Reformation whitewashed everything.


    • Pink-orange is not the first thing that comes to mind when we think of English houses either. But I am pretty certain, the Museum accurately represents it in its original state. That would be an interesting little research project – how did color preferences change over the centuries?

      Liked by 1 person

  8. We’ve driven by this numerous times on our various excursions out west but have yet to make a point of stopping. I’ll make sure to do it next time. Good job tying in the orange color theme, Annette.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love the tour and the furniture is so beautiful compared to the junk that is made today…I am a huge antique shopper too.


  10. Dina says:

    Loved this tour historic tour, Annette. Lovely colours all over! πŸ™‚


  11. Pingback: Stepping Back Into the Past (2): Igbo Compound | The Beauty Along the Road

  12. It is so interesting to see the history of this home, and of how people used to live. Marvelous!


  13. arv! says:

    pretty authentic! great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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