Experts Fascinated By 400-Year-Old Note Found In Medieval Manor

The world has seen different periods of existence and transformation. Some rare findings have shown that people living in the 21st century have similarities with those that existed centuries ago. In 2014, the renovation project to preserve Knole (the century’s old estate) led to the discovery of the piece that amazed everyone. But what is fascinating about this estate, and what is the note all about? Read on to find that out! 

Image Credits: Drivepedia

Image Credits: Drivepedia

The Restoration

The five-year restoration project of Knole began in 2014 by the National Trust - the British body in charge of preserving historical sites and national heritage. Various teams worked on preserving the antique paintings, vases and other artwork found in various rooms of the estate. Almost 20 million pounds were injected into the renovation project; much of the fund which came from the benevolence of Heritage Lottery Fund. But there was something found in Sackville's Mansion that made everyone in the team totally confused and shocked!

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Image credits: drivepedia.com

Not A Typical Manor

It ranks among the top five of the largest houses in England under any parameter used. Construction of the estate dates back to the mid-15th century but, the first record about this old estate goes as far back as 1290. For a century and a half after the 15th century, Knole passed through the hands of royals, clergymen, and nobles. King Henry VIII was in charge of Manor until he bequeathed it to his successor - Elizabeth I. During the reign of Henry VIII, several portraits were made and kept in the Manor, many of which remained in the estate today. In such an old building, there's no surprise that incredible artifacts have been found! 

Image credits: drivepedia.com

Image credits: drivepedia.com

The Owners Still Reside In The Manor

Even though the Sackville donated the house to the National Trust, the Sackvilles still live in the Mansion. They occupy a small fraction of the 420 rooms which are connected by the courtyards, hallways, and staircases. The National Trust is only in charge of 52 acres of the 1000+, they require a large labor force and volunteers for the upkeep and preservation of the Manor and mansion. The National Trust did not only refurbish the building, but they also discovered some items of historical value as they cleaned the old furniture and paintings. None of the volunteers expected to find what they found in the end. 

Image credits: drivepedia.com

Image credits: drivepedia.com

Items Discovered

They searched difficult to reach areas in the building; like the attic, floorboards, and in between rafters. As work progressed on the side, some objects and items discovered on the site tell us more about the people who lived in the estate. The letters found showed the diligence and commitment of the workers, staff, and volunteers who lived long ago. But there's even more those letters revealed about the times when they were written! 

Image credits: drivepedia.com

Image credits: drivepedia.com

Jim Parker Found Those Letters

Jim Parker, a volunteer that has devoted his time and labor to the project found two letters in the mansion. He is part of the 40 volunteers that the National Trust trained in special research techniques for the project. The volunteers have proved productive and invaluable in the conservation of the mansion. Parker has worked as a volunteer in the estate for over six years before making the incredible discovery of the letters. 

Image credits: drivepedia.com

Image credits: drivepedia.com

The Letters Were So Difficult To Find

A substantial part of the 420 rooms at Knole has been explored by the National Trust trained volunteers. Also, the Ballroom, the King’s room, and the Cartoon Gallery have been explored. Parker had found the letters in the attic which, is above the Cartoon Gallery - called the South Barracks. The attic was found in a poor condition; it was lucky for the letters to have survived so long there. At first, it seemed impossible for volunteers to get to them because of... 

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Image credits: drivepedia.com

Buried Under Bones

Old animal bones, wiring, and rust nails are some of the items uncovered. Droppings from visitors and people found in the Southern Barracks were items that are generally considered worthless. But one the letters were found by Jim Parker, it was obvious that they were a significant discovery as he once recalled: “I was very excited to see some pieces of paper hidden underneath some rush matting”. 

Image credits: drivepedia.com

Image credits: drivepedia.com

A Third Find

Dan Morrison, a building contractor also made an incredible discovery in the same area Parker saw two letters. He found a piece of parchment, which dates as far back as 1622 in a ceiling that was near the Upper King’s room. The letter is likely to have fallen from the attic at some point over the centuries; like those of Parker, the note is made of parchments. It is a type of paper that is made of stretched animal skin.

IMage credits: drivepedia.com

IMage credits: drivepedia.com

17th Century Notes Found In Kent

The renovation of the old mansion that dates back to the Middle Ages led to some discoveries. Volunteers were able to unearth three letters that are 400 years old in the English countryside estate. The letters provide a rare insight into how the early occupants live and how they behave in society.

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Image credits: drivepedia.com

A Skilled Expert

A conservation expert named Jan Cutajar was responsible for restoring the letters. Before beginning the careful restoration process, the lab teaching assistant of the University College London took pictures of them. Unfortunately, the result gotten was not at the best condition expected. Any attempt to bend the paper for clarity would result in a disastrous consequence; it was brittle besides the stains, dirt, and dust that covered it.

Image credits: drivepedia.com

Image credits: drivepedia.com

Techniques

Being skilled personnel, Jan Cutanjar used brushes, rubber powder along other special cleaners to restore the old parchment letter. After being subjected a humidifier, Jan Cutanjar flattened the paper in a paper press before viewing it with infrared technology. Until these processes were carried out, experts could get a proper look at the letters nor decipher their contents. One of the letters, written by a high ranking servant, reads...

Image credits: drivepedia.com

Image credits: drivepedia.com

October 1633

"Mr Bilby, I pray p[ro]vide to be sent too morrow in ye Cart some Greenfish , The Lights from my Lady Cranfeild[es] Cham[ber] 2 dozen of Pewter spoon[es]: one greate fireshovell for ye nursery; and ye o[t]hers which were sent to be exchanged for some of a better fashion, a new frying pan together with a note of ye prises of such Commoditie for ye rest.

Octobre 1633

Copthall

Your loving friend

Robert Draper"

The 1633 note was the most readable of the three after treatment. The experts were surprised to find out the origin of that note. 

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Image credits: drivepedia.com

Origin of the Note

The shopping list found provides a glimpse into the daily activities and life of people who lived centuries ago. The list contains Greenfish (an unsalted cod), a shovel for shifting coals and a spoon made of Pewter (a metallic substance). One thing noticed in the letter is the archaic spelling and the English used in communication between servants of the estate. From the letter, It was discovered that Robert Draper was a high ranking official of the old estate, although the return address was different from that of Knole; the address carried Copthall. So the question was - how did the letter get Knole? 

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Image credits: drivepedia.com

How it Got There

The letter was likely sent to Knole from Copthall when trunks of items were transferred from Copthall. Copthall had a good relationship with the Sackvilles. The Cranfield of Copthall married off one of their daughters named Frances to Richard Sackville several years ago. This was after the letter was written; the letter was probably sent with the load which fell and settled in the attic for hundreds of years.

Image credits: drivepedia.com

Image credits: drivepedia.com

February 1622

The letter found by Dan Morrison had a bad condition. Sequel to its treatment, all its content could not be deciphered. But thanks to the infrared technology which made some of the contents readable. The readable parts probably says, “The xviijth of February 1622, [Received] by us the poore prisoners in [illegible] the [illegible] [from the] right honourable the Earle of Middlesex our worthy [illegible] [by the hands] of Mr Ayers the some of three Shillings [illegible] for our releefe & succour for which wee give [good] [illegible] for all our good benefactors. Richard Roger [illegible].”

Image credits: drivepedia.com

Image credits: drivepedia.com

The Finding Is Extremely Important

Nathalie Cohen described the discovery as a thing of extremely rare occurrence; the National Trust’s regional archaeologist talked about the insight the letter has uncovered, in terms of management of the household and how items were moved from one location to another. Wirings and nails are some other items find in Knole, they tell of the maintenance and usage of items in the mansion. But for the letters, where are they now?

Image credits: drivepedia.com

Image credits: drivepedia.com

On Display

For the letters, they will be on display for visitors at the Knole center to see them. Nathalie Cohen opined that “the letters are significant as artifacts but also for the insights they give us into the correspondence of the early seventeenth century, Also speaking was Hannah Kay, the general manager of Knole, he stated that “We regularly make new finds, but such rare items mark a particularly special moment for us – made all the more exceptional by the fact that it was our dedicated volunteer team who came across them.”

Image credits: drivepedia.com

Image credits: drivepedia.com

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