Jazz, blues and gumbo in the Deep South

The French Quarter in New Orleans is brimming with antique buildings and music
The French Quarter in New Orleans is brimming with antique buildings and music   GETTY IMAGES

‘So can we go upstairs?” An overworked guide gives me a weary look. “Nobody goes upstairs, nobody but family.” My grown-up daughter and I are on the porch of Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, at the end of a road trip through the Deep South that has brought us to the second most visited house in America.

I know from the books that above us is the “death bathroom” where a heart attack felled Elvis Presley, supposedly as he read A Scientific Search for the Face of Jesus on the loo. With no chance of inappropriate selfies, we settled into our basic $43.75 tour.

The first striking fact is that, unlike everything else in America, Graceland is smaller than you expect: a solid suburban home gussied up by a portico with four Corinthian columns. The second surprise is that for all the green shag carpeting on ceilings, the white settees, the faux fur upholstery and the indoor waterfall, the interior is really rather intimate and homely. You can see why Elvis loved the place.

Visitors to Graceland are forbidden from seeing the bathroom where Elvis died
Visitors to Graceland are forbidden from seeing the bathroom where Elvis died   MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES/GETTY IMAGES

Long before reaching Presley’s doorstep, music and food had become the twin Corinthian pillars of our trip from Louisiana up Highway 61, the old “blues highway” through Mississippi. The adventure had begun, as many do, in New Orleans, specifically on that garish slash of neon, Bourbon Street, which cuts through the picturesque and otherwise charming French Quarter. Just off the plane, we went to the Desire Oyster Bar for our Welcome to Louisiana meal. Its no-nonsense menu was not for the weak-stomached: firecracker oysters, fried alligator (like chicken but saltier) and gumbo (southern stew). When a towering plate of shrimp and grits (similar to polenta) and a case of over-ambitious ordering defeated me, Kentrell, the oyster man, told me about the diner who downed nine orders of a dozen oysters. Yes, but that probably wasn’t at 3am UK time.

The next day we ventured farther into the French Quarter. In the balmy sun, surrounded by colourful, flower-bedecked antique buildings, you would have to try hard not to have a good time. Music was, of course, everywhere — a funky brass band, country blues buskers. Yes, this is tourist land but the standard was high, save for a lone trumpeter in Woldenberg Park by the Mississippi who seemed to slip into Baa, Baa, Black Sheep every time inspiration flagged. Even the living statues were a cut above, though the one we admired most, an eccentric figure in Canal Street, turned out, in fact, to be just a statue.

The restaurants too have their surprises. At ancient Napoleon House they showed us the upstairs chambers supposedly prepared for Bonaparte’s exile (never used after he died in St Helena). Above Arnaud’s Jazz Bistro there is a museum showing the costumes worn by the founder’s daughter at Mardi Gras balls. We inspected rows of ghostly mannequins clad as a mix of Disney princesses and Marie Antoinette.

John Bungey takes a break from Highway 61
John Bungey takes a break from Highway 61

By now, however, the road was calling — Highway 61, the legendary road as revisited by Bob Dylan. At first, however, the journey was dull unless you are a fan of swamp and low-budget ribbon development. However, excitement grew as it began to rain — and rain. By the time we reached picturesque Natchez, tornado warnings were gusting all over cable TV. Our hotel, the Grand, sat on a bluff high over the Mississippi, which was not, as in the Paul Simon song, “shining like a National guitar”. Instead Ol’ Man River brooded grey and ominous.

Natchez is known for the glories of its plantation houses — not so glorious if you were one of the four million slaves in the South labouring amid the cotton and sugar cane. The most spectacular residence we saw was Longwood, a six-storey mansion designed in Moorish style that comes with a poignant backstory. Only the basement was fitted out internally when the Civil War broke out and the northern builders fled. Its owner then died and his wife, reduced to penury, lived on with the children in the basement — as did their descendants for 100 years — never having the money to complete the interiors. The grand and ghostly upper floors are now a favourite for vampire movie-makers.

On we drove, the road taking us past more swamp and shacks and what looked in places like picturesque poverty, but real poverty nonetheless. We stopped at little Greenwood where the Alluvian was a fine boutique hotel, much-loved by weekending Americans. However, the rest of this little cotton city was a puzzle. For all its period buildings, the centre has been “hollowed out” by suburban growth. Trying to walk to a shop where you could buy, say, a banana or even (mad idea) a newspaper proved impossible. Instead we took the car to the Museum of the Mississippi Delta where they had the skeleton of a local mastodon, a re-creation of a swamp, and made a game attempt at explaining the convulsions of the Civil War and the bitter civil rights struggle in these parts.

Next came blues day. We drove out of town to the rustic little Zion Missionary Church to pay our respects at what may be the grave of the commercially insignificant but hugely influential bluesman Robert Johnson. There are two other alleged burial sites to choose from. Our route then took us past the crossroads where Johnson is said to have met the Devil to sell his soul in return for supernatural musical powers. Today Beelzebub would be crushed by the 18-wheelers trundling past before he could make the deal.

Halfway to Memphis we stopped at Clarksdale, touted as the birthplace of blues music. At the Delta Museum they were handing out fairy cakes to mark the birthday of Muddy Waters. The Ground Zero club is one part tourist trap, one part blues cliché and one part a very good time. We sipped root beer and listened to some righteous guitaring.

In Memphis we arrived at the new Napoleon Hotel, which pulls off the trick of being homely and hip. We told the valet we wanted to visit Sun Studio, cradle of early rock’n’roll. He pointed down the street. But it was one of those American urban forays via crumbling or non-existent sidewalks and past wandering lost souls that proved impossible for us. So we retreated and caught a bus. Sun Studio is small and airless, bedecked with pictures of Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and sundry lost legends. At one end is a drum kit left behind when U2 rattled and hummed here in 1987; at the other end our guide, Nina, unveiled an ancient Shure 55 mike that Elvis may or may not have sung into. “Do not kiss it or lick it,” she implored, as the holy relic was passed round.

Downtown Memphis was smart and shiny, the rest was not. We ate a decent plate of gumbo in Beale Street, the music quarter, which is heavily touristy. But the National Civil Rights Museum, built around the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King was shot in 1968, is hugely moving. King’s bedroom is preserved as on the day of his death. The Stax Museum of American Soul Music, celebrating the mighty local label, was also $13 well spent.

After our Graceland foray, it was a six-hour straight drive down the Interstate 55 for another brief taste of New Orleans. At a final brunch at Commander’s Palace, I drank a potent local Sazerac cocktail, then another, and not surprisingly fell asleep on the plane home. I had a dream that I was back in Graceland and the reincarnated Elvis himself was showing me round upstairs. Yet as we reached his inner sanctum he morphed into an air stewardess who was telling me to buckle up for landing. Some things in the Deep South will for ever remain a deep mystery.

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Tintin, the subject of 200 million comics sold, was likely based on a real 15-year-old …

 

In the overcrowded world of fictional characters, there are few faces as adorable as Tintin’s. Unlike Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman, Tintin, the young investigative reporter, is not a household name in America, but he is definitely one of the most beloved figures in Europe.

With no specific magic powers, he is the antithesis of a superhero, but that didn’t prevent him from being widely admired by both children and adults. Charles de Gaulle once declared that Tintin is his only international rival, saying that “nobody notices, because of my height. We are both little fellows who won’t be got at by big fellows.”

Tintin and his fox terrier, Snowy, appeared for the first time on January 10, 1929, in the children’s supplement of the Belgian newspaper Le Vingtième Siecle. What started as the subject of a supplement went on to become a symbol of the 20th century, appearing in an inde­pen­dent comic book, on television, and even on the big screen in Steven Spiel­berg’s animated movie The Adven­tures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn.

Tintin is one of the most beloved figures in the comic book world.Author: Joi/Flickr-CC By 2.0

Georges Prosper Remi, known by the pen name Hergé, is the man behind the creation of Tintin. With almost no formal training, Hergé began drawing the legendary comic-book character in 1929, but little did he know that by doing so he would give birth to an entire European comics publishing industry.

Tintin and his fox terrier Snowy appeared for the first time in 1929. Author: karrikas/Flickr CC By 2.0

Since 1929, Tintin comics have sold more than 200 million copies, and over the years, this beloved character served as an inspiration for many people and influenced the ways comic book readers perceive the world around them. But what actually inspired Hergé to create the iconic character?

Debate still exists on what exactly inspired Hergé to come up with the snub-nosed teenage reporter, but most people agree that it was a real life person known by the name Palle Huld. It is one of the most original of origin stories in the comic book world.

Less than a year before Tintin made his first appearance, in the children’s supplement of  Le Vingtième Siecle, a 15-year-old Danish Boy Scout named Palle Huld won a competition organized by a Danish newspaper to mark the centennial of Jules Verne.

 

Palle Huld, during his trip around the world in 1928, almost certainly influenced Hergé to create Tintin.

The winner of the competition would re-enact Phileas Fogg’s voyage from Verne’s famous novel Around the World in Eighty Days. Strangely enough, only teenage boys were allowed to take part in the competition, and the 15-year-old was the perfect match. There was another twist: The winner had to complete the journey within 46 days, without any company and without using planes.

Hundreds of Danish teenagers applied to participate in the competition, and Palle was lucky enough to be chosen. He started his journey on March 1, 1928, from Copenhagen and traveled by rail and steamship through England, Scotland, Canada, Japan, the Soviet Union, Poland, and Germany.

His journey made the headlines at the time and when he arrived in Denmark, he was already a celebrity. Over 20,000 admirers greeted their hero when he came back home.

The next thing he did was write a book about his journey, which was quite popular among his admirers, and published in several languages. That book also came into the hands of a Belgian cartoonist known by the name of Hergé and that same year, when Huld’s book was published, Tintin made his debut.

Huld himself suggested on several occasions that he was the inspiration for Tintin. However, others believe that the inspiration behind the character was actually the French travel photojournalist Robert Sexe, whose journeys were exactly in the same order as Tintin’s first three books.

With no specific superpowers, Tintin is the antithesis of a superhero. Author: Hicham Souilmi CC By 2.0

Nonetheless, true Tintin fans couldn’t care less. For them it is all about the character, a hero they all know and love, representing something that others don’t have: uncompromising vigilance and the need to succeed no matter what the cost.

Tintin proves that a hero doesn’t need to be big or strong, he or she just needs to be tenacious and stubborn enough to do what needs to be done.

By Goran Blazeski

The mystery of the Octavius: An 18th-century ghost ship was discovered with the captain’s body found frozen at his desk, still holding his pen

Maritime lore abounds with stories of ghost ships, those ships that sail the world’s oceans manned by a ghostly crew and destined never to make port. The most well known of these tales is that of the Mary Celeste. But one of the eeriest stories has to be the mystery of the Octavius.

The story opens in 1761 with the Octavius docked in the port of London to take on a cargo destined for China. This majestic sailing ship left port with a full crew, the skipper, and his wife and son. They arrived safely in China and unloaded their cargo. They headed back to sea once she was loaded with goods destined for British shores, but as the weather was unusually warm, the captain decided to sail home via the Northwest Passage, a voyage that at the time had not been accomplished. This was the last that anyone heard of the vessel, her crew, or her cargo. Octavius was declared lost.

“Rising full moon.” From the series “Ghost Ship.”

On October 11, 1775, the whaling ship Herald was working the frigid waters off Greenland when it spotted a sailing ship. On nearing the ship, the crew saw that the ship was weather beaten–the sails were tattered and torn and hanging limply on the masts.

The captain of the Herald ordered a boarding party to search the vessel, which they had determined was the Octavius. The boarding party arrived on deck to find it deserted. They broke open the ship’s hatch and scrambled down the ladder into the semi-darkness below, where a terrifying sight met their eyes. They found the entire 28-man crew frozen to death in their quarters. In the captain’s cabin, they found the captain seated at his desk, pen in hand, with the ship’s logbook open on the desk in front of him. The inkwell and other everyday items were still in their place on the desk. Turning around, they saw a woman wrapped in a blanket on the bunk, frozen to death, along with the body of a young boy.

The boarding party was terrified; grabbing the ship’s log, they fled from the Octavius. In their mad flight, they lost the middle pages of the logbook that were frozen solid and came loose from the bookbinding. They arrived back on the Herald with just the first and last pages of the logbook, which were enough for the master of the Herald to determine at least a part of the story of the voyage. The captain of the Octavius had tried to navigate the Northwest Passage, but his ship had become imprisoned in the ice of the Arctic, and the entire crew had perished. The ship’s last recorded position was 75N 160W, which placed the Octavius 250 miles north of Barrow, Alaska.

As the Octavius had been found off the coast of Greenland, it must have broken loose from the ice at some stage and completed its voyage through the passage to come out on the other side, where it met the Herald.  The crew of the Herald were frightened of the Octavius and feared that it was cursed, so they simply left it adrift. To this day, it has never been sighted again.

Author: Hannes Grobe/AWI.CC by 3.0

Author David Meyer has tried to track down the story of the Octavius. In his blog, he considers the idea that the Octavius could be the same ship as the Gloriana, which was boarded in 1775 by the captain of the Try Again, John Warrens. He recorded that he found a frozen crew that had been dead for 13 years and the date of the discovery was spookily similar–November 11, 1762. Are these tales of the same vessel? In the Gloriana story, there is no mention of the Northwest Passage, which remains even today a place of mystery and magic but that adds just that little bit of spice to the tale ofOctavius.

This makes an excellent ghost story for around the campfire. Did the Octavius eventually run aground and sink, or does she still sail the high seas with a crew of skeletons at the wheel?

By Ian Harvey

The Neo-Gothic Santa Justa lift in Lisbon, inaugurated by royalty in 1901, elevates its visitors to a gorgeous vista

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In the last decade, Lisbon has become one of the most popular cities in Europe. It takes only one visit to this European gem to understand why: pleasant climate, delicious food and wine, enjoyable music evenings, and a myriad of sights.

Moreover, this so-called City of Seven Hills offers spectacular panoramic views over its picturesque architectural structures. Lisbon’s seven hills have had a crucial influence on the urbanization and intra-city transportation systems.

The viewpoints, or miradouros in Portuguese, can be found in lots of places around Lisbon, however, there is one popular tourist hotspot which takes visitors to a unique belvedere–the ornate elevator Santa Justa or Elevador de Santa Justa (Port.)

Light post in Lisbon, beside the “Elevador de Santa Justa”.

In Lisbon, there are four historic elevators that are national monuments-the Lift of Glory (1885), the Ascensor de Bica (1892), and Ascensor de Lavra (1884), although the Santa Justa, a 45-meter construction in Neo-Gothic style, is the most attractive. This lift was built in the 19th century and opened in 1902 when wrought iron was considered both a construction material and art form. The work began two years prior to the opening in order to replace the initial animal-powered inclined rail lift with a vertical elevator. In 1901, King Carlos inaugurated the lift, which became fully operational the following year.

Lisbon, Portugal – May 14: The Santa Justa Lift in Lisbon on May 14, 2014. Elevador di Santa Justa – an elevator lift in Lisbon,

The construction of the Santa Justa was funded by the royal house, and on the opening day over 3,000 tickets were sold. By the end of the first year after its opening, over half a million passengers were estimated to have been in the lift, so its popularity flourished and kept on rising.

Santa Justa elevator in Lisbon Portugal during day of autumn

The elevator Santa Justa’s structure is embellished with appealing Neo-Gothic arches and geometrical patterns, while its inside includes two wooden carriages that transport passengers up the steep hill in the Baixa district to the ruins of the Carmo convent and church through the exit at the upper level. In the past, this lift was a very useful service, which eased the difficulty in climbing up the steep Carmo Hill. However, nowadays it’s one of the most valuable landmarks in Lisbon.

Close up on Santa Justa elevator in Lisbon Portugal during day of autumn

Elevador de Santa Justa was designed by the architect Raoul Mesnier de Ponsard, the former apprentice and civil engineer of the now celebrity architect Gustav Eiffel, the designer of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. When Ponsard finished his studies, he returned to his hometown and decided to put his knowledge into practice.

Famous Santa Justa elevator in the Baixa District in Lisbon, Portugal, 19th century project by Raul Mesnier de Ponsard

This fact explains the similarities concluded between the Elevador de Santa Justa and the Eiffel Tower and the epithet “the Eiffel Tower of Portugal.” The lift includes two cabins which can carry 25 people at once, both decorated with wood panels and brass fittings that take off every morning early at around 7 AM and finish work at 11 PM.

Famous Iron Santa Justa Lift (or Carmo Elevator) in Lisbon, Portugal

Initially, the elevator was powered by steam, but since 1907 it has been using electricity with a safer and cleaner motor which still powers the lift. When visitors reach the top, they step on the platform which can be reached by a spiral case, and relax with a coffee in the cafe while drifting away into the magnificent view of the Baixa neighborhood, the Rossio square or the castle on the opposite hill. At night, the Santa Justa belvedere becomes a real romantic oasis in the crowded urban Portuguese jungle.

Lisbon, Santa Justa Elevator at night

In 1973, the Elevador de Santa Justa came under public ownership and was taken over by the Carris Corporation, the executive manager of Lisbon’s tram network. This act has integrated the elevator in the public network of the city, thus, today, a ride on the lift can be obtained with the 24-hour public transport ticket purchased at any metro station. The Santa Justa is open seven days a week and works around 16 hours a day. In 2002, Elevador de Santa Justa, along with the Gloria, Bica, and Lavra cable railways, were all recognized as national monuments.

The authentic ambiance of Santa Justa continues even after its closing hours in the summer with street music bands that perform in front of the lift’s entrance, entertaining the late night audience who enthusiastically enjoys the colorful vibes and sensations of Lisbon.

By Magda Origjanska

The loneliest house in Iceland and all the wild stories attached to it

A man surfing the Internet sees a peculiar picture of a tiny house stationed alone on an equally tiny island. With nothing but the house amid a broad green field encircled by the steep shoreline of the island, the picture is captioned “Isolation.”

After a bit of research, he finds out that the island’s name is Elliðaey and is actually the third largest island of Vestmannaeyjar, an amazing volcanic archipelago scattered off the southern coast of Iceland. Along with this info, he happens to find one not so credible story attached to this island, claiming that the house, tucked away from the rest of the world, is actually a secret hideaway for a mysterious billionaire.

Intrigued, the man delves deeper in order to find out more about this Ian Fleming-type character who might be living here… alone, gazing into the vast endless ocean. And it turns out, the story is about the iconic singer Björk, and not the Bond villain Francisco Scaramanga.

Elliðaey

The story tells that at the very beginning of the new millennium, Davíð Oddsson, the Prime Minister of Iceland, announced that he was willing to grant Björk permission to build a house on Elliðaey after she declared an interest in living on the island in complete isolation and absolute harmony. Not only that, but according to an article from February 7 the same year, as a recognition for her tremendous contribution to Iceland and its culture, she could do it for free.

Bjork. Author: deep_schismic CC BY-SA 2.0

A few blog posts and a short while after, and a whole lot of pictures depicting a small island with a petite house at its heart flooded the Internet, claiming the house is Björk’s residence, while the whole island supposedly was presented to her as a gift by the Icelandic government. No matter how charming this story might sound, it is simply untrue.

Elliðaey seen from Heimaey . CC BY-SA 3.0

It’s all primarily due to a forgivable misconception, for there are two islands in Iceland that go by the same name. The second, a rather larger one shaped like a horse shoe and located in the Breiðafjörður low bay area near the western town of Stykkishólmur, is where the singer aspired to build herself a home.

Elliðaey   Author: Diego Delso CC BY-SA 4.0

But this didn’t happen, for she was never actually given the island. Björk was, however, allowed to enter a public auction, after which she changed her mind due to a lot of controversy and political dispute, and abandoned the idea of making Elliðaey her retreat.

Various photos of the secluded house situated on an island with nothing but 110 acres of vivid green field around have been circulating on the Internet for years now, generating a cobweb of wildly imaginative but untrue stories, ranging from mysterious and romantic to some silly conspiracy theories and even post-apocalyptic scenarios.

For instance, it was suggested that the picture itself is a hoax and the house is actually photoshopped. An obscure cabin isolated from the rest of the world on an island with no trees or visible safe passageway to it fits this trend almost perfectly. But, no, that’s not true either.

Elliðaey (left) and Bjarnarey islands from the top of Eldfell . In the background is Eyjafjallajökull

It’s also not the silly assumption that the house is built by a secret someone as a shelter for an upcoming zombie apocalypse, which sadly also goes in the “untrue stories” bucket. And the list of various imaginative scenarios about who just might be living here and why all alone, goes on forever, while the truth is much simpler, yet no less unusual.

Elliðaey is part of the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago off of Iceland’s southern coast. It is the island located furthest to the north-east among the group.  Author: Diego Delso CC BY-SA 4.0

Three centuries ago, the island was a home to five families who decided to raise huts and live here as a community in relative peace, surviving by fishing, raising cattle, and hunting puffins. Over the next two centuries all was well, but eventually the place became increasingly impractical to maintain a sustainable community. By the 1930s, the last residents left the island. It was due to the simple fact that there were more opportunities for fishing and raising cattle on the mainland. But there was not a single place as good as Elliðaey for hunting puffins, so in the early 1950s the Elliðaey Hunting Association built a cabin called Ból (“Lair”) on the island for its members to use during the puffin hunting season in the summer, and gathering eggs in spring.

Elliðaey (left) and Bjarnarey (right) Author: Diego Delso CC BY-SA 4.0

The island itself is easily reachable by a boat from the mainland, but it’s not so simple to get up, for the cabin is only accessible from the island’s lower east side by a zip line and strictly for members of the Ellidaey hunting group.

Elliðaeys location. Author: P. S. Burton after Pinpin CC BY-SA 3.0

Today the place is still a preferable hunting location during the summer. The house, accompanied by few lonesome cattle that just can’t get enough of the rich green field, is utilized as a shelter and a resting lodge for the hunters. There is no running water or electricity, but at least they’re are able to enjoy the splendid sauna within the cabin.

So, the secluded “photoshopped” house that the government gave to Bjork and she sold to a mysterious billionaire who used it as a shelter for a zombie apocalypse? It’s not even a house but a lodge with a rainwater-fed sauna and an outside fence raised for some reason. Maybe to keep the cows from escaping–because who knows, they might swim away.

 Martin Chalakoski

Seventeenth-Century Shopping List Discovered Under Floorboards of Historic English Home

400 year old shopping listAmong other necessary items, the list includes “greenfish,” a “fireshovel” and two dozen pewter spoons.(Image courtesy of the National Trust)

 

Pewter spoons, a frying pan and “greenfish”—these must-have items were scribbled on a shopping list 400 years ago. The scrap of paper was recently discovered under the floorboards of Knole, a historic country home in Kent, England.

As Oliver Porritt reports for Kent Live, Jim Parker, a volunteer working with the archaeology team at Knole, discovered the 1633 note during a multi-million dollar project to restore the house. The team also found two other 17th century letters nearby. One, like the shopping list, was located under the attic floorboards; another was stuffed into a ceiling void.

The shopping list was penned by Robert Draper and addressed to one Mr. Bilby. According to the UK’s National Trust, the note was “beautifully written,” suggesting that Draper was a high-ranking servant. In addition to the aforementioned kitchenware and greenfish (unsalted cod), Draper asks Mr. Bilby to send a “fireshovel” and “lights” to Copt Hall (also known as Copped Hall), an estate in Essex. The full text reads:

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.

Your loving friend

Robert Draper

Octobre 1633

Copthall

Discovering the letterJim Parker, a volunteer working with the archaeology team at Knole, discovered the 1633 note during a multi-million dollar project to restore the house. (Image courtesy of the National Trust)

How did this rather mundane domestic letter come to be stashed in an attic at Knole, which is some 36 miles away from Copt Hall?  As the National Trust explains, Copt Hall and Knole merged when Frances Cranfield married Richard Sackville in 1637. Cranfield was the daughter of the Earl of Middlesex, who owned Copt Hall; Sackville, the 5th Earl of Dorset, had inherited Knole, his family’s home.

Household records indicate that large trunks filled with domestic items—including various papers—were moved from Copt Hall to Knole at the time of the marriage, and subsequently stored in the attic. Draper’s note may have slipped under the floorboards.

The marriage of Cranfield and Sackville was important for Knole, according to the National Trust Collections, because Cranfield inherited a trove of expensive paintings and furniture from her father. Draper’s letter certainly was not among the more prized items that Cranfield brought to the marriage, but for modern-day historians, it is exceptionally valuable.

“It’s extremely rare to uncover letters dating back to the 17th century, let alone those that give us an insight into the management of the households of the wealthy, and the movement of items from one place to another,” Nathalie Cohen, regional archaeologist for the National Trust, tells Porritt. She added that the good condition of both the list and the two other letters found at Knole “makes this a particularly exciting discovery.”

By Brigit Katz