400-Year-Old Note Found Under Floorboards Gives An Historical Insight Into 17th Century

In a world that has seen many different periods, buildings across the globe give us some of the most interesting and exciting insights into the past. With areas of land that show ancient kingdoms built thousands of years ago as well as the historical buildings that were built so perfectly, with bare hands, after people were ordered to do so by the lands ruling king or queen. We are lucky to be able to see and visit such places and with the hard work that historians and archaeologists do, we are able to understand much more about these places and the people who existed at the time. It is common, that dated building will eventually end up being protected by a trust of some sort, who see it as only right to history, that these places of the past are restored, maintained and honored well as time goes on. It is usually during such projects that exciting items can be found, in which we are given a first-hand look into how many used to live.

Past Time

When it comes to buildings built in the past, without many knowing, the residence can hold historical items that tell of a completely different time, and when restoration work began on an old manor house, workers discovered something under the floorboards that left them in disbelief as well as a sense of excitement.

Not only that, but it dated all the way back to the 17th century, from 1601 through to the 1700s.

Traditional Building With A Secret

The house was nestled deep in the English countryside, a place many see on movies or wish you visit. With traditional cottages, castles, estates, and manors it is a truly stunning area that can really push you back into a forgotten time. The manor house in question was built centuries ago and is time-honored in all sense.

A stone building with green vine wrapping its way up the turret’s of the entrance area, it was there high into the attic, that the item, dating from 1603 was found. In a room full of dust and cobwebs, the workers were told all objects had been cleared out of the space, but that wasn’t the case.

Standing The Test Of Time

Way back in 1445, construction work began to build a manor house, in an area called Sevenoaks in England. While the home operated as a normal home for an established family for around 11 years, it was then taken over and transformed into something completely different. As the Archbishops of Canterbury took the building into their control, it was transformed into a medieval palace.

This was one of the first changes to the property that saw it evolve into the stunning place it is today and throughout its time, it has withstood some of the many periods of tumultuous times.

Leaving Things Behind

The home was given the name Knole, and since the start of the 17th century, the wealthy Sackville family has owned the manor and its surrounding land. In the past, with many people’s appreciation for the buildings fantastic architecture and their curiosity at what a building such as this one must look like inside, the family decided to open sections of the house up to visitors and claimed some of the rooms as showrooms.

It was then, 350 years later, that the property was handed over. Was it at this time that the historical phenomenon got left behind?

Appreciation Of The Find

At that time, a member of the Sackville family, given the title of 4th Baron, believed the best thing to do was to pass the property onto a trust who would be able to maintain the building in all of its glory, and ensure that its history could continue to be passed on through time. Important buildings are overseen by the National Trust, and even with their long list of ancient buildings, the find at this particular manor was one that filled them with thrill.

Once the house was in the official hands of the charity, the estate became a place that many others could enjoy, and indeed they did and still very much do!

Message From The Past

When the workers came across the find, the current residents of the Sackville family could not quite believe it. For something so precious to have been there all of this all this time without anyone knowing, and everyone was very curious as to why it had been hidden under the floorboards.

It was almost as if the original owner had a message they wanted to pass on into the future. And that is exactly what they did.

Renovation Project

The manor house boasted of around 420 rooms, with members of the Sackville family still living in the west wing of the estate. Now that the building was in the hands of the National Trust, it meant that most workers taking part in the restoration were volunteers, with a love for history, so the find was an added bonus to them.

It was back in 2014 that vigorous works began as part of a five-year project, and it was down to the volunteers and some archaeologists to put the plan into action, and it was the idea of one individual that led them to discover the find, way back from 1633.

Hidden Under The Floorboards

Securing a restoration project is always the first thing on the list, and the team started in the attic and began work on the floorboards and what was lying underneath. Between the rafters, there were gaps, where things could have easily fallen through them over time. Low and behold, as the team began to tear the floorboards up, the works would come to a halt as they made some interesting finds.

On projects such as this, it is quite common to find regularly used items under the floorboards, but they didn’t expect this.

On The Top Floor

The team of volunteers had all been specially trained to be involved in such projects and it was a member of the archaeology team, named Jim Parker, who came to make the incredible discovery at Knole manor.

After working through many of the ravishing rooms, including the gallery and ballroom, it was unusual for them to find something in the very top room of the house.

Remarkable Find

After fumbling around in the dust beneath the floorboards, something caught Jim’s eye, he explained, “I was very excited to see some pieces of paper hidden underneath some rush matting.” Reaching for the paper, the team gasped in excitement, they could immediately tell that they had just found something of age.

The team couldn’t wait to find out more about it, but what was on the paper, was the really interesting part.

Official Hands

Speaking of the find, Jim said, “We realized [one of the items] was a letter, and there was writing on it which looked like a 17th-century hand. I was nicknamed ‘Jimdiana Jones’ after that!” The age of the letters proved to be so old that actually, it wasn’t possible to know straight away what they said.

They would now have to be passed on to an official laboratory to be thoroughly cleaned and examined.

Conversation Works Needed

Work to restore the letters back to their original form was a fiddly job, that required a conservation expert to use a mixture of special paper cleaner, dainty brushes and rubber powders which he would have to work into the letters and then later hang them inside of a humidifying chamber.

It was an extensive job to ensure that the letters would not be damaged, and it was down to professional Jan Cutajar to do the job.

Hundred Of Years Ago

As the letters began to come back to their original capacity, the writing became readable and Cutajar was now able to identify when the letters had been written and what they said. Hidden in the attic, the letters had been there for hundreds of years.

They gave information about what life was like there at the estate in the 17th century, between 1603 and 1633.

Details In The Letter

With one of the items dating back to October 1633, it appeared to be written by a gentleman named Robert Draper, and there in fountain pen scroll, read a shopping list with items such a greenfish, a shovel for the fireplace and pewter spoons.

The style of the writing gave an insight into the person who wrote it and it told of a high society staff member, who was sending supplies to another manor, Copped Hall, 50 miles away.

Intense Restoration WorkE

History shows that Richard Sackville married Frances Cranfield, of Copped Hall in 1637 and trunks of belongings from the pair, were moved to the Knole attic at some point during their marriage. Probably, as things were moved around, somehow a letter managed to drift between the floorboards, and later led to Jim Parker’s discovery.

The second of the letters, dated in 1603 was much more difficult to bring back to life, and it was during work on the Upper King’s Room, that another letter was found, which seemed just as difficult to restore.

Another Find

The letter in question was not found by one of the researchers or volunteers, but rather by a building contractor who was assigned the Upper King’s Room. This letter was dated back to 1622 and so at this point, researchers learned that each letter came from a much different time. This find also became difficult to restore.

Occasionally, experts in the restoration field would rather leave an item as it is than to work on it extensively and damage it. With something so old, it was now extremely fragile.

Delicatly Handled

To be able to do what he could to the letter, with the most delicate hands, he had to take tissue paper and mold it into each of the tears in the letter. Next, in an attempt to read it, advanced infrared technology was used and eventually, a section of the letter could be translated.

But what did it say and how did it end up in the Upper Kings Room, so far away from the others? Were they even written by the same person?

Letter Of Thanks

The letter read as a thank you note, and one that was rather sweet actually. Written in strong English handwriting, the letter thanked the recipient for the generous and sincere donation that he or she had made to those who were in need. Everyone involved was utterly excited by the finds.

It gave all involved an extra something to look forward to when it came to looking after Knole. With each person wondering what they would find next.

Precious Artifacts

An archaeologist from the National Trust spoke about the finds, saying, “These letters are significant as artifacts but also for the insights they give us into the correspondence of the early 17th century.”

As visitors begin to flock to Knole, the trust believes it is in the public’s interest that the letters are displayed at the manor, for all to see and appreciate.

Sharing With Everyone

This is both to offer people a peek into Knole’s past as well as hopefully inspire some to donate to the trust, and thus help the volunteers and professionals continue with their hard work. The general manager, Hannah Kay, was overwhelmed with the find and when talking to a magazine, she spoke of how interested everyone had become.

She said, “By digging deeper into the past we will continue to uncover Knole’s secrets and open up more of this historic house for the future.”