This season we have started doing Downton Abbey tours at Cogges and I’m one of the tour guides. One of the facts I like to tell the visitors is that we have over a thousand years of history to our name. Some people believe that the mounds and bumps in the field beside the walled garden are the remains of a Saxon settlement down by the river, from around 500 AD. In fact, the remains of what is believed to be a Saxon dwelling, were found under the floor of the kitchen of the Manor House during excavations a number of years ago.
But the first recorded land owner of Cogges was a Norman knight by the name of Wadard who is depicted on the Bayeux tapestry and mentioned in the 1086 Doomsday book.
Imagine then how many memories there must be about this lovely location.
Unfortunately, many of these memories have been lost in the midst of time. But we at Cogges are anxious to make and preserve as many memories as we can. Many visitor attractions have a visitors’ book for people to sign and we are no exception. Until recently there was a memory book in the house. The first entry in this memory book is by one of our longest-serving volunteers, Elizabeth.
‘I first came to Cogges farm with my father in September 1945. It was, I think, something to do with a Shooting Party, but I don’t recall the details as I was 13 years old and more interested in the large walnut trees on the front lawn, hoping I suspect to pick up a few walnuts! Apart from a brief visit in 1952, (my first year as a married woman), when I came with my husband, who worked here for a very short time as a cowman, I had no opportunity to see the farm again until I applied for a position as a House Demonstrator, 25 years ago. It was no longer run by the Mawle so f course, although , as a family, they visited often. Cogges Manor Farm seems to have been a part of my life, it is a beautiful place to visit, and I do hope our visitors will keep very fond memories of their time spent here.’ Volunteer cook, Elizabeth.
What a wonderful memory. An elderly visitor, another Elizabeth, a lady 88 years young, also wrote:-
‘Brought back many happy memories of my childhood days, especially in the kitchen and back kitchen.’ Elizabeth, 88 years old, 27th September 2014.
But not all our visitors are older people. We have had some lovely comments written by children, some even accompanied by pictures. Children see a side to Cogges that is quite different to what adults see. But their comments are just as valid as those of the adults and show that, this is a place that can be enjoyed and appreciated, by young and old.
This year we have come up with a novel idea. Instead of a book, we are going to have a Memory Tree. Neil Cap, a talented sculptor and one of our volunteers, has been working hard and has produced a wonderful wooden tree sculpture. The idea is that the visitors can write a memory or comment on a luggage label, which they then hang from one of the branches of the tree. To launch the tree, some of our volunteers recently made a start by adding their own special memories to the tree.
One of the aims of the Cogges Heritage Trust, is to preserve the house and grounds for future generations. By writing our memories, we will be adding a ‘voice’ to Cogges. This will enable future generations to hear as well as see, what it was like to visit Cogges in the 21st century.
The tree will be situated in the back kitchen of the house and we hope to encourage visitors to write a comment about their visit. We also hope that our regular visitors will be inspired to add their own special memory; either past or present.
Cogges isn’t just a place, it has a life and vibrancy of its own. A tree is a living, breathing thing and somehow having a memory tree seems quite a fitting way to help record and celebrate the wonderful place we all love; Cogges Manor Farm.
Photographs courtesy of Isabel Johnstone.