28 Oct 2007
One of the things that sold us this house was its age. Our fantasy was to live in a castle — ideally, St Mawes in Cornwall. We didn't quite achieve that, but our house was built around 1500, using massive granite blocks in many places, so that parts of it have the feel of an ancient fortress. Indeed, local legend has it that the building was used as the village stronghold in times of trouble.
The massive size of many of the granite blocks, particularly around the doors and windows, suggest that the original owner of the house was wealthy. This is supported by the amount of carving — again, around and over the doors and windows — and the size of the fireplace, which is about 2.5m wide and nearly a metre deep.
In fact, we've sort of met the original proprietor. On each side of the main fireplace is a carved head — one of our favourite features of the house. At least, the carving on the left is of a head. We thought the carving on the right was unfinished — there are no facial features and the corbel above it is also cruder than that above the head on the other side. Then a local historian put us right.
The head on the left of the fireplace is that of the 'seigneur', the master of the house, which is why his corbel gets the more ornate treatment. Once there would have been a phallus beneath the head, but this has typically been removed in a later, more prudish time. The carving on the right commemorates the lady of the house — not by portraying her face but by representing a lower, more intimate part of her anatomy (see second picture, left).
We've always known that there were two more carved heads in the house. They are in the bedroom, again either side of a fireplace (though most of the rest of the fireplace, including corbels and chimney, is now long gone). But, in the eleven years we've owned the property, we'd only glimpsed these carvings. That's because they were behind a massive bed with built-in wardrobes that came with the house.
Yesterday, we dismantled the bed, prior to selling it and got our first good look at the two characters who've been sharing our home for more than a decade.
The head on the right, complete with beard (see first picture, top of page) is the best original feature in the house. And his phallus seems to be intact! We presume that the face on the left (bottom pic) is the mistress of the house. It's actually a face this time, so it's hard to tell, especially with the nose missing. I suggested to Trish that we can tell it's a female because her mouth is open. This wasn't well received.