Yay, we have a new thatched roof, done in November 2007. It's made of water reed. Our local thatchers were brothers Robert and Richard Wilmot of "Devon Thatching". The picture is taken from the side, so the only part of the cottage front that is visible is its protruding porch.
The Saxon term "cot" meant a small hut. I assume this is the basis of the word "cottage". Gooseberry Cottage itself was named by early tenants who grew gooseberries which they sold to the local shop. Such naming practices are known from the C7th. Some subsequent tenants switched to cabbages, which you can see if you enlarge the first picture.
This shows how the cottage looked in the 1700s. Downstairs was a room with a large hearth and cloam oven, where a family would live, cook and eat. Its ceiling is beamed with oak and elm. Upstairs was a single bedroom shared by a whole family. The one tiny window is just below the roof. Now it has been divided to make three miniscule bedrooms. Next you can see how our cottage looked in the snow at the end of November 2005.
In the original cottage the garden sloped gently down to a low bank at the road. Productive gardens were essential then, as a supplement to wages, to feed families. If a man didn't work, his family starved. An escape of the family pig from its annual slaughter brought hardship. A bad harvest threatened widespread starvation. During much of its past Gooseberry Cottage has been let to agricultural labourers and artisans. Some pictures of the garden today have been cunningly taken to disguise the weeds.
Hens are remarkably human: they prefer roasties to boiled potatoes, buttered toast to plain bread, and like to snack on little treats all day. Some favourites are lettuce, spaghetti, cheese, rice, peas and sweetcorn.
Sadly, Laura, 1st hen, and Bella, 2nd hen, have now been Called to the Higher Roost. They are buried in the garden where, in life, they spent so many happy hours murdering worms, slugs, snails, woodlice and poor baby frogs. Beth, the big Brahma with the contralto voice, is still here, as is Beauty, Bella's sister. She is a Silkie cross and cannot see the colour yellow.
Blacktail and Whitetail are new to the family. They are Columbian Blacktails, otherwise known as Calder Ranger. At bedtime they crouch down to be lifted onto the roost. Most hens prefer to put themselves to bed
Farmworker Roy Samson, with his wife and four children, was the last tenant. The cottage was for sale in 1955 for £375, a lot of money for a working man then. The Samson family moved out. In 1970 it was sold for £2000. A one-roomed annexe was added later, before such properties were listed. In 1997 my husband, Tony, and I bought it for £105,000.