Tintagel Old Post Office - an ancient abode needing continual care
Over the last few months, National Trust specialists have been working hard to preserve this miniature medieval manor house, which is over six hundred years old.
The building is commonly seen as Victorian due to its final use as a letter-receiving office in the 1870s. Now known as 'The Old Post Office', it was first built sometime between 1350-1400 as the home of a prosperous farmer.
The building was given Grade I listed status in 1952 and remains one of the best examples of Cornish vernacular architecture and displays many building styles native to North Cornwall that are now sadly in decline.
With much of the original medieval stonework in place, a roof dating as far back as the early 1500s and a growing number of visitors, the house needs constant attention.
" As one of the smaller National Trust houses, we are unable to close-off rooms or change our visitor route for conservation cleaning during the open season. Therefore, we use the quieter winter months to our advantage to carry out the cleaning of the house and collections and undertake crucial building maintenance."
While the doors are closed, the house and garden team, as well as specialists in historic buildings, work hard to keep the building accessible and safe. Outside, masons may have been spotted repointing the traditional lime mortar on the wavy Tudor roof - one of the most important features of the house.
Restoration work is not a straightforward undertaking for such a complex building, but all the changes over the years only add to the fascination.
" Instead of rebuilding, the owners chose to modify the house to fit with their needs or the trends of the time. Because of this, Tintagel Old Post Office is unique in that it showcases Cornish domestic life from just after the Black Death through to the Victorian period and beyond. "
In 1895, the locals of Tintagel, led by Catherine Johns, managed to safeguard the future of Tintagel Old Post Office by buying it through auction and paying for restoration work on the house by selling artworks of it. Knowing it would need long-term care, they appealed to the then newly-formed National Trust who agreed to help; and the charity has been looking after this piece of Cornish history since they purchased it in 1903.
The National Trust have therefore been repairing the house for over a century and because of the materials it is made from, will continue to do so. As a not-for-profit organisation, we rely on funding from memberships, visits, purchases, generous donors and elsewhere. None of this work would be possible if it was not for such continued support.
Thanks to those highlighted above, Tintagel Old Post Office remains standing and we are able to realise Catherine Johns' dream of preserving the building for future generations.
But what lies within the house is also important, and this year the house team have been carrying out extra collections records work. This involves going through all the collections records to better understand where these items came from and by whom were they gifted.
Tintagel Old Post Office is an Accredited Museum, and as such we work to strict collections practices with regards to acquisition, record keeping and documentation. The house came to National Trust in 1903, and like many museums that have been collecting for over a hundred years, we have a few historic gaps in our understanding of where some of our collections came from. Many of our items are fully accounted for; our challenge now is to undertake a bit of extra detective work, delve into our archives and fill in those gaps in the history of all items in our care.