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No better than she should be

Today we took Clan Badger to Smallhythe Place, an early 16th Century half-timbered house in, of all places, Small Hythe in Kent. Small Hythe was once an important port and shipbuilding center, until the sea hiked her skirts and skittered away. It is now miles and miles from the water (making the boat launch look rather silly).

A National Trust membership for two cost us £84 and we’re by-god going to get our money’s worth this year.

The house is in much the same Tudor style as Badger House, but maybe a hundred years older. That room farthest away in the photo was held in place by iron braces, and the floors were so outrageously wobbly and wonky that walking around the room made us all feel a bit ill, like one of those state fair funhouses.

From 1899 until her death in 1928, Smallhythe was home to Ellen Terry — the leading Shakespearean actress of her day. For which read: scenery-munching hambone.

She gave the house to the National Trust on her death, and it doubles as a museum of her life and acting memorabilia. Pretty cool stuff. She was the model for this iconic Sargent painting — the dress is upstairs in the Wonky Room.

Terry had three husbands, a series of lovers and a couple of illegitimate children (the son made eight bastards of his own; the daughter set herself up in the house next door to Smallhythe in a lesbian ménage à trois). Pretty good going for a woman of the High Victorian age.

Mother Badger seemed deeply perturbed by this information, although she mostly viewed it as a schedule management problem. “How did she have time?” she kept asking, shaking her head.

The gardens were lovely. And Uncle Badger was gratified to see they were laid out and planted up very similarly to our own — obviously aiming for a lush Tudor cottage garden effect.

But this sign was his favorite part. He refused to budge until he’d seen the odd stoat.

June 30, 2010 — 10:59 pm
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