Where did you go this Heritage Weekend? Did you visit Jordan House like I did? I hope you did because it was a rare opportunity to step inside one of our most magnificent historical buildings, home to one of the early makers of Tunbridge Ware. In fact the house has seen many guises, its earliest was as a lodging for visitors that arrived to take the waters, it then became a factory for the production of Tunbridge Ware and today is a beautiful family home.
After rapping on the thick wooden door I was greeted by the lady of the house, Mrs Wakefield, and directed into the living room to sit and wait for my guided tour to begin. It was like walking back in time, it was fantastic! The walls were covered in masses of Wells-related art, some recognisable, some original, all beautiful. I wish I had more time to drink it all in.
We chatted for a few minutes about some of the artwork on the walls and my eye was taken by an oil painting of the house by John Leech. I must find more out about this artist, his work is very appealing, so if anyone can tell me any more.
Our guide for the day was ex-mayor David Wakefield and his granddaughter who delighted in pointing out everything granddad was speaking about. We began with a small talk about Tunbridge Ware in the living room where the local museum had provided a display of Ware and Ware-making tools for us to see. There was also an impressive display of some of the owners own pieces of Tunbridge Ware. Sitting there with the busy junction of Church/London Road right outside it was remarkable how little noise there was, they sure don't build them like this anymore.
We made our way in our small group of three into the hallway to mull over the famous picture of Princess Victoria riding past Jordan House on a donkey, can you see how the windows have changed? The family are obviously very proud of the history here as every spare inch wall space was again taken up with more local art. I was very jealous.
We continued our tour upstairs to see where, when the house was in its factory state, the Tunbridge Ware was made. Up on the first floor the rooms jut out over the storey below to allow more room and also the provision of more window space to allow precious daylight to flood inside so that workers can work their intricate designs. The tour was to continue downstairs in the basement, so we were led tantalisingly past closed doors to below ground level. Down here was were some of the 180 different types of woods were kept for making the various Wares. It was also home to the servants and we looked at where the servants' cooking facilities once stood, now home to endless bottles of wine. Here our tour was to come to an end far too soon as we were led out of a secret door back into the daylight of London Road.
Its an interesting point to note that the house has been in the family on and off since 1890, with the current owners' mother purchasing it in 1946. It is also a rather poignant note that the current owners children have no desire to live there, damn I know I would love to!
Thanks for a wonderful tour.